Contributed by Jessica Conlon, middle school librarian
Today marks my 171st day as a school librarian. 171 fun, challenging, dynamic, whirlwind days.
The journey that brought me here began in January of 2014, and according to my transcripts, it officially ended in May 2016. At that point in my life, my A to B was earning my Masters degree, and I did it. A to B. Check! By all intents and purposes, I was officially a library media specialist.
With my newly minted degree, I was hired as a middle school librarian in an innovative district about to enter its monumental first year of a 1:1 Chromebook rollout. With the help of my assistant, staff, and administrators, over 900 Chromebooks were unpacked, organized, checked out, and used for the first time in the course of just 3 school days. As soon as the Chromebooks had been distributed, teaching and learning began to shift, and as a result, our library needed to shift with it. The excitement in our school was palpable, and I had found my new A to B.
But as every Future Ready Librarian knows, the journey never really ends, it just changes. One of the main objectives in my new position was to design a more collaborative space. As all 7 middle schools in our district made the transition to 1:1, no longer was it necessary for classes to come to the library to “get” information; it was now at their fingertips. For me, this meant beginning the massive task of weeding our 18 year old collection. Although this is young by some library standards, some of the non-fiction texts hadn’t been checked out since 1999. For reference, I was in 5th grade in 1999! In collaboration with staff and students, I unshelved, sorted, piled, weeded, and ultimately reshelved our entire non-fiction collection.
Letting go of these older resources allowed us to make room for a more Future Ready library media center. My assistant and I knew that to help our students and ourselves get from A to B, we needed to do things we hadn’t done before. From my perspective, every inch of our library was now real estate–an opportunity to transform our space to one that is flexible, comfortable, and Future Ready. By creatively prioritizing our budget to buy new furniture that adapts to our needs, along with re-purposing some of our oldies, but goodies, we have been able to get whiteboard tables on wheels, a green screen, a collaboration station with a screen to hook up your device to present, a 3D printer, and a MakerSpace that is currently in the works.
As I reflect on the first 171 days of my new A to B, I realize that creating a Future Ready Library has as much to do with what stuff we have as it does with the feeling students and teachers get when they are in the space. A sense of community, creativity, and curiosity aren’t available even if you have an open checkbook. Although every student has the same device, their needs, interests, and passions can be very different; the same goes for us as teachers. The library has begun to reflect the uniqueness of each of our own A to B, in all facets: 21st century skill building, socially, emotionally, and academically. As Future Ready Librarians, we are all tasked with fostering an environment that helps us get our students from their A to their B.