The Importance of Technology in School Libraries

There have been some questions about the library upgrades proposed by the technology bond.  We have invited one of the librarians at our schools to write a guest post in order to explain how the new Media Centers will benefit students. 

When I think back to the libraries I spent time in growing up in the 70s and 80s, I am not surprised that many people who had similar experiences would wonder about the value of a strong library program. But, oh how the library has changed! No longer is it a place where students come to study quietly and independently or use a vertical file. Instead, it is an active, lively space where students come on their own as well as with their classes to inquire, investigate, collaborate and access various forms of information. According to the AASL (American Association for School Libraries) “Learning for life, whether the focus is on readiness for the next grade or college and career readiness; the school library program plays a crucial role in preparing students for informed living in the 21st century” (2012). Our high school libraries provide service of one sort or another to one-third to half (or more) of our students EVERY DAY. Other than the cafeteria, there is no other school facility that does that! In fact, the “Library” should probably be more appropriately called “Learning Commons” since it is the hub of all learning activities that take place in the school.

Unfortunately the high school libraries are seriously out-of-date. This was noted by the special task force that toured the schools and noticed that the library spaces did not meet basic standards for 21st century learning. The school librarians do not just provide “support staff” services. They are responsible for providing access to both virtual and physical resources for all members of the learning community, including students and staff. They teach students how to locate and assess information, evaluate resources, properly format and cite scholarly material, and search through a variety of databases, among other things. The current high school libraries have not had significant changes since they were built, with the exception of adding (now long out-of-date) computer labs. According to the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, an appropriate library learning space provides the students with opportunities to build skills in the area of creativity and innovation, critical thinking and problem solving, communication and collaboration as well as technology skills such as information literacy, media literacy, digital literacy, and ICT literacy. The physical space of the library should “provide 21st century architectural and interior designs for group, team and individual learning.  Create learning practices, human support and physical environments that will support the teaching and learning of 21st century skill outcomes. Allow equitable access to quality learning tools, technologies and resources” (P21 Framework Definitions, 2009). Our current libraries do not have spaces that allow for collaborative learning without distracting the rest of the visitors to the space. The students need thinking spaces where they can spread out and solve complex, real-world problems while they are surrounded by reference materials that they need to access.

Recent studies done by different organizations, including Workforce Preparation in the Context of Youth Development Organization and Literacy Skills and Self-Views of Ability Among First Year College Students, have documented a skills gap that exists between high school and college. Students themselves have identified where they lack the skills needed to be successful in college and how they could have been more prepared, as can be seen in the following videos:




More and more, students are expected to develop new habits of mind to be successful. These new literacies have been broadly defined as Multiple Literacies, Critical Literacies and Digital Literacies. Literacy is no longer defined as just the written word. Instead, it “involves making meaning across multiple contexts including written, spoken, visual, performative, and media” (Braun, Hartman, Hughes-Hassell, & Kumasi, 2013,p. 16). The school library is the hub where these literacies develop. Most of all, our libraries are the spaces where students develop information access and research skills. We need to update the libraries in order to have the richest environment for them to become independent, lifelong learners. The resources we provide, both physical and virtual, need to be expansive and up-to-date if we want to ensure that our students are prepared as one would expect from one of the best school districts in the state and country. More reading on this topic is available at the Michigan.gov website where several research studies directly relating to the impact of school libraries on student achievement have been linked.



Braun, L. W., Hartman, M. L., Hughes-Hassell, S., & Kumasi, K. (2013,       December). The future of library services for and with teens: A call to action.   Chicago, IL: YALSA.

P21 framework definitions [PDF]. (2009). Retrieved from      http://www.p21.org/storage/documents/P21_Framework_Definitions.pdf

Position statement on the role of the school library program. (2012, January     21). Retrieved January 17, 2014, from American Association of School     Librarians website: http://www.ala.org/aasl/advocacy/resources/position-     statements/program-role

School libraries in the 21st century. (2014). Retrieved January 17, 2014, from     Library of Michigan website:           http://michigan.gov/libraryofmichigan/0,2351,7-160-34169_51980---    ,00.html

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

MaryLynn Bertetto January 21, 2014 at 06:56 AM
2 of Grosse Pointes' libraries are brand new - this century. What specific improvements do they now require?
MaryLynn Bertetto January 21, 2014 at 06:58 AM
Can't students use the brand new beautiful public libraries we recently built?
Allison Baker January 21, 2014 at 08:55 AM
The libraries being discussed in the piece above are the libraries in the Grosse Pointe Public Schools, the libraries that students use during the course of the school day. Students do use and appreciate our wonderful GP Library System.
MaryLynn Bertetto January 21, 2014 at 10:20 AM
Before spending huge amounts on new libraries, let's finish paying for the 3 beautiful libraries we already have. Kids can and should use them after school and evenings. This is a valuable resource that is largely untapped, as evidenced by my many evening trips to all 3 libraries. All learning doesn't have to be immediate or in the comfort of our homes. Maybe less study hall & more studying after school.
Fred Element January 26, 2014 at 12:09 PM
Vote NO! Honesty and integrity before technology!


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