Librarians Asked to Rethink their Learning Spaces

The School Library Systems Conference hosted by the Southern Westchester and Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES on March 31 prompted the region’s school librarians to reimagine a new learning space for their libraries, one that supports active learning and the various aptitudes of their students.

In a keynote presentation that kicked off the seventh annual conference, Kentucky tech education specialist Bret Foster talked about the importance of turning school libraries from passive learning spaces into more active learning environments.

Relinquishing ownership of their space was one of the key priorities that Mr. Foster laid out for the library media professionals who were attending the all-day event.

“This is not your space; it is the kids’ space,” he said, referring to the creation of a library where students could collaborate, brainstorm, research, design, experiment and even fail, all in a safe environment.

Providing participants with examples of revamped library spaces, Mr. Foster said that a school library is much more inviting to students if it contains areas that can be used as Makerspaces and other centers of creative learning.

Paying attention to the temperature of the room and the functionality and comfort of the furniture is also important, he added. Replacing encyclopedias with laptops and adding whiteboards for students to doodle on were among the changes he urged librarians to take.

The popular event, which was held at the SWBOCES offices in Harrison, also included an array of presentations. One titled, “Understanding the News in the Age of Information Overload,” was of interest to many school librarians who are struggling to provide their students with reliable information in the age of fake news.

Another delved into the topic of digital media creation, focusing primarily on the use of iPads and other tech devices to help students create meaningful content using free services, apps and other technologies.

Randy Hall, a senior facilitator in the Lower Hudson Regional Information Center’s Instructional Technology Department, helped participants understand the importance of design principles using the LHRIC’s Active Learning Center as a backdrop.

The topic of Makerspaces was popular again this year, with local library media specialists Mary Knopp of Westlake Middle/High School, Shannon Mersand of Yorktown High School and Kim Sparber, a librarian in the Alice E. Grady Elementary School in Elmsford, providing insight.

New to this year’s conference was the addition of “Exploratorium,” a room full of gadgets and cool technology, where colleagues had the opportunity to share best practices and learn from each other.Recommendations for worthwhile children’s and teen books was provided by a group of local public librarians, and as in previous years, participants had the chance to mingle with popular book authors. This year’s guests included Tracey Baptiste, the author of the creepy MG fantasy adventure “The Jumbles,” Elizabeth Eulberg, who has written several books for girls, and Courtney Sheinmel, who has penned over a dozen books for kids and teens.

Two special awards were handed out at the beginning of the conference. They included the PNW BOCES SLS Administrator of the Year Award to Dr. Valerie Henning-Piedmonte, superintendent of the Brewster School District, and the SWBOCES SLS Administrator of the Year Award to Interim Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Dr. Ronald Valenti of the Greenburgh Central School District.