SPECIAL NOTE: Last month I did a keynote at a conference put on by the Indiana Library Federation for their CYPD division. As I walked offstage, I felt something was missing. I'd offered many strategies to innovate but wanted to give something more specific. So I kept brainstorming. Wherever you are, I think your library has amazing potential. Here's why:
Imagine a world without books. It may not be far away. But can you imagine a world without reading?
Libraries are really good at storing, archiving and creating accessibility to books. But what purpose will libraries serve when books are all online?
But libraries are also incredibly good at inspiring kids to read. The need to teach reading will never disappear. When libraries focus on reading (not books) as their purpose, we will need them forever…
But your libraries face a big problem. Funding is going down. The need to innovate is going up. Innovation requires money. It’s a tough cycle.
So here's a revenue idea. It could work for a public or school library. Take it. Use it. Toss it in the trash. I don't care. It's just a brainstorm for you and your community.
In his TED talks video, Dr. Sugata Mitra outlines a new type of education. Children, he demonstrates, want to learn. It is in their nature to seek knowledge. All you have to do is ask the right questions. Give them access to google, and the child’s natural curiosity does the rest.
When children learn via curiosity (instead of lecture) not only is it more fun, their rate of retention skyrockets.
Watch the video (here) and see what you think. I wish I could have learned this way. I wish my children could learn this way.
Libraries (both public libraries and in-school libraries) are perfectly positioned to create this learning environment. You have a vast amount of information, both book based and computer based, located in one place. You are already open during daytime hours. You have a staff who cares passionately about reading and learning.
(note: I'm aware voucher programs are controversial. As a parent, I'm excited to have more options. Were I the teacher, I might be more skeptical. But the best teachers are already using curiosity. Introducing these technologies will just accelerate their results. Research has proven when a teacher lectures students learn very little. When teachers engage, students learn incredibly fast. Schools could adopt these same strategies with the same effects. School libraries would be an especially good place for school districts to try this style out as an experiment.)
AND THE REVENUE?:
Many states, including Indiana, Illinois and Pennsylvania, now offer some sort of school voucher program. If your library becomes an alternative school, parents can choose to bring their kids. State funds follow the child into your library.
You have the tools to help your library create this new and amazing learning environment. You might try partnering with your local school district. You may just do it alone. Either way, your community will love you for it.
The new revenue can help you keep pace with innovation. Forget about the books. Use your resources to support readers, and you will never become obsolete.
You need to innovate, because the innovators of the world need you.