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Do we need a Library?

12 Mar

This past week has initiated a whirlwind of thoughts regarding the impact technology has had on the library and the role of the teacher librarian within this changing information environment. There is no doubt that change has been rapid and at present, we seem to be in a maelstrom of legitimising and (re)defining the role of the teacher librarian and the context within which a T/L operates.

The following clip highlights the importance of the changes social media has had on our lives. This clip is a great precursor to the thoughts that follow.

The Question of what does this mean for the Library is one that many of us on this journey are pondering. From the quote by Steve Jobs “the fact is that people don’t read anymore” at the beginning of Johnson’s article[i] I had to ascertain quite quickly what Johnson’s definition of a post-literate society inferred.  I determined that I had a qualified agreement with Johnson’s definition of the term Post-literate. He has an assumption in place that reading is somewhat reduced based on literacy as a definition being closely linked to print based literacy. Johnson also indicates a bias towards print in his article. I tend to favour an extension of the term literacy to include non-print based texts.
As a Media trained teacher I hold firmly that literacy has a mutli-modal approach and I appreciate different definitions that point to an expansion or evolution of how we define literacy. One such approach is the term multiliteracies as elaborated by Mary Kalantzis[ii].

We can read film as much as we can read print. Construction and creation of film is complex and requires an understanding of signs and symbols in the creation of meaning. To be able to create any product is an engagement in the creation of meaning and this is a complex learning process. Non-print based information requires active participation as a reading, decoding and encoding process. I may be able to hand anyone a film camera but without learning how to create and construct meaning, they wont necessarily be able to produce a film that ‘makes sense’ just like handing a pencil to someone who has not learnt to read or write, wont be able to ‘make sense’ in first attempts at writing. As a result my defining of literacy is more aligned to the concept of multiliteracies and assumes multimodal encoding and decoding as complex and not simple. Beyond this, In Johnson’s article the assumption is extended to suggest that the Net Generation is post-literacy’s poster child and a demise in reading for pleasure in the form of the physical book has occurred. This is something I am not so sure about… I do need to investigate this further but I do envisage my role as a librarian to promote and advocate reading for pleasure and there is nothing more pleasurable than holding a book physically while sitting somewhere comfortable and having a read and turning the pages physically.

Johnson’s premise is a call to librarians to embrace the digital. While I certainly embrace the digital, I can’t see the printed book disappearing, nor do I desire this. I still feel there is room for both within a redesigned library that embraces and advocates both.

The clip following provides an insight to the changes that face libraries and information delivery.

This video following provides some insights from people who are currently working as librarians on the challenges technological change poses. I take note on the initial emphasis of the Human element mentioned.

Stanford Library is an example where the library has been proactive and taken on the concept of transformation to the digital library in earnest. A particular note about Stanford Library is their dedication to preserving old books linked to ideas of being cultural and historical custodians.

The future of the library

The last two clips are a bit more lighthearted. The first relates to positivity about the future and the last is an affirmation that the Library will survive.

You’re going to make it!


[i] Johnson, D., “Libraries for a post-literate society” in Connections, issue no. 72 Term 1, SCIS pp 2-3.

[ii] Kalantzis, M., Cope, B. & Fehring, H. (2002). Multiliteracies: teaching and learning in the new communications environment. (PEN 133). Marrickville, NSW: Primary English Teachers Association.

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