Traditional Libraries are in Big Trouble

In 2011 I have increasing become aware of the role that the Library has in our Schools and Colleges. The reality is that often in todays schools they are relicts of the past that unfortunately have failed to modernise with the times. While I have seen many beautiful libraries with books and lovely breakout areas I more often than not does see many students in them at all.

So what’s the role of the library?

Well for me growing up the Library had significance because it was the place where you still found most of the knowledge. This was for me in my early years, BTW I’m 28 so not old, a place that held the books and had access to computers for researching from the Encarta Encyclopaedias. Today little of this holds true but I would argue that many Libraries have not changed to suit the times.

The number one thing I see students using the Library for now is space, space to work in small groups, space to have individual time and access to computers around the sides of the Library. Now I am armed without figures and I only have opinions based on what I see in many environments. If this is the extent of what the Library is offering students then I am seriously concerned. The reason for this concern really does relate to the growing trend for many schools to place break out areas where ever they can so group work can take place when and where it needs to. This theory is complimented with the growing amount of glass walls we are seeing around new buildings that allows teachers to watch students when they are both inside and outside the classrooms.

Now if this trend increases then why would students want to be going to the Library in the first place? In my role, I actively seek in engage students in any space I can and feel that the Library is not dead but needs its role re-examined. My suggestion would be as follows.

  1. A library that still operates from 8:30 – 3:30 is a library that is stopping a vast majority of its students from accessing it. I believe that library open hours need to be adjusted to represent times where students really do need to access their resources and have the space. I recommend that libraries need to be open from 7am – 9pm every night except Fridays and from 9 – 6 Saturday and Sundays.  Now the staffing of this would be tricky if you worked on conventional rationales. Students today learn best from like minded people so why not put a university student in charge of the out of hours with during the day supported by the existing staff? Cost is acceptable and the university students gets a paying job working in a place where they can work on their assessments as well, which leads me to my other thought.
  2. Make the library a place where graduated students can come back to and work with friends and partners. Thus from the alumni integration you can provide a even richer environment with academics bringing their own professions back into the College. Provide them with free Internet access and give them the space that they need. This would only work in some geographic locations.

While these are only suggestions I believe that all Schools should evaluate their libraries and what they are actually doing. I think if you surveyed staff majority of them hardly go to the library and students would say that they only go there when the English Department sends them. Oh and I forgot when they need a computer and when they need to collect printing.

I will work out some figure to support my position in the next week but your thoughts would be great.

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