This article shares how a library has created an inspiration learning space in which students, teachers and parents collaborate and connect with each other, with learning and with the world around them.
Over the years, education has changed. So, too, has the library. We often hear that a school library should be the center of learning in a school. But what does that really look like, sound like and feel like? At the American International School Dhaka (AISD), the library is just that: an exciting hub of learning. From the early morning to late in the afternoon, students, parents, teachers and other community members can be found there. This is not by accident!
It takes a village
Before school, you will find students reading in the comfortable chairs, sharing and collaborating together at tables, researching, using Maker Spaces, completing puzzles or coloring. Students feel the library is a safe and stimulating area where their natural curiosity is given wings to soar. Parents drop in throughout the day to select books, read to younger children or seek recommendations for books for their older children. Library information sessions for teachers and parents keep the community informed of tools and resources the library offers and creates an understanding that we want everyone to feel included and part of this learning space. It also instills a love of learning and literature at all ages.
Much of what you will find in our school library centers around valuing collaboration and connection. The coloring table often finds families sharing their day or groups of students coloring together as they have intense discussions to solve a problem.
The puzzle table allows students to find ways to work and share together. Each of these also foster cross grade level collaboration and community connection.
Our library is an exciting place to be. Our teacher-librarians find ways to include students, teachers and parents. Weekly library visits are met with enthusiasm as students have opportunities to discuss new literature as well as their favorite stories and are taught skills needed for learning. Since research skills are introduced early with each grade level’s learning building on the previous year’s learning, students have agency to choose how they will research, which technology is the appropriate tool to use and make decisions about the activities in which they want to participate.
The AISD team looks for ways to develop spaces that enable children to make their own discoveries, spark their curiosity, use their imagination, learn in innovative ways, and relax in an inviting, stimulating learning environment. The goal is to inspire a love of reading and ignite their passion for learning. By creating an environment in which everyone can feel included, students often demonstrate they feel empowered. Student surveys are sent to elicit input as to what they would like to see or do with the library space and what might be offered. One result was the creation of a “secret” reading nook. Students wanted a cozy space in which to read and share. Additionally, shelving was installed that allowed easier access to the books for students of all ages without requiring help.
Our library is no longer just four walls: we are connected to the world through our online offerings such as the International Children’s Digital Library (ICDL), Overdrive, Tumblebooks and other digital resources. Students request websites and online tools and even the youngest community members can use these tools which can be used to access our library from anywhere in the world. Parents have access to the library while traveling so that the family stays connected with literature. We also connect to the world by inviting authors, illustrators and storytellers to visit each year. Through these visits students are inspired to become better writers, enhance their storytelling skills and are excited to share their learning with others.
Of course, it is also vital that we connect with our school and host culture. In the design of the space, we included artwork by local artists to connect to local culture and opened the area to connect to the outdoors. Flexibility is key and Maker Spaces are varied based on student voice and choice where students of all ages connect through a common interest. Groups within the school utilize the library to promote their artistic endeavours. Our IB music students have used the library rotunda for concerts while others use it for temporary exhibitions, many of which are connected to a unit of inquiry learning.
As teachers plan their units of inquiry, the librarian is involved as an integral member of the team. Through these collaborative efforts, ideas of ways to include literature, use digital resources and integrate library skills into the units are developed. This allows for opportunities to incorporate literature into the units and provide a deeper learning experience for students. In our PYP library, we run parallel literature studies. Literature is selected by students, teachers and librarians that connect with the unit through concepts. The piece of work is then incorporated in tandem with their unit of inquiry.
Education has changed. Our students’ needs have changed. Because of these changes, flexibility is key. Our library continues to transform to meet these changing needs so that students develop the attitudes, skills and understandings they need to be responsible, global citizens.
Rebecca Carter, EdD, has been an IB educator for 13 years and an IBEN for 5 years with the roles of workshop leader (both online and face to face), school visit team member and reader. She is currently the Vice Principal at the American International School Dhaka in Bangladesh. She is passionate about the PYP and has built local PYPC networks in two different countries. She recently completed her doctoral work in Transformational Leadership and feels honored to work in such a collaborate, open learning network. You can follow her on Twitter @rebekacarter4.