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Libraries play critical role in modern schools

By Greg Whitby, 30 May 2018

 

Weekly Column from the Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta

In case you missed it, last week was Library and Information Week, which recognises the valuable role libraries play in our community and schools. Public libraries are a place of learning, research, ideas, discovery and for some, refuge and reflection. Libraries have always been the great social equaliser – they do not discriminate on the grounds of age, culture, education or economic background.

Good teacher-librarians do much more than encourage a love of reading in young people. They equip them with the research, critiquing and critical thinking skills they needed for navigating their way along the information superhighway!

Sadly, some school libraries are still caught in the 20th century. They restrict talking to a whisper, they permit only a certain number of books to be borrowed from particular sections and they discourage sharing and collaboration. Other ones are hothouses of activity. In some primary schools for instance, the library spaces are almost as large as school halls. Great modern school libraries have become all things to all learners with spaces that encourage students to build and code. Other areas offer them opportunities to film or record their own podcasts.

Secondary school libraries can also provide students with opportunities to showcase their writing skills, gain feedback and find other platforms beyond Google for searching information. One girls secondary school I know has its students producing the content for the library site.

Great school libraries understand that young people today are not only consumers of information – they are also producing it and sharing it. They are an incredibly valuable investment and a resource that will only become more important in a digital world.

The next time you’re at a school open day or visiting your child’s school, take a look around the library. You’ll either feel like you’ve stepped back in time or you’ve walked into the future. Contemporary schools need contemporary libraries that deepen learning through all kinds of artefacts not just books.

As Albert Einstein said: “The only thing that you absolutely have to know, is the location of the library.”

Greg Whitby

Executive Director of Schools – Diocese of Parramatta

 

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