Will The School Library Become Obsolete?
The traditional image of a school library is a place of solitude, lined with dusty bookshelves and reading material. The Dewey Decimal system reigns supreme and students need to be trained or have librarian assistance to locate the information they need. They are ideal as places of study and research for kids to work on projects or get some peace and quiet. Today the image of school libraries is changing. Advancements in technology and the way books are used, combined with budget cuts due to the recession, caused the school library to re-evaluate its purpose and how to best serve students.
School libraries are feeling the pressure and need to evolve to keep up with the changing times and trends. A library is rapidly becoming a common area for group learning and the expansion of social learning. Instead of a school library there is talk of a learning commons, a project based space where students can collaborate on projects and use interactive media tools. The vision of the new school library should be a place where students learn Internet skills such as using a search engine, using the web safely and critical thinking. Librarians would still be on hand to offer guidance and support and provide access to technology. There is an argument going around that libraries will no longer be needed since the information itself has become more important than the source of the information and can be accessed from multiple devices. The Wikipedia debate where information becomes open source and occasionally questionable proves that the source still matters and libraries can stay relevant by changing their focus.
Is a library just a building to house books? That has been its purpose in the past but a school library can be so much more. A library can be a gateway to information where the discovery of knowledge and learning is the goal. Cloud computing, the process of putting data online to be accessed from anywhere, is becoming the wave of the future. South Korea has implemented a plan to have all their textbooks uploaded to the cloud and accessed by students on laptops and tablets. Virtual schools are gaining in popularity and everything seems to be going mobile. Even the publishing industry is starting to support self publishing and ebooks as consumers purchase e-readers and use their cell phones to purchase and read.
Whether or not school libraries will become obsolete depends entirely on how well the school library is at adapting to current trends and technology.