Category Archives: Libraries & technology

Libraries as “havens of future-ready skills lessons”

Liz McGettigan posted an article on LinkedIn. As usual it was a short but thought-provoking article – often the very best kind 🙂

By Megan Borgardus Cortez (& in EdTEch: Focus on K-12), it is called Are libraries the key to teaching computer science? Floating the idea that libraries could be the key to teaching computer science, intrigued me – libraries as the key to teaching computer science seemed incredibly over the top.

As I read the article, I was struck by how Megan was advocating the possibility of libraries becoming what many working class Australians of generations previous to mine actually experienced them to be – providers of the “opportunity to become havens of future-ready skills lessons”. I got to thinking that’s exactly what libraries used to be in the 19th & at least the first half of the 20th Century, so how was it that someone had to tell us that we could become this?

… [begins as a comment on a conversation of comments] Although your conversation is very short, I think that it says a lot. Increasingly our libraries seem to be dividing into the haves, the have nots & the “not anymores”. The reasons for these divides are no doubt complex; more complex than I understand. Obviously resourcing comes to mind immediately & trying to find the funds to provide more access to more things may be an obvious not-so-easy answer, & may be particularly difficult to contemplate for passionate but burnt-out library staff reduced to trying to hold things together for the well-being of their much loved communities.

For me, Cortez raises a fundamental issue when she says, “Libraries have the opportunity to become havens for future-ready skills lessons”. In earlier generations of my family (& many other Australian families) that’s exactly what libraries were (along with places like Mechanics Institutes). These people couldn’t afford high level schooling & opportunities weren’t plentiful in working class neighbourhoods in the days when transport was limited. Libraries, even though they weren’t plentiful, were the places people went to give themselves the educations that they needed for their present & their future. They saw libraries as the very things that Cortez thinks that libraries can become. Libraries were an essential ingredient in lifelong knowledge building.

So, I ask myself how did we move ourselves away from this role? Now, I am no expert in the history of libraries & librarianship, but I wonder if it happened when we decided to become “information professionals” providing “access”. And, I don’t just mean access to books, electronic journals, etc. This applies to what some (perhaps even many) may consider to be “progressive” practice. I have seen libraries (& I’m NOT saying that all libraries & library staff do this & I’m not saying that there isn’t a role for this) using social media to tell people what to do (eg. follow our referencing tips & your grades will sky rocket) rather than genuinely conversing OR discussing the makerspace without any reference to one of its fundamental purposes – helping people create their desired learning outcomes.

We can continue on this path of providing access &, often times, measuring our outputs. But, what if we took ourselves back to that past where we saw our roles founded in the knowledge building & knowledge sharing happening in our communities, & partnering with our clients/users/members/patrons/etc to help them achieve their desired outcomes? Would we, once again, give ourselves avenues to be seen to be “havens of future-ready skills lessons”?

And, what forms might those lessons actually take? If our goals were truly the goals of our communities, might we create ourselves a transformational foundation from which to practice? Give ourselves thinking tools for meaningful strategic change that allows us to continue in “future-readiness”? Might the have not libraries begin to find themselves a position of greater strength over time, & might the not-any-mores actually have a chance of finding their way back?

Don’t our communities deserve this from us? Don’t we, as a profession, deserve it for ourselves? Of course, I’m not the only librarian on the planet who has been asking these questions over a period time. Others, much smarter & more eloquent & more able than me, have also been doing it & they are gearing up to challenge us to embrace a people-centric & knowledge-centric (& future-ready) foundation of practice.

Finally, we have a theory from which to apply our practice (New Librarianship). No longer do we have to rely on augmenting & applying the theories of other disciplines to create ourselves roots of professional practice; though doing so is incredibly useful & intellectually stimulating 🙂 Perhaps this new theory will encourage the development of more new theories, even theories in opposition to this approach. WOW!!! How exciting would that be for our current & future practice. How useful would that be to our future-readiness? A gift to ourselves & our communities; to our present & our future.

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