I came across a good article today at e-School News Online about trends in school library media centers for the 21st century by Steven Baule, a well-respected figure in the world on IT and SLM (we actually used his text in one of my first SLM classes at UGA!).  Baule identifies these six key trends:

Six trends in school library media centers for the 21st century …
1. Flexibility in Student Spaces
2. Visual literacy
3. Extended access
4. Technology readiness
5. Supervision
6. A place for books

I was thinking about how these principles apply to our very own CRHS facility. 

  • Flexibility in Student Spaces:  While I do wish we had a bit more floor space, I LOVE that we have minimal conference rooms and that we have our very own teaching lab!  Having our very own teaching lab is a godsend for scheduling two classes or doing small group instruction; our large instructional area is wonderful for quick mini-lessons and also doubles as a study area or special “presentation” area for our fun activities like Trivia Friday, guest speakers, and other “fun” special programs.
  • Visual Literacy:  Again, this is where more floor space might be helpful?  We are working right now on purchasing some furniture that is similar to what you see at Barnes and Noble—the special display furniture that helps highlight and showcase new books at a 360 angle.  While our current shelving is sturdy and beautiful, it would be nice to have some additional end panel work done to house and highlight books and even hold lookup computer stations!  I think more schools would go with more contemporary shelving that is more “bookstore” style, but I know from extensive research that the more visually appealing shelving is more expensive.  With school budgets tight across the country, I am not sure how schools will try to build this cost in construction of school libraries.  We definitely do NOT have flexible lighting—most of you know how frustrated I am by this situation….you have to turn off all lights to really see the image on the screen from the LCD projector, and even that does not work well with all the natural light we get (not that I mind natural light, but….).  We also have no way of disabling the “emergency lighting”, which is also frustrating.
  • Extended Access:  Right now we open daily at 7:30 AM and stay open until 4:00 Monday-Thursday; we do “officially” close at 3:30 on Friday, but most of you know we rarely leave before 4:00 on Fridays.  We operate on a flexible schedule through the day, including lunch periods.  Ruth and I would both be open to possibly having at least one “late” night, but we aren’t sure at this point if there is really a demand for it since most of our students are just now starting to drive.  Right now there is no funding to pay library staff for the additional time, so the extra hours by staff would be voluntary.  At this time, we do not have our own dedicated entrance or washroom facilities, but we are located in such a place that the entire building would not have to be opened if we start having some extended hours during the week or during the summer. 
  • Technology Readiness:  We are WAY beyond there!  🙂  We are blessed with over 60 desktop stations, a mobile laptop lab, great software, and the best tech support staff anywhere around!  The only “old” technology we don’t have is a xerox machine…we are hoping that next year we will be able to find funding for that old but much needed equipment!
  • Supervision:  For the most part, we have an excellent line of vision in our media center.  While there are some minor blind spots in nonfiction, we are more than happy with our ability to do easily scan and supervise the library.  We do hope that in the near future we will be able to remove some of the longer shelving that separate the reference area from the computer area on the main floor in exchange for some of our shorter shelving that currently doesn’t have adequate use.  By angling the shorter shelves as a replacement for the taller and longer shelving, we can have a better line of vision of that area, particulary for students who are sitting at the tables.
  • Adequate Shelving:  No problem on that front!  We have LOTS of shelving!  🙂 Just hoping that funding will continue to help us purchase the books to fill those shelves!  With the average cost of a high school book at $30 and rising, it takes a lot of dollars to fill those shelves while still having money leftover to maintain our virtual services that extend learning beyond our four walls.

I think the key to future facilities reflecting these trends will require more input from librarians themselves and the use of library architects who will listen to the librarians and have an understanding of how this unique space in a school needs to function.

How does your facility measure up?  Can you think of any other trends for 21st century school library media centers that Baule may have missed?