A few weeks ago, I was at a conference when a conversation broke out about rethinking spaces in school.
“What if we transformed libraries into maker spaces?” a teacher asked.
“Exactly. What if we had tons of items and kids could pick and choose materials the way they used to pick and choose books?”
The conversation continued with bold ideas about transforming the library space. However, after awhile, I couldn’t help but think that the conversation had shifted entirely to what it would look like to replace libraries rather than redesign them.
I’m all about redesigning the library. Let’s create standing areas. Let’s create collaborative spaces for research. Let’s get rid of the plastic chairs and replace them with comfortable couches. Let’s change the lighting from fluorescent to natural. Let’s add some plants.
However, I’m not sure I want the library to be a place where people are making physical products. Don’t get me wrong. I love maker spaces. I love the idea of having maker labs on campus where it’s loud and chaotic and there’s tons of freedom to make things. Everything they described was something I wanted at my school. I just don’t see the need for a maker space to replace the library.
I still want libraries. Real libraries. With real books. I want to see a group of eighth graders act like there’s nothing special about library time only to get excited about a new series and forget to put on the “I’m too cool for that” persona. I remember teaching 8th grade self-contained and watching kids act like they were in a candy store as they picked out books. I remember them fighting over who would get to check out The Hunger Games.
My fear is that when we turn libraries into maker spaces we send the message that reading isn’t relevant; that it’s boring, that it’s a chore. We quit treating it like a candy store and start acting like it’s the salad line when soft serve ice cream is just around the corner.
Libraries exist to inspire the love of reading.
It may informational texts or novels or graphic novels. But it should be that place where kids go to fall in love with reading. When I walk into a library, I want to see kids working with librarians, picking apart information and arguing over bias and loaded language as they geek out about research. I want to see libraries as spaces where kids aren’t necessarily making things so much as taking it all in. I want to see libraries as spaces where “augmented reality” means getting lost in a fantastical world.
That’s why I want to fight to keep libraries. It’s why I want to fight to keep librarians. It’s why I don’t use the term “media specialist.” Libraries and librarians don’t need to be replaced.