Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What is a library?

This semester I studied ETL401 Teacher Librarianship and ETL503 Collection Management towards my MEd(TL). The main thrust of 401 was the question "What is the role of a Teacher Librarian?" and 503 considered "How can we best manage library collections in the future given the rise of the internet and the use of online resources rather than physical resources?".
I think both of these questions lead to an even more basic one: "What is a library?"
In my mind, the defining characteristic of a library is the fact that it is a communal resource, where members of the group that the library belongs to can go to use the resources and accompanying services provided, and can choose items to borrow and take home for a given time.
This covers all sorts of scenarios: using the library as a space to quietly read, study, or surf the internet; borrowing CD's and DVD's to take home so that you can experience some new music, practice meditation or keep the kids occupied; researching a school project using books and internet; catching up on some magazine issues that you missed, or couldn't afford; composing and printing out an assignment using softward such as Word or Excel. I'm sure you can think of many other examples!
So what does the library then need?
  • A great collection that meets the needs of the group it belongs to - a continually changing collection of resources in many different mediums.
  • A wonderful selection of user-friendly ways of using the library resources - comfy chairs for reading, desks for working at, computers with Internet access and equipped with a range of useful software, equipment (including headphones!) for listening to and watching CD's and DVD's, rooms that suit group discussions.
  • Marvellous staff that know their collection and services and are willing and able to help library users to get the most out of their library experience.

The library also needs to be an attractive and dynamic space that is welcoming and pleasant. Library users need to enjoy it! I found this post at Skerricks an inspiring set of ideas that translate corporate marketing to the school library.

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