In his influential book, “The Great Good Place,” by Ray Oldenburg, he argues that third places are important for civil society, democracy, civic engagement, and establishing feelings of a sense of place. Oldenburg calls one’s “first place” the home and those that one lives with. The “second place” is the workplace (or school) – where people may actually spend most of their time. He sees third places as “anchors” of community life that facilitate broader, more creative interaction. Third places are vital to societal needs, yet their importance too often goes unrecognized. For this reason, Philadelphia’s choice to close its school libraries due to their current budget crisis is nothing short of a tragedy. As Stephen Segal, of “Philadelphia Weekly,” stated, “It’s a failure of basic civilization that cannot be allowed to stand… The library is the single most important operation in any school.”
Oldenburg suggests the following hallmarks of a true “third place”:
-free or inexpensive
-food and drink, while not essential, are important –
-highly accessible: proximate for many (walking distance)
-involve regulars – those who habitually congregate there
-welcoming and comfortable
In efforts to create our own true “third place,” at SHS, a Library Task Force was created last school year as a subcommittee of the School Council. This subcommittee includes interested staff, students and parents who want to make sure that our library is meeting the needs of our school community. To accomplish this goal, we met periodically throughout the school year to form short and long term recommendations for the future of our library or “library learning commons,” to use the new terminology for a modern, collaborative learning facility.
We used the following NEASC standards to guide our work:
*Curriculum Indicator #6- Staffing levels, instructional materials, technology, equipment, supplies, facilities, and the resources of the library (learning commons) are sufficient to fully implement the curriculum, including the co-curricular programs and other learning opportunities.
*School Resources Indicator #6- Library media services are integrated into curriculum and instructional practices and have an adequate number of certified/licensed personnel and support staff who:
-are actively engaged in the implementation of the school’s curriculum
-provide a wide range of materials, technologies and other information services in support of the school’s curriculum
-ensure that the facility is available and staffed for students and teachers before, during and after school
-are responsive to students interests and needs in order to support independent learning
-conduct ongoing assessment using relevant data, including feedback from the school community, to improve services and ensure each student achieves the school’s 21st century learning expectations.
By surveying students, staff and parents, data was collected to involve all sections of the school community in order to create a long range plan that will complement the district’s library long range plan. After School Committee approval, this plan will be filed with the MBLC (Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners) and will provide a blueprint for future development of the library media program. As the district’s technology and library media departments share many of the same educational and service goals, we are working collaboratively in this long range planning process. Several members of the Library Task Force also serve on the district’s “Tech Forward” committee.
An additional “Existing Conditions” study conducted by outside consultants will incorporate ideas gleaned from the Library Task Force and provide options for renovation of the library along with other parts of the high school.
Strong community and administrative support make all the difference in the creation and maintenance of strong school library media and technology programs.
Our students benefit from these programs, as do all members of the school community, through additional resource sharing currently being explored by the Massachusetts Library System. Sharon High School is slated to be included in a statewide eBook Platform and Pilot Project. This project includes approximately 50 multi-type libraries, through which e-books will be provided to library patrons. The shared collection will include eBooks selected for K-12 students. In addition, there is work in progress to investigate a statewide discovery platform that will allow for simplified searching of traditional and electronic content across Massachusetts.