Knowledge & Learning Strategist
If you’re a library goer you may have noticed some changes to your local branch of late. Perhaps it’s new funky furniture, late night Mandarin classes or even single origin coffee. The humble library space seems to be undergoing a quiet revolution, it’s no longer a repository of resources (books or otherwise) but a place of congregation, a place where ideas are exchanged and tested, a hub of civic engagement and sometimes it’s office space for the contemporary workforce. Perhaps you haven’t noticed anything at all because the last time you set foot in a library was many moons ago. The fact is we tend to fall into two camps– those of us who visit libraries and those of us who don’t.
Realising that our library going habits are frequently formed at school, Loreto’s library has been quietly undergoing a revolution of its own. We understand that if we want our students to be engaged community members who are capable of accessing, filtering and utilising information then we need to create a space that replicates the kinds of library spaces they are likely to find when they enter the wider world. We need to build both a culture of familiarity with library services as well as an expectation that the library is the place to go for more than just research and quiet study.
The library staff have spent the first term unpacking what Loreto’s new Strategic Plan means for us and for the students and staff who frequent the space. We understand the importance of moving away from a transactional organisation to something that’s more transformative and experiential. In this vein we have tried to create learning experiences for the students that they will remember. From the surprise and delight of the Year 9 students walking into an Alice in Wonderland style tea party where they were encouraged to ‘go down the rabbit hole’ of research to the Ideation workshop with Year 8 that transformed the library into a think tank of weird and wonderful ideas. We understand that knowledge is most powerfully gained through experience– this experience might be collaborating together on a project, it may be seasonal exhibits like the Easter Rising or it may be creating the space for a diversity of perspectives to be voiced such as ‘Student Soapbox’. We recognise that the library plays an integral role in the formation of community and that knowledge, learning and understanding is not just passed from teacher to student but colleague to colleague, friend to friend, parent to child and even neighbour to neighbour. As such we look forward to the many opportunities that await, opportunities for social gatherings, peer to peer learning and deeper engagement with the broader community.
While we are tremendously proud of the seismic cultural shift that the library has undertaken already we know there is a way to go yet. An important part of this process has been consulting with the staff and students in order to meet them where they are currently at and collectively build a space that works for needs of all users. To that end we are offering a greater selection of databases which are particularly important for our senior students as they approach tertiary education, we are actively teaching research skills to ensure students are able to access the resources available, we are working with the IT team in order to carve out a space for creative play with technology and we are encouraging a robust exchange of ideas by actively supporting initiatives such as International Women’s Day and Harmony Day.
In all of this we have not, of course, forgotten about the books. For those of you who still think of libraries as a home for books, rest assured you will find plenty of books at home in our library. In fact just this week we have had Year 10 English classes in selecting books that had once been banned, suppressed and censored because of political, religious, sexual and social reasons, according to the tastes and beliefs of a particular time and place. You might be surprised to note that many of these ‘banned books’ are now considered classics such as Oliver Twist, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and To Kill a Mockingbird. Finally, we are gearing up for a spectacular launch of the Premier’s Reading Challenge in Term Two where we aim to foster that love of reading that children so often have at an early age. So I encourage you all, young and old alike to please visit a library – be it ours or your local – you might just find that a quiet revolution has been underway.
Ms Liz Green
Knowledge and Learning Strategist