By Leslie Everitt
Navigation Central, Pilot House, Collaboration Hub? Do any of those sound like names for a library? How about Idea Store?
Thoughts–stirred up by a chain of libraries and adult learning centers called “Idea Stores” in the East End of London–have been haunting me all month. Appropriate imagery for October: the ghost of libraries future keeping me up at night.
When I heard the name “Idea Store” and saw some of the very modern buildings housing them, I was inspired to imagine a high school library with an exciting new name and a beautiful interior design to help the school community to view it in a new light. And no, “Media Center” is not the kind of name that will do the job. But what name would? And what do the names “library” or “media center” lack, exactly, that leaves me feeling so discontented?
When I think of a library, I think of the library of my youth: an organized storehouse of books, a model which is not sufficient to encompass all the roles of a modern library. But when I hear the words “media center,” they bring to my mind the image of technological equipment–computers and projectors mainly–made accessible in a central location. Media also means the medium of the message, but the strongest connotation of that word for me is a concrete one: disks, films, books, tapes, etc. At least the term “library” hearkens back to the concept of a librarian–a service provider and resource in human form, which “media center” does not.
The moniker “Idea Store” is an improvement due to its focus on what libraries and media centers can give us: ideas. Its other strength is it begs to be compared to a store in the mall with all the entertainment, excitement, and socializing that might imply, to go along with the fun of browsing for something new to take home. However, the word “store” still feels a bit archaic when one considers what the libraries of the future must and will become.
From my studies in the iSchool at UMD, it is becoming apparent to me that school libraries need to become collaboration laboratories (there’s an idea for a name), where patrons don’t passively take in ideas, but, working with others, they actually help construct and organize ideas, whether in real time and real space, or virtually and asynchronously, or some other combination. The Idea Store is a perfect name for the facilities in London in their dual roles as public library and, perhaps more importantly, community center. However, school and academic libraries are, first and foremost, about scholarship, hence the need for learning to construct knowledge.
The American Association of School Librarians puts it this way: “Learning is enhanced by opportunities to share and learn with others. Students need to develop skills in sharing knowledge and learning with others, both in face-to-face situations and through technology.” School libraries need to prepare the citizens of the country to develop “crucial skills” in multiple literacies, including “digital, visual, textual, and technological” literacy. It is the job of academic libraries to adhere to AASL standards such as teaching students how to apply “critical- thinking skills (analysis, synthesis, evaluation, organization) to information and knowledge in order to construct new understandings, draw conclusions, and create new knowledge” (AASL, 2007). Without those skills, students won’t be able to pilot themselves through an ever more complex sea of information without getting lost, wandering aimlessly, or drowning.
As a grad school student, I have experienced this first hand. My classmates and I used various technologies to co-create a presentation for class. We each researched the internet for software applications to help with teaching writing, dividing the topic and collaborating to combine our findings in a Google Docs document and slideshow. It was fun and encouraging to build the documents with simultaneous editing. I was typing in my section of the document while watching my partners words appear magically on the screen in their sections. I was able to use instant chat to make plans to meet or to ask my partner for clarity on the assignment. We were able to post comments on each other’s sections with suggestions for edits. We could also revise each other’s work, if desired.
I am learning these skills in grad school. Public school students (as early as Pre-K) are learning them in all their classes, but especially in library class or projects co-taught by librarians and classroom teachers.
Navigation Central, Pilot House, Collaboration Hub … how about Knowledge Building Center? What words can offer the literal or metaphorical captioning for a place that delivers services, objects, equipment, education, connectivity, space, community, entertainment, and so much more? I like the word “hub,” for its ability to conjure images of a place where connections are made. For that matter, I like the word “connections,” since so much of library services are connecting people with resources. Oooh, how about “Resource Hub”? “Connection Center”? “Idea Hub”?
