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What Does the Next-Generation School Library Look Like?

KQED Mindshift

At a time when public libraries are starting to offer everything from community gardening plots to opportunities to check out humans for conversations, some school libraries are similarly re-evaluating their roles and expanding their offerings. Case in point: Monticello High School in Charlottesville, Virginia. When librarian Joan Ackroyd arrived there four years ago, she found an environment very different from the “engaging, creative, fun” elementary and middle school libraries to which she was accustomed. “Its library was none of those things,” she recalls. “It was a traditional, quiet research space.” Ackroyd decided this wasn’t optimal. “People no longer have to come to a library to get information,” she says, “so the library has to get people coming in for different reasons. Students need somewhere to socialize, create things and collaborate.” As her first step, she and her co-librarian at the time (music teacher Dave Glover), converted a storeroom into a technology lab. They salvaged computers destined for the landfill and installed music-authoring software on them. Teachers balked because the library was no longer quiet, but students liked it, and many at-risk students became frequent visitors. Some even admitted to Ackroyd that the only reason they still came to school was to go to the lab.

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"I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library." — Jorge Luis Borges