Are Libraries still relevant? My first thought, "Of course. What a ridiculous question!" Teachers are naturally drawn to the library as an extension of their classroom....a place for supplementary learning opportunities as kids use research materials, discover books they may not have, even study the art work on display. In short, libraries are extremely relevant and must remain an institution....but that's just my opinion. More and more, there's a movement to get rid of libraries, or best case scenario, rename or rebrand them, i.e. Media Centers. Places to meet, conduct research using computers, etc, but not a place to browse for books as has been the common library experience in the past.
The three questions I pose to the kids in the Warm Up are:
Do you enjoy using the library?
How is the library important to you?
Would you mind if you couldn't go to a library?
When I first wrote the questions, they were more complicated- had all the defining extras: explain your opinion/why or why not/support your position with fact. These are important, but to be explored later. As I thought about it, I realized that to begin I wanted basic answers, so I needed to write basic questions. (Samples of the Survey- 3 yes, 3 no)
I give them all a sliver of paper with these three questions equally spaced (Library Survey Questions). I tell the kids to write down their answers. (Pile of Survey Results) If some of them defend their point of view in addition to the directions, great, but I don't ask it of them right now- that will come later in the lesson. From there, I bring up the questions on the Smart Board and we create tallies for the first and third question (Y/N), and notes for the second. Here are the results from Library Survey. This classroom snapshot is helpful for our next task.
After the survey discussion, we go to the library. My purpose is for them to view the library in a different way- not to convince anyone of anything with this trip, just have them observe, ask them thought questions, and bring them into "library focus" before the main activity back in the classroom.
The librarian put World Almanacs on the tables and I noticed they were the year 2006. When I asked if these were the newest almanacs in the library, she told me that they were, but 2014 editions had been ordered. With all of the technology and ebooks, it isn't surprising that the almanacs aren't ordered as often, but so much has happened in eight years. It spoke directly to the original question of, "Are libraries still relevant?" Have kids been using electronic almanacs for the latest info, or does it even matter?
Kids love a challenge, so what better way to remind them about the purpose of the library than with a little competition? The truth is, their are pros and cons to a technology-only based system. Sometimes it's just easier to find information you're looking for in an actual book, like the World Almanac. As a video about "training" students to find answers in World Almanacs faster than another team played, my students had to take up the challenge as well. They listened for the questions, quickly leafed through their almanacs, and called out with excitement if they found the answer first. (Looking for the challenge questions). Questions varied between locating maps for geography questions, and coming up with names of sports stars or famous birthdays. It is a good way to reintroduce them to the purpose of using a World Almanac.
As the kids searched through the World Almanacs, I couldn't help but notice the rows of chairs in front of the computers. In the background, DVDs and Videos but no books. The library shelving carts for books had just been returned from putting books on the shelves, so they were empty, but the stark picture of carts without books also spoke to me in a different way, based on the topic at hand.
(Though, I searched extensively, was unable to find a link to this resource, "How to Use an Almanac" by World Almanac Education, even with the all the pertinent information. This speaks VOLUMES about the very topic. The fact that it is a video shows how outdated the resource is, but that they didn't see fit to covert it to DVD is even more telling. Using an almanac in book form just isn't as relevant anymore.)
In discussing the Dewey Decimal System, the kids were split with the majority feeling that books should be on shelves in categories these days, like in bookstores. Our county, Maricopa Country, is one of the first in the country to test "Dewey-less" organization, and some kids have experienced it. I ask them, "How does your opinion on the Dewey Decimal System (DDS) support your personal claim of, "Are Libraries Relevant?" A response was, "The DDS just proves what a dinosaur the library is." A student added, "Yeah, if they'd update their system to something new it would make more sense to use a library." And finally, "Google should provide the titles, authors, and subjects when someone does a search, and then they go to the labeled area." Google- the new Dewey?
The kids had time to look for books, or browse at some of the interesting ones displayed. All I could think was that the experience doesn't happen with e-books or Kindles. These books are pretty cool! The picture of the girls huddled around an I Spy book is an authentic picture of joy. Love when I see this. They were having a fabulous time as they looked for hidden items. The picture of the boys searching for books is also special because they can't have that experience doing a search on a kindle. Searching for a book, and coming across a book you'd have never noticed otherwise is unique to libraries and book stores, looking for that perfect book but that's an aspect that's important....to me, I had to keep reminding myself.
The experiences in the library today help the kids reach a conclusion about the relevance of a library in their lives. Showing them how to support opinion through multiple exposure to evidence is necessary so the conclusion they draw is accurate, based on their interpretation of the information.
Before we left, I had them gather on the carpet. This is where many of them experienced some of their finest library days. We discussed the importance of exposing young children to the library and how it affected their feelings about books early on. They enjoyed their trip down memory lane. (On the carpet, like the old days)
Although my students know I'm a fan of the library, I don't offer my opinion during this assignment, and don't give it when they ask. This is a chance for them to read about the issue regarding the state of the library system, and come to their own conclusions. They use the worksheet, Are Libraries Still Relevant? as they read the informational text. It's necessary for the students to state their opinion about the topic of library relevance, and then support their thinking with the textual evidence provided.
Finding articles on both sides of the subject wasn't difficult, but finding appropriate examples was. I've collected a number links that (sorry about advertisements- they don't show up when the articles are printed) are devoid of political slurs, and obscene language, and a 5th grader will be able to comprehend. Why are Libraries Essential?.....Library Automated Kiosk Article.....Opinion Letter: Libraries a Big Waste of Money.....Why Would We Pay for Libraries No one Needs?.....Are Libraries a Waste of Taxpayer Money?
Students read the articles and highlight information and find passages that are significant to them. As students annotate the text, I encourage discussion as a way to bring genuine consideration on the subject in a social way. The articles brought out many opinions.
As it happened, both copy machines were inconveniently broken down, and I had no choice but to pass only five articles a piece to groups who were Sharing the Articles. I only used three of the informational texts for this reason. To help a little, I used the Doc Cam and put an article on the Smart Board and rotated with the other two as they worked because there weren't always needed copies available. With no other choice, I'm pleased it worked as well as it did, but each child having their own copy is definitely preferable. (Reading the text off of the Smart Board)
After the library survey, the visit to the library, and the analyzing of articles both for and against the idea of keeping libraries, the kids are ready to give an opinion. (Although in the morning, there was room for middle ground, I didn't want an undecided group this time.) There isn't any hesitation, however. Kids move to sides pretty quickly. All in all, the students were interested in the topic, and worked through each section of the lesson well. Though I tried to find good articles that were both appropriate and on grade level, a few below level readers did struggle with the text. With peer assistance, as well as my own, they were able to comprehend the material.
My disappointment with the lesson? There were more kids supporting libraries before they read and discussed the three articles. There were significantly more kids who ended up standing behind the "Libraries ARE NOT Relevant" sign than kids who said that libraries ARE relevant.
My celebration with the lesson? Kids read the informational text, learned of new ideas for libraries with technology, and understood a perspectives that may have been different from their own. As a result, they based their opinions on evidence in a number of informational text sources.