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Keep school libraries weird

weird2A couple of weeks back I presented at a conference about the value of out-of -the-box thinking. On a whim I included a slide that read: “Keep School Libraries Weird.”

I’ve been doing a little thinking about why, like Austin, we might want to keep school libraries a little weird.

Interestingly, it was Austin Community College librarian, Red Wassenich who coined the phrase Keep Austin Weird when he called into a local radio show to pledge some money. When the DJ asked why he supported the show, he responded, “I don’t know. It helps keep Austin weird.”

Though I know a little about weirdness, especially as the term relates to the libraries I’ve been part of, I don’t pretend to be any sort of expert on Austin. So I wrote to my friend, school librarian and Austin native, Carolyn Foote, and I asked her what makes Austin weird. She shared:

Austin likes “pop-ups” –like food trailers, pop up clothing stores–things that offer a surprise. We’re pretty tolerant of diversity and celebrate being unique.  High rises can sit next to old bbq places. Clothing can be weird or even optional ;).  We have a naked cyclist.  Austin is seen as being more accepting of creativity and the arts.  It’s a college town.  Education is in its DNA.  It’s the capital.  And it’s sometimes a point of tension. The legislature struggles with it but they like the weirdness, the culture, the fun. Weird is normal. It’s institutional. It’s native.

Carolyn liked the comparison and we brainstormed a bit.

School libraries can be delightfully weird because:

  • We continually offer surprises.
  • Our spaces do not need to conform to convention.
  • We are an innovative technologies destination.
  • We can offer a little something for everyone.  We even have something to offend everyone.
  • We are about collective individuality.
  • We support, no, we celebrate differences in ecosystems that often focus standard measurements for success.
  • Kids who don’t fit in other spaces–like the cafeteria–flock to us.
  • When we’re doing it right, we’re the capital and the learning hubs of our schools.
  • We offer just the kind of space that attracts artists of every flavor.
  • We offer places kids go to pursue individuality and choice.
  • We offer spaces where adults and kids can dream and play and sometimes fail.
  • We offer spaces, resources and encouragement for adults and kids who want to think, create, share and grow.
  • We offer safety. We are havens.
  • Like Austin, places as special as ours deserve some protection.

Let’s keep school libraries weird.

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. Hello Joyce,
    Austin, Texas, has a lot in common with Amsterdam, Holland; we also have a naked cyclist, for example. And the schoollibrary where I work is flooded with youngsters many times a day. It really is like high tide. I have to escape to the counter when they come burstin in. They call the library “The media”, short for “Mediatheek”, the Dutch word for schoollibrary.
    The library is also popular for students who want to study together after school or during hours they don’t have lessons. They may eat, drink and discuss. There’s only one rule: don’t disturb one another; works perfectly

  2. Suzanne Tecza says

    I totally agree with you!

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