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School Library Trendspotting

‘Tis the season for trend spotting–for considering what we learned in 2011 and what it means to our programs in 2012.   Audrey Watters, of Hack Education, concluded her five-part Ed-Tech Trends series with The Digital Library.  And a couple of weeks ago, Joe Murphy shared Technology Trends for Libraries 2012 and recently , of SLJ, identified trends in her Top Ten 2011: Technology.

I’ve been doing some thinking of my own about where I am planning to take our little school library.  And though I tried to think in neat, discrete categories, my trends just keep on overlapping.

Here they are:

Curation: The word popped majorly across the business and library worlds this past year.  There’s too much stuff. Human creativity and intervention is critical to make sense of it all. I believe curation is an essential strategy for us to scale our practice, increase our visibility, and to model information management for our learning communities. For me curation is also an essential professional development tool.  For my kids it offers a new approach to discover expert-guided real-time search.

Looking back through my posts, I discovered that I’ve done at least five on curation this year:

Learning Commons/iCentre/Libratory/Kitchen?:  Honestly, I don’t know what to call my space anymore.  It continues to look and feel different from the way it looked and felt the September I started my first school library job.  It’s absolutely more kitchen than grocery store and it continues to evolve.  What I know for sure is that it is: a learning space; a reading, thinking, questioning, and exploring space; a technology integration space; a production space; a sharing/presentation space; a social space; a haven for at-risk and different learners; and I hope it is a place of enchantment. It is a flexible student space. (And BTW, I am so fortunate that a generous community grant allows me to plan an amazingly funky new production space.  Pics to come in a few weeks.)

Confession: I kinda avoided Scott McLeod’s Twitter question:  At what point does library change so much we no longer should call it a ‘library?’ I’ve been thinking about Doug Johnson’s response and considering my sentimental attachment to the word library and to the title I think fits me best: teacher librarian.  My own kids know what library means to our community, I feel no local need to rename.  But does library describe the space to people who don’t see it in action? Do we damage our futures by resisting a name change?

Creative Commons: The cc movement continues to grow and my students are now beginning to love it, if our LibGuide stats are any evidence. While it used to be a hard sell–a very hard sell–the amount of quality content now being shared under licensing more liberal than the traditional big C (copyright) astounds me.  My learners’ current search tools of choice for images are Blue Mountains, Flickr Creative Commons, and Wikimedia Commons for images. Next step–encouraging more students to attribute licenses to their own published and broadcast work so that others know how they intend it to be used.

Scaling open educational resources:  Students and teachers now have unprecedented access to free content to supplement/enrich classroom learning and to support independent learning.  Resources like the TED Talks, the TEDx Talks, the Khan Academy, YouTube Teachers, need to be organized and pushed out to maximize their potential.  Teachers librarians, with their knowledge of the curriculum, combined with their scouting abilities, and the new curation tools, are the logical professionals for the job. (See our list of eTexts/eCurricula and nonfiction/documentary video.)

YA Lit as fan culture and serious genre: Over the past two years I’ve been watching the happiest of trends–the growth of an emerging out-of-the-classroom reading culture.  My book club is growing. They share with each other on Good Reads and Facebook and Tumblr. Our Somewhat Virtual Book Club enjoys meeting with other clubs around the country via Google+ Hangouts and Skype. They are also exploring sharing with each other through a hashtag (#swvbc=SomeWhatVirtualBookClub) and an upcoming collaborative blog.  My kiddos now view authors as rock stars and await their new titles as some people await an album by a favorite musical artist.  I have no metric for this shift, but I know that many of students are interacting with books and authors in ways never before possible. They follow authors on Twitter and on their blogs and vlogs.  They know their personalities and what is going on in their lives.  I am more likely to hear about an upcoming title from my connected kids as I am a professional journal.  (Look for the article Wendy Stephens and I have coming up on this trend in the March issue of Ed Leadership.)

Free, really, really good, professional development: The number of opportunities for learning multiplied like crazy this year and I know (I hope) it will continue.  Our own TLCafé, was just one small scale example.  My hero, Steve Hargadon–with the support of San Jose State SLIS, provided us with the worldwide virtual Library 2.011 Conference, and is offering the Future of Education community the upcoming Learning 2.0 Conference. Wes Fryer continued to lead a dedicated group of brilliant volunteers in presenting  the global K12 Online Conference.  And there are of course the edcamp and unconference movements

All this leads to another critical trend–the increasing understanding of the value of developing a PLN and the power of the hashtag in pulling together online communities of practice.  Just a few hashtags to know: our own Edublog Award-winning #tlchat, and #edchat, #engchat, #yalitchat. (Check out Edudemic’s A-Z Dictionary of Educational Hashtags for so many more.)  I hope that by the end of this year, I no longer need to explain the value of Twitter to the Twun-initiated.

All this leads to another exciting trend–crowdsourcing.  We’ve always known how to share, how to collaborate. Now, geography is no longer a factor.  This year, we witnessed the power of crowdsourcing with the publication of Buffy Hamilton and Kristin Fontichiaro’s ebook:  School Libraries: What’s Now, What’s Next, What’s Yet to Come and in our first TLCafé Open Mic/Smackdown night.  I look forward to future TL collaborative projects.

Mobility of Program:  I so want to be an app!  I described my desire in my essay for School Libraries: What’s Now, What’s Next, What’s Yet to Come (See Chapter 7).  Actually, I am angry that our library, everyone’s library, does not yet have the same portability as Angry Birds.  Some of my databases are there, but that’s not enough.  I hope that this is the year I really get portable.

What to do about ebooks: I’ve been sitting on the fence for a couple of years now.  So this is going to be the year I seriously consider the ebook market. For my students it is not about devices. Our mini-Kindle program is nice and it allows us to circulate titles we need on the fly.  But our kids want to read the books they want to read on their own devices whenever they want them.  I absolutely heard Chris Harris’ plea, don’t buy ebooks at the SLJ Summit.  It continues to resonate with me.  I am in a small district and my Intermediate Unit has been cutting back rather than adding projects.  Can a small school like mine afford the kind of collection I want to offer my students with the type of multiple access to the hot titles my students need?  I’d love to chat with any vendors about a workable solution.

I could go on forever. But alas, blog posts are meant to be short and pithy.

What is trending in your own TL brain for 2012?

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza


  1. I am absolutely with you on so many points here, Joyce. But remember when libraries became “media centers,” which to me sounds like a TV studio, not an information center. Didn’t work so well, in my opinion. I am an ‘information specialist” before I’m a media specialist. I’m for waiting on this label change.

    And the ebook question? I want to do it just like the Douglas County, CO system is doing it — and if I had an extra $30K for ACS and server equipment (and were looking for a business opportunity), I’d jump in to create & run my own ebook consortium for the state. If only I had the time. Somebody out there does, and will!

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