Liz Kerr has introduced Ray Doirion, Professor, Faculty of Education, University of Prince Edward Island, as the bearer of the history of school libraries in Canada. As we look to the future of school libraries and have hinged today's dialogue on futuristic views, Ray has a sense of time to share with us.
Ray's address, Confronting the 'Crisis of Significance' in 21st Century School Libraries, may be titled pessimistically, but he is an optimist at heart. The never-ending 'crisis' of school libraries has been going on for over 40 years. Mobile learning will become a very powerful tool in the developing world as the ubiquitous cell phone switches to the smart phone. With a reflection on countries like Ethiopia, where libraries are so highly valued, we are charged to think about the changing paradigms.
When we look to the Framework for 21st Century Learning we need to consider the learning environments that support creativity, professional learning communities, relevant real-world contexts, international involvement, both face-to-face and online. The 21st Century Learning Initiative policy paper speaks of the political imperative regarding new models of learning. Although these perspectives have been a part of the school library field for decades, the inquiry-based learning has become the work of all teachers, the learning in all classrooms, as today's thinking and policies would tell us. Out resource-based inquiry work does end at the library door; it reaches into the classrooms, ought to be happening in the classrooms. Reaching out from school libraries is not new, but the action involved in inquiry has found it's time. Inquiry + Action = 21st century learning, because our learners do, connect and communicate inquiry every day, in so many ways. The multimodal, multimedia resources are our learners' reality, as well as reciprocal learning and teaching.They want to direct their own learning and demonstrate their capacities.
As we look toward new metaphors the 'hub' and the 'heart' of the school, the school library, may well be see now as the 'third space' (Kulthau), aligned with Reggio Emilia approach of understanding the environment as the third teacher. Another sense if Frey's 'centres of culture'. Today, says Ray, we focused on the the Learning Commons, but the predominance of the talk was on learning, not the commons. The space where the community comes together, the commons, must be the selling point of our paradigm! We can think more in terms of ecological models.
Three major challenges:
-We are lacking current and reputable research linking 21st century learners & learning to the role of the school library. > Shift from student achievement to issues of soical justice, equity and culture/community.
-We have a growing need for re-invigorated leadership in school librarianship.
-Keeping up with our growing professional learning needs. > action research, PLCs, study groups
Perhaps the growth of the Learning Commons needs to look to the academic libraries which have focused so much on the commons aspect, and to public libraries which are reinventing themselves as culture centres in the digital age. How can we look to other library contexts to inform our redesign? What value can we bring to the proliferation of talk about inquiry beyond libraries? Perhaps we should be celebrating the dissemination of inquiry beyond libraries and embrace the commons of other libraries, all learners and culture communities.