Monday, October 27, 2014

The Ideal Library

October is Canadian Library Month. There's a website devoted to it. Every year, when I remember, I try to mark it in some way. I shared my idea for this year via Twitter and my library mentor, the amazing Carol Koechlin, suggested I submit it.

 When Carol asks, I don't hesitate, so here's my story, complete with illustrations, and the requisite title with snappy one-line description.


The Ideal Library by Diana Maliszewski

When I asked my students to draw the perfect library, the results surprised me.


I posted the chart paper with the challenge on the blackboard in my school library. When my junior division classes came in for their weekly library period, they began reading, discussing, and planning even before I clarified the directions. The task was relatively simple: in groups of 2, 3, or 4, think about what would make an ideal library. Draw it. The design voted the best submission will have the chance to build this library in Minecraft.

The students and I co-created the success criteria and then it was time to plan. The teams of 9-11 year old students got to work right away and even continued the task through their beloved book exchange and free reading time. The next day, they began hounding me in the hall - which project was the best? Had a winner been chosen? I knew the students were keen to work on Minecraft, especially in a way that allowed for student choice, creativity, and leadership like this assignment did. I was busy, but a few days later, I finally sat down to examine the entries.

As I flipped through the drawings, many of which were multi-paged portfolios filled with labels, I was struck by a common thread. Many of the drawings resembled our current school library, even down to the interactive white board, play area, and large comic collection. At first, I worried that the students weren't being creative enough, but I know our students and they are imaginative. My second theory startled me: for them, at this time, their school library IS the ideal library. They love their school library. Even the plans that were innovative contained elements of our current library - the video game room recommendation by Joyce echoes our twice weekly Minecraft Club meetings, and the crafting area mirrors the Build Zone area and last year's Hacker Club activities. I'm always looking for ways to improve my program, place, and practices, but I need to realize that for many of my students, they get to experience the ideal every time they enter the doors. As Jeremy told a recent visiting principal from Denmark, "the one thing you should know about our school library is that it's awesome".

(Below are a few of the "ideal library" drawings done by some of the students.)

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