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Saturday, March 29, 2014

21st Century School Library Staffing Model

At my school, and I am sure around the world, there is much discussion about how the traditional library might transform itself into a "learning commons"or "resource centre". But what about the staffing model? You can't just plonk the old staff with old habits into a new area and expect them to be progressive!

Isn't the Vennesla Library and Culture House gorgeous!

It was with this conundrum in mind that I came across an interesting article by David Weinberger about using the "Library" (commons/resource centre/hub) as a platform for incubating knowledge, ideas and passions.

The thing that struck me about this article was the inference that the space should be about engaging rather than disengaging students from the collection. Often resource spaces are organised in such a way to protect the collection. Special collections behind lock and key, restricted material behind the circulation desk.

The model of engaging students and giving them multiple avenues to access librarians or knowledge professionals, should clearly influence the staffing model.

For example:
  • Front of house Teacher Librarians (Knowledge Engineers) might be required at the circulation desk (or "genius bar" as Weinburger states) to answer questions. Most students will be able to "self check out", so they shouldn't be standing processing borrowings and returns. RFID technology will free up the TL to focus on building the capacity of the students to engage with the space.
  • There might also be Knowledge Engineers working in the back rooms processing resources, but perhaps they are available to answer "online" queries from students that might come in from around the campus. These specialists might not have the effervescence that the front of house librarians might have, but still their skill set is valuable.
  • With the acknowledgement that some of the work of a Teacher Librarian can be done remotely, the flexibility of the "work at home" arrangement becomes possible. 
Weinburger also talks about the Library as a social network:

"An online public access catalog (OPAC) for end-user search and navigation. Various ways of communicating with librarians and users by posting questions, chatting online, phoning, going to the physical library’s “genius bar,” etc. The ability of a computer program to pose a query through an open, well-documented Application Programming Interface (API) to find items based on subject classification, standard metadata (subject, author, year, etc.), popularity or other usage indicators, etc. This will spur the development of innovative applications. Clustering of works by semantic relationships, by recommendations (“people who like this…”), etc."

At the moment the Library structure focuses on reacting to the clients, the users; the students and staff. This concept of the Library as a social network or platform, allows clients/students to define how they want to interact with their Library. Allowing them to get in contact with like minds, share knowledge and use the resources that the library has on hand. But both the virtual and physical infrastructure needs to be flexible and organic enough to allow this to happen. Rather than decide for the users how they might interact with the library, the new library might provide information in a variety of forms and then perhaps use metrics to decide which one to concentrate on. Allowing the users to vote with their clicks or feet and then responding to it.

"A library platform should be measured less on the circulation of its works than in the circulation of the ideas and passions these works spark"

I hope that you have found this article of interest.

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