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« Cambodia - same, same only different | Main | The essential question? »

Libraries and commitment

Build it and they will come. - Ray Kinsella

The busy ISB Bangkok MS/HS Library, May 2009

I was surprised by the number of comments from my last post - "The Essential Question." Obviously, the survival and form of school libraries is front and center on many people's minds.

First, thanks to all who commented (often at length with great thoughtfulness). If you have not read through what others wrote, take a few moments and do so. 

For myself, the recommendations that Ann Krembs and I made in our initial report to the school brought home strongly just how interdependent library facilities, curriculum and methodology really are.

Not many years ago one could easily find recommended "numbers" for library facility planning: recommended square footage, size of collection, amount of seating, number of instructional areas, etc. But these numbers grow increasingly meaningless as entire schools commit to information and technology literacy skills taught in all classes, by all teachers. Or choose not to.

Let's face it, a school where text books, classroom book collections, and the "term paper" as the only means of student communication don't need much of a library. A small popular book collection and a word-processing lab with access to Google may actually be all that such a school needs. If the librarian and technology staff are viewed as not having knowledge that is sufficiently relevant to implementing and teaching IL/IT skills, the book room can be staffed by clerks and the techs can keep the e-mail server and student information system up and running from a small hidden office until those applications are outsourced.

At the same time, if a school truly decides they want all their students to graduate having mastered a sophisticated set of IL/IT skills, having learned how to solve real problems creatively, and having experienced the power of global communications and collaboration, then a lack of resources - physical plant, equipment and human expertise will truly undercut this effort. Such an undertaking will require 1:1laptop programs, well-stocked print collections, productivity labs, a fast and powerful network, good online materials, and, of course, a crackerjack professional staff to support both staff and students. 

I would have liked to have been able to consult some professional standards that would quickly satisfy administrators and architects.  I would really like to have been able to confidently state a "Library of Dreams" philosophy: Build it and they will come.

But we're not talking mystical baseball fields in Iowa cornfields here. Modern library facilities, technology and professional staff come at a cost that must be weighed against other possible efforts made to educate kids. And competing visions of what an educated student looks like.

No sense building a baseball field if you are only going to play ping-pong. 

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Reader Comments (2)

Doug - I'm surprised you're surprised. Your main audience is tech-savvy dedicated media specialists. We are passionate and educated. Why would we *not* be vocal in support of our profession and the skills that we feel are critical to success for future generations?

May 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSara

HI Sara,

You are right about my readers, of course! I like to think that only readers of superior intelligence and great taste read the Blue Skunk as well ;-)

My surprise comes more from what posting garner LOTS of comments, while others while purposely written to be provocative, produce few responses. I tossed off 'The Essential Question" in a few minutes (and then spent hours responding to comments!)

Thanks for reminding me that my readers are indeed a passionate group.

All the very best,


May 23, 2009 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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