I don’t have the perfect name yet, but I know that when I get my first school library job, I will campaign heavily to update and improve the library’s image. Why? Not because I don’t love libraries; I do. My earliest memories of the school library are of awe and delight from when I was finally deemed old enough (in third grade) to choose books for myself. I know: third grade! That’s crazy, right? I doubt libraries in the U.S. have age restrictions today, but the point is, my earliest memories of libraries are all good. Back then, I felt an almost physical sense of blossoming due to having so much choice and the freedom to indulge my interests, whatever I might discover them to be. (Maybe a good library name is “Freedom Center”?) But today, libraries are doing a job that is also being done by tons of telecommunication devices: giving people access to stories, images, and information. Libraries have competition.
The public needs to be taught the value of libraries in the face of this competition. As vast as is the store of resources on the internet or cable TV, there are a lot more resources still blocked by a payment wall. And even the very vastness of our information society is now becoming a problem for seekers of knowledge. According to the AASL,
“The continuing expansion of information demands that all individuals acquire the thinking skills that will enable them to learn on their own.
The amount of information available to our learners necessitates that each individual acquire the skills to select, evaluate, and use information appropriately and effectively” (2007).
But do information seekers even know they need help? Research has shown that researchers often overestimate their abilities to locate reliable resources. Out of necessity—due to lack of time, or underestimating the time needed, people are satisfied by the first hits they get when using search engines. This is called, in information science parlance, “satisﬁcing.” Satisﬁcing is
“… an information competency whereby individuals assess how much information is good enough to satisfy their information need. Scholars from different ﬁelds have drawn on the satisﬁcing concept to reﬂect on the ‘contrast between choosing what is satisfactory and choosing what is best.'” (Byron, 2004, as cited in Prabha, Connaway, Olszewski, and Jenkins, 2007, p. 2)
Libraries should be the one place people can rely on for help locating reliable information or at least learn of alternatives to satisficing.
Search engine providers are fast becoming not only the arbiters of knowledge, but the gatekeepers as well. How many people still don’t have access to the internet? How many people know how Google (or any other browser) have written their algorithms to rank the sites that will rise to the top of the results page? Who died and made Google king? Oh yeah, I forgot. Libraries died.
Of course, I exaggerate. Libraries aren’t dead … yet. Libraries are more necessary than ever to provide equal access to digital assets, to pay for content that one person could not afford on her own, and to employ librarians to teach users how to find information that is buried online, and to help users judge whether that information is reliable.
That’s why I like a library name with something having the sense of providing guidance, like “navigation” or “piloting.” A library is a place where a professional helps the patron navigate the information highway, helps them ask the right questions, teaches them how to “steer” themselves, and “launches” them on the path to independence.
Exploratorium? Infolab? What is the name that would communicate to potential patrons that the library is the place to begin to master the modern universe? Aaah, I know: Superhero Hub. And wouldn’t you know it? There is such a concept:
If you have the perfect name for the library of tomorrow, please share it in a comment below.
American Association of School Librarians (2007). “AASL Learning Standards.” American Library Association. Retrieved Oct. 24, 2013, from http://www.ala.org/aasl/standards.
Cengage. “Librarian superheroes.” [Cartoon image]. Retrieved October 23, 2013 from http://www.cengagesites.com/CL/1193/librarian-superheroes/superheroes/.
Confessions of a design geek (2011, July 24). “out and about :: london’s libraries.” [Photograph of an Idea Store]. Retrieved October 21, 2013, from http://confessionsofadesigngeek.com/category/out-and-about/. Read more about Idea Stores at http://www.ideastore.co.uk/en/home
Google.com. [Image on Website]. Retrieved Oct. 27, 2013, from https://www.google.com/
Prabha, C., Connaway, L. S., Olszewski, L., and Jenkins, L. R. 2007. “What is enough? Satisﬁcing information needs.” Journal of Documentation, 63(1), 74-89. Pre-print retrieved October 27, 2013, from http://www.oclc.org/research/publications/ archive/2007/prabha-satisficing.pdf.