Skip to main content

Repurposing School Libraries As Vibrant Hubs and Centers of Change

(Image credit: Getty Images/Klaus Vedfelt)

One of the issues that district leaders tackled in Philadelphia at the June Tech & Learning Leadership Summit was how to change pedagogy to support new kinds of learning that technology has enabled. Changing ideas about technology, instruction, and learning have expanded our learning expectations. This has led some district leaders to repurpose the role of school libraries as learning hubs and centers of change.

Leaders in Dallas (TX) ISD have created a road map for changing pedagogy by reorienting school libraries and restructuring how they support new types of learning. Planning teams began with the following question: How do we create an infrastructure that assigns value to learning anywhere/anytime? Also, how do we use professional learning experiences to shift culture? They saw that they could use school libraries to animate both of these opportunities.

Shannon Terry, Dallas ISD’s executive director of professional and digital learning, says they have expanded their digital ecosystem to accommodate shifts in pedagogy and personal learning. “We now have the language that allows us to speak about the core competencies required to move the needle for instructional coaches,” she says. “This provides the lever for change.” Dallas district leaders view libraries as a key component of building capacity for new types of learning experiences for both students and teachers.


Wake County (NC) Public Schools had been struggling with their libraries. For six consecutive years, they retired 12 librarians a year and replaced them with technology staff. Most school libraries have a librarian, space, and a program, but the district has had to redefine what a strong library looks like today, choose appropriate tools, and determine how to integrate technology to support new types of learning for students and teachers.

Fear of change and dated ideas about how libraries should function were initial impediments. “We had to find a way to work together by focusing on the beliefs we have about kids,” says Margo Gaddis, Wake County CTO. Using Title IV monies and professional development as levers, the district established a media/library committee at each school and went through an assessment process. The teams assessed school needs and determined how to use new shared capabilities provided by professional learning opportunities to create a strong library program for shared learning. The district created a new librarian/media specialist evaluation and built training to showcase what this reimagined role would look like.

Linwood (NJ) Public Schools is also working to rebuild their libraries as learning hubs, says Lori Care, supervisor of curriculum and instruction. “Our libraries had been victims of multiple budget cuts, but thanks to a strong community push, we’re now working to rebuild our program,” she says. Their first step was to find the appropriate modern-day librarian to be housed in the space. In one school, they pulled a teacher from the classroom who had been working toward her library media specialist certification.

“This has been quite successful,” says Care. “Because she’s been a classroom teacher, she has a firm understanding of how to support curriculum goals.” Care says the district intends to continue rebuilding the library program to create new learning hubs that support ongoing changes in teaching and learning.

There is definitely a role for technology in reimagining libraries as learning commons and centers of innovation. Repurposing the library as a hub for teacher professional development and student-driven learning gives students and teachers tools and a common experience to manage changes in teaching and learning.