Is your library going Future Ready too?

This can be an exhaustive, and often complex, question, but the framework focuses on key areas.

•    Educational leadership
•    Professional development
•    Instructional partnership
•    Digital citizenship and leadership
•    Curriculum and technology integration
•    Information literacy
•    Content access and curation
•    Reading and literacy advocacy
•    Making and building
•    Equitable access

Educators would likely recognize these targets as essential components of 21st century schools. But for districts seeking to be Future Ready, the challenge is addressing these needs in the face of inundated classroom teachers and constraints on funding, capacity, and support.

The Future Ready Libraries Initiative offers districts ways to leverage librarians to simultaneously support students and teachers while redefining and strengthening library programs. The targets identified in the Future Ready Libraries Framework are ones which librarians are well-positioned to help lead, teach, and support students and teachers. In many cases, they are simply extensions of what librarians have been aspiring to do for years, albeit with a digital or future ready twist.

So how do future ready libraries step up and take an active role in shaping 21st century schools? Take content curation for example. On Oct. 29, the Department of Education announced #GoOpen, a new open educational resources initiative. According to the DoE, the campaign encourages broader use of openly licensed educational materials—so-called OER. While the concept is nothing new, this effort is a reminder that there is no such thing as a free lesson. Schools are still seeking effective ways to harness, curate, categorize, tag and deploy digital educational resources. Yet hiding in plain sight are information specialists in the school library.

Librarians are already in the business of bringing order to information, resources, and materials for the benefit of students and teachers. The school library collection is specifically designed to support and complement classroom instruction. Could librarians who already collect, classify, manage, organize and promote library and textbook collections help schools and districts translate the promise of OER into reality? Dewey Decimal jokes aside, librarians deeply understand organization, copyright, and curation. Unlike most educators, they have training and experience in information management.

Over the next few articles of this series, we will dig deeper into curation and other challenges faced by future ready schools seeking to answer two questions—in what specific ways could librarians and library programs help? And what might future ready librarians and library programs look like? For districts with librarians, this may foster a re-imagination of the librarian’s role and the functions of the library, potentially informing librarian preparation, job descriptions, program design, evaluation, instruction, and professional development. For those schools without librarians, the framework may help guide priorities for professional development or the work of other instructional leaders.

Fortunately for Vancouver and other districts across the country, librarians are already very much part of the conversation, which could make our digital future that much easier.

Mark Ray is director of instructional technology and library services for Vancouver Public Schools in Washington and a member of Project Connect’s Library Leadership Committee.  

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