Last spring, I spent considerable time and effort reorganising the library. The library assistant charged with manning the library the previous year took care to keep the library neat and tidy, but the organisation of the library was not suitable for a 21st century learning environment.
There were three long rows of bookshelves, one of which ran alongside a row of 12 desktop computers. Once pupils were seated at the computers, it was virtually impossible to walk behind them to provide any guidance or instruction. The limited space did not allow pupils to bring additional chairs to the computers for group work. Pupils were unable to view demonstrations or access the book stock without squeezing past their classmates. In short, the layout of the library did not allow for collaboration or innovative resource-based learning.
In an attempt to make the space more conducive to learning and teaching, I culled the 10,000+ book stock after realising that many of the books were outdated. In fact, the encyclopaedias were as old as me! I managed to reduce the size of the collection by about 20%, which allowed us to remove the shelves crowding the computer desks. It means the existing shelves do not leave much room for gaps between subjects, but the space in the library is now much more flexible.
I was very excited by these changes and expected teaching staff to be as well. Sure enough, all visitors complimented me on the changes in the library, but their comments were surprising. Every single teacher made a remark to the effect of “This is great! Now you can keep an eye on the pupils and catch them misbehaving!” No one focused on how much more comfortable group work could be or how much easier it would be to move amongst the pupils offering individual instruction.
Am I being too negative? Am I asking too much from teachers? After all, if I did not make my reasons for reorganising the library clear to all staff, can I really be surprised that they do not share my vision for learning?
Although the responses I received were disheartening, I need to remind myself that this school was without an onsite professional librarian for nearly a decade. To them, a library has always been a place to get books or perhaps use computers to assist straightforward research assignments. I need to get over my initial shock at being considered a glorified baby-sitter and work towards creating the library service these pupils deserve.