Things, we’re constantly told, are tough all over, especially for libraries, and especially especially for school libraries, which are under attack around the country, and not just in places where they’ve changed the name so "school media center." I hope those school media specialists are doing okay, because I’m not going to comment on their plight. They can start an Annoyed School Media Specialist blog and see how far they get.
Anyway, back to troubled libraries. A kind reader sent on this story from Franklin, MA. The principal of the Franklin High School decided to save a little money and get rid of the school’s librarian. The library will become a "technology center," but according to the principal will still "function as a library," by which he apparently means students can still check out books there, not that a "technology center" is likely to have many books, but we all know the kids today don’t need books, just well designed videogames.
Based upon the article, it might be just as well, because Franklin High couldn’t have had a very good library. For one thing, it was disorganized, if we go by the description of the article. Apparently the books were just piled willy-nilly all over the place.
"Part of the transformation involves physically restructuring the library by subject." Restructuring the library by subject? No why didn’t librarians think of that! One wonders how the library was structured before. Perhaps by book size or color? Lots of library patrons would be happy with that, since they want to see that book again, the big blue one, the one that was near that other book on that subject that’s just on the tip of their tongue. But in general, that would be a bad way for a school library to be organized.
"It will more closely resemble the layout of a Barnes & Noble bookstore, so all math resources will be in one section, all science in another, for instance, Light said."Hmmm . I’ve never been in the Franklin High library, but maybe you have. Were the math resources not together before? What sort of library has them scattered all over the place! I think Principal Light should be thanked for finally organizing that collection! Or else he should be criticized for not setting foot in the library before, or else not noticing that it already was organized. This is an empirical question.
Apparently the kids in Franklin, Mass. are as dumb as those folks using southwestern libraries who can’t master the Dewey Decimal System. Since they’ll no longer have a librarian to pass on the byzantine and almost totally incomprehensible structure that is the DDC, making everything like a bookstore is probably for the best.
"’One of the things that strikes everyone when you walk into Barnes & Noble is, it’s intuitive. We’re setting up the library very much in that fashion,’ said Light." Personally, I think all schools should be modeled on commercial box stores. The teachers could all be paid minimum wage, and perhaps they could add greeters at the front door to make the whole school experience more welcoming.
Having shopped in a few Barnes & Noble’s myself over the years, I have to wonder why anyone would think they were intuitive, or at least any more intuitive than a library. If you go to a library to work on a school project, you want the books related to that subject, right? A well designed library will get you from the front door to the subject specific materials you need as quickly as possible.
That’s not how Barnes & Noble bookstores work, not even in Massachusetts. Bookstores put sale items, bargain books, journals, coffee mugs, and other random crap in the front of the store hoping you’ll buy things on impulse. And just try finding a specific history book, even if the store has it.
I can almost see that thinking in a suburban public library. After all, most people aren’t using suburban public libraries for research. For most of them, the main difference between their public library and the local Barnes & Noble is that the library is free and has less comfortable furniture. But in a school library? There’s nothing intuitive about the organization of a bookstore for research purposes, and one has to wonder if anyone who thinks that has ever done any actual research. But what can you expect when two bureaucrats and a theater teacher design the place.
The students there probably didn’t do much research before, anyway, so what does it matter if they do less now.
I see by the principal’s blog that he’s also gotten rid of some art and music, so the library counts as part of those unimportant subjects schools love to cut. The students might not have any understanding of art, music, or research, but at least they’ll all be able to check out laptops and sit in "learning pods" while watching teachers write on Smart Boards. The students were most likely going to be bored in school anyway, so now they can be bored in learning pods and not blame all the boredom on the librarian.
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