Libraries or Media Centers? The K-12 Trend that’s Sweeping the Nation

Lisa Yeaton Specialist, Content Marketing Published 22 Sep 2016

The typical story-book school library may be on its last page. Traditional school libraries are typically the size of a few classrooms with bookshelves and reading areas. However, the success of the internet and educational technology has opened a new chapter entitled The Media Center. Media Centers vary from district to district, but they tend to be a replacement of the old library or a compromise between a partial library and place for technology research to occur. Media centers have gained increasing popularity because of their focus on providing technology, access to resources such as databases, and spacious areas for classes and group collaboration. Today, most media centers are dominated by technology, devices, and internet access rather than paper-based books.

It is strange to think that one day when I walk the halls of a k-12 school there might not be a single book in sight! As a millennial, I experienced technology moving into homes and schools. I remember taking a mandatory class called library all the way from kindergarten until 7th grade, when it was cancelled. The class was dedicated to learning about libraries, their history, and how to research properly. One year while I was in grade school our library collection expanded drastically. That’s why it was a surprise to move on to middle school where the library was actually smaller. However, this new school had a stronger emphasis on technology. We were being taught more about how to use computers to find reputable sources for our research assignments. In high school, the library was bigger and incorporated more technologies as resources. The high school library not only provided resources for our use, but it also had an open area with large tables for group work and extended class presentations. Like most libraries at the time there was a librarian and regular warnings to be quiet in the room.

My former high school, Pelham High School recently remodeled the entire building, including the library. I was able to visit the library and see the new transformation. The entire aroma and flow of the library has improved in my opinion. It appears larger because the new layout has increased the proportion of usable space. The library that I remember has evolved into a media center. The new PHS media center has two separate areas for classes to meet, stacks of books, a reading area, faux fireplaces, a computer lab, a broadcasting lab, and a group collaboration table. It offers open educational resources (OER) such as online databases with plans to further expand the amount of OER. Melissa Ciotti is the new librarian whose focus is “to make the media center a place where teachers can bring their students not only to check out books, but also to collaborate, research, and be an extension of the classroom.” She told me about her recent hire and believes that librarians need to be willing to accept new technology as the definition of the school library evolves.

A view of some of the group tables available for student use

Pelham HS recently unveiled a 1:1 computing program, which includes the distribution of over 1100 Chromebooks. The school is currently exploring both the short and long term options in regards to additional resources that the school and library can offer students and teachers. New resources offerings that schools could provide students with include access to OER websites, databases, books, and/or a virtual library. Pelham High’s Technology Integrator, Jeanna Wagner believes that “schools are committed to facilitating the integration of technology to best prepare students for their post-secondary opportunities, whether that be the work force or higher education.” PHS is doing great work to prepare students for the real world and with this year’s implementations as well as future technology deployments they may have in store.

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 A portion of PHS’s book collection

I am hopeful for the future of school resources and the transformation of libraries to media centers. The transformation will allow students to receive benefits such as access to a larger collection of books in print and online, use of new technologies, and access to databases and other OER’s as resources for their work assignments.

College libraries and community libraries  are also undergoing similar transformations. See my related blogs on those: Today’s University Library: Where are all the books? and Bookstores Have Left Town Are Libraries Next?

*All photos courtesy of Pelham High School’s Media Center.

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