Saturday, September 26, 2015

Hoarders: Library Edition

In my current position, I get to visit school libraries on a regular basis. This is one of the best and worst parts of my job. There really are a lot of great things happening in school libraries now. I wish everyone had the opportunity to see the research, makerspaces, collaboration space, and so much more that is happening in school libraries. If they could see this, there would be no doubt to the value of school media programs and the knowledgeable teacher librarians that run them. Then there are those programs, the libraries that I worry endanger the future of school libraries and all they stand for. While there are many issues in some of these school libraries, this post is going to focus just on hoarding.

Basically, there are two types of hoarders out there. The first is the "you never know when" librarian. You know what I mean, "you never know when you are going to need that laserdisc player" mentality and excuse for not throwing something away. My first library position I walked into a school library where there was a lot of stuff. Things I would never use, but I held onto for quite awhile anyway. As a new librarian, I could not help but think that someone held onto it because it was used for something. I hesitated because I thought someone must need it for it to be there. In hindsight, I should have gotten rid of that stuff right off the bat. It took up valuable real estate. Space that could be used for student centered space, and that's what it is really all about. Once I started getting rid of things, I can only think of one instance where I wished I had kept something that I had thrown out (and now I don't even remember what that was).

The second type of hoarder is "the protector of the knowledge". The protector wants to ensure that books stay pristine, that parts don't go missing, or they worry that students will break this or that. What this amounts to is a space with lots of great items, but sadly it does not get any use by students. While these librarians may have good intentions, I think it is important to be reflective and ask yourself where your priorities reside. Yes, things are going to vanish, get broken, etc., and ultimately it is the price of doing business and doing it well. Keeping items behind lock and key only serves to inhibit student learning and send a negative impression about the library program.

School libraries are at a crossroads, and it is critical that school librarians show the world that they are a key factor in student learning. It's time to make our spaces student-centered and share all that we have to offer.

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