Buffy Hamilton

Buffy Hamilton is a media specialist at Creekview High School in Canton, GA, and the founding librarian at The Unquiet Library (http://theunquietlibrary.wordpress.com), a blog that chronicles her experience at what she calls a "Library 2.0." She is the author of the Media 21 Capstone Project to help students learn about social media and cloud computing tools for learning and as a way to build personal learning networks, which is used in the Cherokee County School District. Hamilton also serves as a keynote speaker, workshop consultant and adjunct trainer.

T&L contributing editor Matt Bolch spoke with Buffy Hamilton about her take on the modern library.

Name a couple of common misconceptions about the library of the 21st century.

When people think of school libraries, they often think of the school libraries of their youth, places that were associated primarily with silence and books, places where you went to consume information. In contrast, the 21st century school library is a hub of activity with an emphasis on learning, collaboration, participation and the creation of content and knowledge. Conversations and questions, not just answers, are valued and privileged in both physical library spaces as well as virtual spaces, such as a blog or library YouTube channel. Twenty-first century school libraries emphasize many forms of literacy, not just traditional literacy, that allow for learners to access, interpret, evaluate and share information through many mediums. Twenty-first century school librarians are instructional leaders who teach and learn not only with students but with faculty as well; we are also fearless advocates for equitable access to information in many different formats and containers as we strive to bridge digital divides and participation gaps. Twenty-first century school libraries focus on creating learning experiences that are disrupting traditional models of learning and emphasizing student-centered environments. We are a gateway to help students and teachers connect with a larger global community. For a comprehensive snapshot of what 21st school libraries and librarians do, I recommend reading Joyce Valenza's Manifesto for 21st Century School Librarians (http://www.voya.com/2010/09/15/tag-team-tech-october-2010/).

How do media specialists dispel those misconceptions?

We do so through collaboration with our learning community (teachers, students, administration, parents, community stakeholders) and through transparency in our practice and collaboration with these members of our learning community; we model lifelong learning and create library spaces that value creativity, risk-taking and shared responsibility for learning. We use technology not as a shiny badge of honor but as a real-world tool for learning to help our students become ethical digital citizens who are empowered, not marginalized, by emerging technologies. Twenty-first school libraries and librarians are visible presences both in the physical school/library learning environment as well as online through a vibrant and relevant virtual presence.

What will the school library look like in 10 years?

I think school libraries will continue to evolve by expanding their physical presence as a central learning commons where students and faculty learn side by side and grow their expertise through conversations for learning in both face-to-face and virtual mediums and through increased access to multiple streams of information in a greater variety of formats. More spaces will be allocated in these future libraries for collaboration and content creation, and less space will be devoted to the physical housing of materials such as print books as libraries offer learners more tools and options for accessing texts. Libraries of the future will be less about being a warehouse for collections and more of a portal for accessing many types of information and learning tools. School librarians, who grow the vision for this kind of library programming through ongoing professional growth and through the participation of their stakeholders, may become embedded as members of either interdisciplinary teams of teachers and students or academic teams that may be organized by subject area or grade level. This model of embedded librarianship will become more prevalent in the face of budget cuts as demand increases for school librarians' skills as instructional leaders and information specialists as well as a greater emphasis on the integration of digital and media literacies as essential literacies into content areas becomes more commonplace.