In the age of information ubiquity and rapidly evolving media delivery formats, today’s librarians have learned how to evolve along with the technology. In addition, librarians actively seek out new means for creative expression and intellectual growth for student library users, and frequently volunteer as early adopters of these exciting resources. In turn, librarians partner with users in navigating a complex information landscape and in engaging them in enrichment programming. Check out 5 ways librarians are molding their libraries into community spaces for students.
The days of card catalogs and endless stacks of books and little else may be long gone for modern libraries, but the utility of libraries’ physical space remains. For example, many public library patrons, students and adults alike, lack access to technologies that others often take for granted. Basic computer access for word processing, printing, and Internet access is a privilege most, but not all, enjoy. The ability to use these tools after school hours is critical to the success of all students, and in offering these critical resources to members of the general public, libraries support the scholastic needs of those who must rely on such tools outside the home. In addition, both school and public libraries are adding tablet and e-reading devices to their collections and librarians instruct students in how to use them, which further enhances students’ exposure to and knowledge of culturally significant technologies. There are, of course, physical books in libraries today, but the use of physical space within libraries has undeniably become much more diverse in recent years.
For some, particularly in rural areas, a trip to the physical library space presents a challenge. Leadership at Washington State’s North Central Regional Library (NCRL) network constantly seek out ways to further extend outreach to teens in the four-county area that the branch libraries cover. In late 2014, NCRL was $40,000 in federal grant funding to facilitate the creation of a “Mobile Makerspace,” which will enable staff to do just that. The Mobile Makerspace targets 12- to 18-year-olds, and offers students the chance to experiment with projects in audio/visual engineering, robotics, and 3-D printing. Mobile Makerspace participants will also be able to interact with computer engineering and program language by exploring Raspberry Pi, a mini-computer designed specifically for young adults and teens. In essence, the Mobile Makerspace will bring library resources directly to the rural communities they serve, which is exciting for all involved.
In addition to computers, printers, and tablet and e-reading devices, libraries provide access to the media these technologies deliver. Students with limited access to the aforementioned resources similarly experience barriers to accessing electronic media. As students learn to use the devices, librarians can teach them how to load their favorite books, magazines, and MP3s for free through their electronic lending libraries. What better way to engage students in reading, learning, and library use than to give them first-hand exposure to media delivery technologies and the content they deliver (did I mention it’s free)?
Students can also turn to school librarians to develop reading, writing, proofreading, evaluation, and citation skills, and to consult them for copyright compliance expertise. A healthy amount of the services librarians offer involves working with patrons to develop best practices in the works they produce, to critically evaluate the works of their peers, to critically assess the information they encounter both on the web and in print resources. Librarians also guide students in appropriate attribution and use of documents, websites, songs, photos, artwork, and many other copyright-protected works. These skills foster students’ information literacy and they carry them forward as they navigate the rapidly expanding information landscape of our increasingly digital world.
In a similar vein, as a medical librarian, I work with health professionals, as well as members of the general public. Information is everywhere, but when it comes to health information, in particular, it can be difficult to determine what constitutes good information, and much of it is not as freely available on the Internet as is commonly perceived. My job is to connect users with health information they can trust, and I do so through the extensive access to biomedical, nursing subscriptions and knowledge of consumer health resources I possess. As students delve into exploring health information, I, and health sciences librarians like me, are here to steer them toward identifying information that is trustworthy, and away from information that isn’t. Needs range from information about a particular diagnosis or procedure to assistance with database and literature searches, and we’re here to offer guidance and enhanced critical evaluation skills to students.
These are just several of the many ways librarians are stepping up as community partners for students. Stop by your local school, public, or medical library (many are open to the general public!) to take advantage of the offerings are available to you and to students. Your friendly community librarians will be happy to assist you!
Jeannie Tucker is the medical librarian for Confluence Health in Wenatchee, WA. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Whitman College and a Master of Library and Information Science from the University of Washington. Her professional passion is for connecting library users, which include physicians, clinical and non-clinical staff, and members of the general public, with reliable, evidence-based health information. In her spare time, Jeannie enjoys reading (almost exclusively) fiction, travel, and caring for her two adorable dogs.