Huntley High School debuts 'library of the future'
Huntley High School's new Learning Resource Center debuting this week is designed for 21st century learning with collaborative open spaces, fewer books and more technology.
A technology bar sits at its center for students to plug in their laptops and tablets. There's comfortable seating and few bookshelves lining the walls.
"If you're wondering what the library of the future looks like, this is it," Huntley District 158 Superintendent John Burkey said.
"Libraries are an incredibly important component of the learning environment. We really needed to transform libraries to facilitate and enhance learning for the 21st century," he added.
The revamped LRC is part of a roughly $35 million construction/renovation project to increase Huntley High's capacity to 3,000 students.
Two other District 158 schools -- Conley Elementary School and Heineman Middle School -- also are getting a new LRC this year, while students at Martin Elementary School in Lake in the Hills have been using a similar library for the past year.
At Martin, a third- through fifth-grade building, "the number of students using the library went up exponentially," Burkey said.
Before renovation, Martin students were in the library on average for 156 minutes per day for checking out materials, and longer if they were doing research. Post-renovation, students used the library's various collaborative spaces on average for 430 minutes per day. Martin also is expanding the number of collaborative spaces in its LRC from four to seven this year, officials said.
Gone are the days when libraries used to be a place where people would go to find information.
"I can get everything on my cellphone that's in the largest libraries in the world," Burkey said. "So the role of a library really needs to transform. Instead of being a place to go and retrieve information, libraries are going to be a place where students and adults go to work with information. Consequently, libraries need to be a much more collaborative environment. The core of our libraries is they all have collaboration rooms."
Technology plays a greater role in these libraries as the district moves toward implementing one-to-one devices in every classroom. This year, the district's nearly 7,000 students in kindergarten through eighth grade will have their own Chromebooks or tablet devices. At the high school, students can bring their own devices, but eventually that too likely will become a one-to-one technology environment.
"We probably will move up to Chromebooks with (high school) kids," Burkey said.
Traditionally, libraries needed to be quiet places to learn. In the future, they will be bustling with noise and activity, Burkey said.
"That's exactly what we saw in Martin last year. That's why we are taking the concept further," he said. "We even let food in the library. It's a very different philosophy."
As for books, while there will be a good amount of fiction novels available, the nonfiction material will be mostly electronic and online, ensuring the information is more up-to-date.
"We haven't bought encyclopedias for a few years now," Burkey said. "That space we saved with having fewer books has allowed for more collaboration space."
Library staff also will be educators themselves as opposed to traditional librarians -- a change the district made in its elementary schools.
"We have people with a reading specialist background running the library," Burkey said. "In early elementary, the library is the center of literacy in the building and it should be there to support teachers and support kids with learning literacy. Libraries are as important as ever ... if it's not going to be different, they will become irrelevant. You have to keep that change happening."