Transform 21st Century Libraries, One Step at a Time

By Charla Hollingsworth, Alief ISD
This blog post is adapted from “Ten Ways To Transform 21st Century Libraries” an article written by Lisa Stultz and Charla Hollingsworth which was published in VOYA in August 2015.

Librarians at all levels have seen the need to transform their libraries and library programs over the past few years. Libraries in the 21st century need to be inviting and cater to the needs of the community if they are going to attract children, tweens and/or teens. Here are some ideas to help librarians make this transformation.

Know books backwards and forwards. Even if you don’t like to read the age-level books that are in your library, you need to be able to know books to recommend to your patrons. Follow the book aggregator blogs, follow book readers on Twitter, look at books in bookstores – somehow keep up-to-date currently published books. No one will want to come back to your library if all you have is row after row of Nancy Drew mysteries preserved in see-thorough slip covers. You must stock your library with current, relevant fiction – even if it isn’t your cup of tea. 

Relax. Modern libraries include movement and noise. Students collaborating on homework and projects make noise. An after school gamers club can be loud. In a perfect world my library would be neat and quiet and always stay organized – but my students don’t know that because it is never that way when they are at school. A nice, neat, orderly library is not usually a student friendly (or highly used) library. You’ve got to create a welcoming environment to get students in the door. Once they are in the door, then you can entice them to read. But if you meet students at the door with a list of don’ts then the students are likely to go elsewhere.

Make the library a value added experience. What can students get in your library that they can’t get elsewhere? An author visit? A book the day it is released? A popular manga series? A listening ear? An environment where all are accepted without question? Computer access? Mobile device usage? A place to listen to their music? A makerspace? The use of a 3-D printer? A beverage bar? Free books?

Get everyone interested in the library. Are there groups that don’t come to your library? Go visit them and take the library to them. Take a mobile library to the cafeteria periodically so students who normally don’t come to the library see what you have to offer. Use your display windows to create eye-catching visual displays that will draw people into your library. Promote your library at Open House and/or Back-To-School Night.

Offering quick words of encouragement and showing you are interested in their day means a lot to students and helps to foster a community atmosphere within the library. It takes a lot of dedication, effort and energy to have a dynamic library program for students, but the payoff is immeasurable

Charla Hollingsworth (@HNGCLibrary and has worked in the Alief Independent School District for eighteen years. Earning both a Masters of Education and a Masters of Library Science, she has spent the past ten years as a library information specialist. Hollingsworth has presented at local, regional, and state technology and library conferences. Her library website can be found online at  

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