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On “hacking” school library or crowdsourcing innovation (PLEASE SHARE YOUR HACKS!)

I am preparing for a talk at Computers in Libraries this week and I’d love to showcase your best ideas.

In what ways have you innovated this year? How have you challenged traditional notions of: collection, instruction, reading, space/design, budget, walls, rules, and especially expectations?

In honor of School Library Month, please help by adding your favorite hacks to this Padlet: or by tweeting them to #tlhack and the #tlchat hashtags.  Please include links and media!  And please feel free to embed and share what we create.

Some background:

My talk at the conference is about sweet spots and it is also about hacking.

Dave Lankes tells us, “The mission of librarians is to improve society through facilitating knowledge creation in their communities.  Serve, lead, innovate.”  [My emphasis!]

Right now, I see sweet spots.  I see so many innovative opportunities to hack old notions in order to better serve and lead.  Technologies for curation, communication, creation, and collaboration, are widely available and largely free. They allow us to leverage and scale our talents to facilitate knowledge creation–to be even more responsive to the needs of our communities.  I see this as the very moment, the sweet spot, for hacking library.

We need to hack walls and hours. Our virtual libraries must be embedded into classrooms during the school day, available for those learners who opt out of the traditional classroom environment, and ever-ready for those who choose to do their learning after 3 PM.

We have the capacity to be open 24/7.  We have the capacity to be just-in-time, just-for-me.  It is so easy for us to be an app.  I’ve had kids help me make library apps.  I want to see every kid in America flexing bigger and more powerful apps than the ones they currently carry on their phones and tablets. Everything we buy for them, every instructional resource we create and curate for them, ought to be where they need it most, whenever they need it.  Every kid ought to be able to carry a library in his or her pocket.

We need to hack collection.  Collections do not serve communities if they are not accessible and responsive.  Collection is no longer merely what we buy and own.  Collection is what we point to, curate, make discoverable, create context around.  Tools like the Web2MARC generator make grabbing free web content easy.

Collection and services should meet our communities where they live, work and play and whenever they need them.  We need to eliminate silos and barriers and recognize that our communities need us when they need us.  Our communities do not want to navigate 30 different access points, learn to use 30 different interfaces, remember 30 different passwords.  We need discovery (or other) search systems that return truly relevant results.  And we need ebooks that do not go poof after 14 days, ebooks that are device-agnostic.

We need to hack old notions of collection to include the tools learners need to create and share and grow and make a difference in the world. Virtually, we can curate easily accessible collections of tools for digital storytelling and finding content to ethically remix.  Physically, we need to loan or make available: white boards, green screens, tripods, cameras, puppets, maker kits, and, perhaps, 3D printers.

We need to hack readers’ advisory.  I’ll be sharing new and beautiful examples of what reading lists and face-out shelving look like when they engage the reader attractively and interactively.

We need to hack space.  Our school libraries should be student-centered spaces for discovery, creation and sharing—flexible, responsive laboratories for learning.   They should be redesigned from the vantage point of the learner and support the kind of learning that happens well beyond the bubble test.

Physically, we need to understand the range of potential activities our libraries can accommodate and offer a range of flexible, physical options and resources that support: quiet and active, individual and collaborative, neat and messy learning.

And we need to think of our powers to hack space to imaginatively connect our learners or community members with others.  Libraries can easily connect with other libraries and classrooms. Our book clubs, art classes, debate teams can meet with others around the world.  Authors and experts have never been more accessible.  All it takes is librarian with a little social capital and a little inventiveness to make it happen.

Dave Lankes also reminds us: “Bad libraries build collections: good libraries build services: great libraries build communities.”

We can learn to hack community by leveraging, by hacking, each other.  Through the inventive ideas for emerging practice we blog, tweet, pin, scoop, socially bookmark and tag, we are hacking the old file cabinets and flash drives and desktops and building on each others’ discoveries and new visions of effective practice.   As we connect and share and mentor, we build own community and learn how to better build our local communities.

In its most positive sense, hacking refers to the playful solving of a problem by understanding it as part of a system.

We can hack libraries, in the most positive sense by learning to give up traditional actiities and by allowing ourselves to play, to develop new understandings of how libraries can creatively serve and lead in our community ecosystems.

At this very sweet spot, we are limited only by our imaginations.


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


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