Beyond Books: Reshaping Libraries with NPR and my 4th grade class


I heard a snippet on the radio in the car today. It struck me so strongly that I interrupted a conversation with my wonderful husband and turned up the volume to catch the full story on NPR.

This struck me for two reasons. One is that I heard the words “fishing pole” and “library” in the same sentence. The other is that the story highlighted a focus on re-inventing the purpose of libraries, and how different communities are navigating our shift in thinking. Listen for a delightful story – there is such power in people and their ideas…

For me, this  strengthened a thought that’s been rolling around in my brain for quite some time. I’m the Library Media Specialist for a small independent school. The curriculum we teach, whether about literature or digital literacy, is not controlled by a district or a funding body. We decide what that curriculum looks like. But I’ve been struggling with the notion of the services I provide, and how to keep them new and vital and rich while acknowledging that we are a small school with a limited budget and remembering that there just aren’t very many hours in the day.

The thing I’ve been thinking about, as I come to identify myself as a resource specialist, in reality, is the definition of the concept of resources. NPR’s story served to inspire me to reflect on how I can view this commodity differently, though in a school my services have a fairly specific set of targets. It’s true, though, that with a creative approach, I can provide any kind of resource that serves my community. So that might be books, or mp3 recordings, or it might be math manipulatives or a conversation about teaching strategies with a colleague. In my library, it could even be yarn. Or knitting needles and a crochet hook. Need a piece of cedar bark for something?

In re-defining my thinking about the resources I provide, I need to re-visit what my 4th graders came up with last year when we examined our library and explored how common spaces serve everyone in a community. Of course they would love to see their library filled with maker spaces (insert 3-D printer here), gaming dens, and hangouts in which to just read a book, but also conference tables for sharing ideas. I can’t change the whole space to make all of these things happen, but truly, I can change my thinking in order to make some of them a reality.

Inspiring thoughts for a summer evening, with school just around the corner.

* Fishing pole photo attribution by Visitor7 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

About vst3in

I am a writer, avid reader, library techie, birder and runner. I make felt and teach others. I love colors and textures and birds and books. I'm working on a historical novel and reading lots of books for young people. I am running to get stronger, and I sail with my husband. This blog contains thoughts about all these things.
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