The 21st Century Library: Fruits of the Digital Tree.
Growing up in Small Town USA, I have early memories of going to the local library and combing through the books, magazines, and even cassette tapes, trying to find adventures to take with me. The library was housed in an old Victorian building that added an ambiance of mystery and authenticity to the experience, at least from the perspective of an elementary school-aged kid. As I grew older, I still loved books, but libraries didn’t hold nearly the same power and mystique for me as in my younger years. For most of my friends, whatever hold libraries may have had was lost by the time they entered high school, never to be seen again during their teens.
Now, as I begin my professional journey as a teacher, I find myself torn between my understanding of the benefits that libraries have to offer for students of all ages, and the reality that most teens are not very interested in going to the library. In addition, school libraries often have limited resources, while community/town libraries are often at too great a distance from the school to be of real use during the school day. So how can educators incorporate meaningful use of library resources, while keeping students interested in what they are doing?
The answer to this question came to me during my student-teaching placement at School Without Walls-Foundations Academy (SWWFA). SWWFA is a small school within the Rochester School District that tries to maximize the use of community resources throughout the school year. Because of this, the school’s library is actually the Rochester Central Library, on South Avenue. While this is the physical location of the library, I learned from librarians at the teen center (thanks Zandi!) that the county library system also has a virtual location. Another thing I learned from my student teaching experience is that most of my students would rather jump on the computer for information than peruse the stacks for that same content. The solution to the above problem emerges: have students go digital in their use of library resources.
The Monroe County library page (http://www3.libraryweb.org/home2.aspx) has more than just the catalog and hours. The website is much, much more extensive than I realized even a few months ago. Stuck at home with no way to get to the library? Users can find a Download section, with audio and e-books, as well as podcasts. Want to investigate local history? No problem- the library has pictures, both old and new, of the life, events, and landmarks of both city and county. Resource guides help students and teachers alike navigate the website and the web at-large. Want to have your students read primary documents? Among a variety of newspapers, students could look at an article from the Rochester Daily Democrat detailing Lincoln’s assassination: (http://www.libraryweb.org/~digitized/newspapers/ ). Want to have your students (or children) research their genealogy? The website has podcasts, databases, FAQ’s, and other resources. There is even a separate section just for teachers.
Needless to say, this is not the library of my youth. No worries, that library is still there, and if I want or need to peruse the stacks for a good adventure, I can still do so. But now, many of the same resources available at the physical library, and a whole bunch that aren’t, can be accessed on-line. For the student that wants no part of a library, but will happily jump on-line, this may be the best of both worlds. My next post will concentrate specifically on the teen section of the library website, which is set up as a blog for teens and librarians to co-construct. Between now and then, if you can’t get to the physical library for your needs, (either try the digital library or go to the digital library) - you may be surprised by what you find!