Modern K-12 public libraries will offer intensely engaging learning environments to all students. How they will go about doing this is less certain but the principle trends are readily identified in various research efforts.
The goal of this post is not absolutely to regurgitate the details of high-brow research, but rather to summarize the key points, to paint a picture of what the libraries of the future will look like and how they will support students, teachers, administrators, and even parents.
The first thing to note is that students are going to have, at their disposal, a greater range of resources than ever before (and that is saying something). A principle goal of school libraries is inevitably to engage students and to provide them with skills necessary to effectively function in academic life. With the help of qualified libraries, students learn to independently research and expand their reading and writing via library resources.
Modern library resources, though, include a whole range of elements, from ebooks, to academic databases, to innovative programs that allow students to explore their creative inclinations, learn new skills, and apply their learning in innovative ways.
A key component of future libraries will be increased effectiveness as well as greater access to these types of elements. More K-12 public school libraries will learn to automate their resource management strategies and develop rewarding collaborative partnerships.
Teachers will likely see an increase in direct library supports for the classroom too. Research consistently shows evidence for the general finding that students with access to full-time, qualified librarians and to large library collections perform better in standardized tests for reading and writing.
Administrators are likely to see more return on their investment in library resources. Inevitably, the cost-efficiency of libraries is very likely to increase. This is a general trend in technology, anyway, with new technologies and features such as remote access to resources helping to reduce the general costs associated with library management. Librarians can readily expand their library resources without having to take up additional space.
Parents and students may very well enjoy better access to their public school libraries from home, too, since remote access is set to be a definite future trend. Perhaps most interesting, though, as I touched on before, is the expansion of partnerships. For instance, some public schools have taken to partnering with their local libraries and with online organizations such as Limitless Libraries and MyLibrary NYC. The latter is a major innovation launched in 2011 to essentially combine public library and school library resources for students in New York City, allowing students to request materials from any of the three public library systems that serve the area.
Anyone particularly following library trends and looking to remain up to date must also allow that there will be some further changes and shifts to come. Technology is an inevitably dynamic thing and it is having an impact on most things, education perhaps higher on the list than most.
The test for public school libraries will be the maintaining of a balance between access to resources - innovative access where possible - and managing associated costs. The good news, long-term, is that the future trends look set to help this balance, not hinder it. In the end, though, only time will really tell which trends stick among those that we are already noticing, and what new technologies will do for school libraries in the longer-term.
Dr. Matthew Lynch is the author of the recently released book, The Call to Teach: An Introduction to Teaching. To order it via Amazon, please click on the following link.