Libraries are “passion centric”

What does it mean to live your passion?  Recently, Joel Adkins and I met at Texas State University to hear Sir Ken Robinson, author of The Element, who was speaking there as part of their lecture series.   His entertaining lecture was about the importance about schools helping students find their passion.

He spoke up against the way schools “label” and “brand” vocational pursuits over academic pursuits.   And rather than steer students only towards academic interests for their future, he suggested valuing student passions no matter what, because our future “vibrant communities depend on the multiplicity of what we do.”

His talk reminded me of the importance libraries play in helping students find their passions.  A school cannot offer every course under the sun, nor in the time they are spending teaching content, can teachers always take/have the time to nurture individual interests.  Libraries are a perfect place for students to explore  on their own(like the student I helped yesterday who wanted to build some sort of small robot and wanted a book on bird flight and aerodynamics).

Robinson commented on the linear nature of our current education system, the so-called industrial model that we are all familiar with.

Libraries provide one of the most powerful antidotes to this type of model–because learning in libraries is so serendipitious, even when students are following an assigned topic.  Sources lead them to places they weren’t expecting.  There’s the opportunity and time for exploration–in fact, that’s the point.   And physically, students aren’t ‘ in desks’ ‘in rows’.  In general,  they are encouraged to explore and browse and experiment in a more flexible and collaborative environment than classrooms can sometimes be.

So by providing access to a broad variety of materials and internet access for all, as well as assistance from the library staff, libraries are “passion central”.

Even the structure of our libraries can encourage playfulness and exploration.   Maybe we don’t always consider supporting creativity part of our jobs, but what other spot in the school makes for such an excellent “creativity station”  than the library?

Robinson shared a fascinating and inspiring video from his “ImagineIt!” site about the Blue Man Group founders, who have started their own school for creativity, and watching the film and the vivid environment they have created was inspiring.

Chris Wink comments’ in the video–‘We thought we weren’t creative.  But then we realized, what if we really were creative? really got me thinking.

According to Educatednation, “They started their oddball performance group as ‘sort of a support group for people whose creativity had been all but squeezed out of them by education,’ says Wink. ‘At one point, we asked, What if there was a school you didn’t have to recover from, that didn’t make you question the idea of being creative?”

Libraries do so much to support student passion through our daily functions.  But  how else  can we  further support student creativity and passion?

  • display student artwork everywhere, all the time
  • hold student artwork creating events
  • host gaming events
  • invite guest speakers in many different fields to the library
  • invite students as guest speakers to share their interests
  • purchase specialized collections for students in clubs and who have particular interests
  • have “play and creativity areas” in the library  (white boards to draw on, touch screens, Ipads mounted on the wall? dedicated design rooms?)
  • sponsor “creativity” club or “innovation” club
  • share your own passion–librarians are passionate about what they do, but do students even know that about us?  Do we share who we are?

The list could go on.   We have tremendous flexibility and ability as librarians to help our students tap into their passionate interests.  Do we do it as often as we should?  Do we institutionalize our efforts so that it just becomes “part of our library”?

As libraries and library staff are threatened in budget cuts around the country, this speaks to me as one of our prime functions:  supporting the curiosity and creativity of the school.   We need to make sure that mission is clearly reflected in our space, our policies and our materials.   We need to share our passion and support our students’ and teachers’ passions.

4 thoughts on “Libraries are “passion centric”

  1. How about informal, passion-based courses open to anyone, outside of the traditional curriculum, such as an iPhone programming course that takes advantage of the Stanford curriculum at iTunes. I think informal opportunities like that are going to be critical for libraries.

  2. Sounds great. Pretty hard when admin doesn’t want window displays; town meetings occur in library so they determine what is where; gaming not allowed; book club I volunteered (note:free) to mentor was shot down; basic books are hard to get, let alone specialized because library budget is subject to what district wants to use it for; etc.

    We’re basically a study hall.

  3. David, What a great idea. Think I’ll borrow it !

    Bob, Sounds like a very frustrating situation. And it sounds like a great deal of advocacy and change needs to happen at your campus.

    Try small things, and don’t let no be their answer. Sometimes it takes inch by inch…

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