How School Libraries Have Evolved

At One World International School (OWIS), we are joining the reading revolution and launching a new library this academic term. The future of libraries is open, digital and collaborative. Those silent spaces of yesteryear, characterised by ageing volumes and single-space workstations, are giving way to the needs of the cyber age. Libraries, however, do not need to become obsolete, and by creating an interactive, usable space that offers a range of resources for our students, the library can remain an integral part of a child’s education.

Why have a library?

In the age of the internet, do libraries still have a place in education?  Emphatically, yes! As internationally-acclaimed writer Neil Gaiman said, “Google can bring you back 100,000 answers. A librarian can bring you back the right one.”

According to a study funded by the government of New Zealand, school libraries improve reading test scores, increase positive attitudes toward learning and elevate overall academic achievement.  Effective libraries are flexible and technologically responsive, and they encourage reading for pleasure. They offer a wide range of resources and are easily accessible to all users. Libraries are also important places for children to take ownership of their learning, as it is often the case that they need to guide their own research and search for answers.

The importance of reading

Although the growth of alternative communication mediums and changes in publishing trends might make ‘learning to read’ seem like a chapter from the past, reading is still a critical skill for the future.  In fact, reading proficiency might be the single most critical skill 21st-century knowledge workers can possess. Reading is required daily; whether it is to read the instructions to bake a cake, reading the signs in a car park or studying a scientific article to analyse the findings, literacy will never become extinct. Although much of our world is now technology-based, basic reading skills have not changed.

The educational technology experts at Tech & Learn tell us, “Reading proficiency is foundational to a student’s ability to master the complex subject matter required in higher grades.”  In reading, the concept of proficiency means more than the ability to decode and comprehend printed words. Proficient readers also supply missing concepts, infer a passage’s main idea, empathise with a fictional character, and use existing knowledge as the scaffolding to comprehend increasingly complex texts.

To do all that, students need more than the ability to read. They must also have a love for it. Just reading the words in front of you is not the way to progress knowledge or reasoning.

That’s why we designed every aspect of our school library at OWIS to instil a love of books and reading in our students, especially our primary learners.  We have a passion for children’s literature and know how to help young readers find those “just right” books that meet their interests and reading levels. We offer a huge range of publications that are appropriate for all ages. We have books that are picture based, focus on spelling or are part of a larger collection. We allow children to select their books and to guide their own progression. By encouraging this, we are igniting a love of literature.

Many educated adults can recall the exact book that opened the world to them as a child.  Our teachers are committed to finding that book for each student at OWIS. The feeling of holding a book, flicking through the pages and being excited about the next chapter is hard to replicate through technology. This is yet another reason why we wanted to provide a magical library for our students.

The future of school libraries

Just because books and reading are not going the way of the Dodo doesn’t mean school libraries will look like they did in the 1990s, though.  Experts say the school libraries of the future will be minimalistic and visually pleasing, blending books with new technology. Students will have the opportunity to pull resources from paper books as well as information online. They will learn the importance of gaining information from a range of resources to further their knowledge. Libraries will also incorporate “maker spaces” where students can create and experiment with what they learn. They are encouraged to discuss their findings with their peers and to analyse their findings which will further their understanding of the topic or story.

No matter how futuristic our facility or how dedicated our staff, however, no library by itself can turn each child into a proficient reader.  That’s why we supplement the OWIS library with our reading-at-home programme, where EC3 to G2 children bring 4-levelled reading books home every week.  We encourage our parents to get involved with their child’s reading development by reading with them and discussing their thoughts about the books. By supporting children to love reading, we are helping them become global citizens with skills that last a lifetime.

Come by our campus to tour the library and learn more about our approach to reading.