What were once “libraries” became “media centers” sometime in the 20th century. This change reflected a student’s increasing reliance on media, specifically technology, in their studies and their decreasing reliance on books.
The inventory of books was thinned out as research started coming from CD-ROMs and, eventually, the Internet. Somewhere along the line, the media center became known solely for research, and any other pursuit was outside its domain.
That’s a disservice to the media specialist, who is a lot more than just a guide to the nearest available computer. It turns out that even though research can be done with a device in a pocket, that connects to all the known information on the planet, students still want a place to make sense of it all—and someone to help when needed.
Unfortunately, since it is one of the largest spaces in the school and full of technology, a media center is just as likely to be used for testing as anything else. The right design and equipment can turn it back into the place where knowledge meets minds.
Not only that, but it can be the place where one of the most crucial skills of the 21st century can be taught and practiced: how to find and assess the validity of all of this information that students have access to.
This requires a forward-thinking concept, including:
- Furniture and equipment that reflects the versatility of the media center space. It’s part classroom, part common area, and, yes, part testing center. Less tables—more comfortable, movable furniture can serve all of those purposes.
- Certain areas of the center can appear more like a coffee shop than a school. This provides a more welcoming environment for students who are used to working and interacting in such settings.
- Sometimes media centers need to be quiet, but perhaps at the same time a presentation needs to be provided. Flexibility in furniture and equipment can provide multiple “rooms” in an open space.
- That being said, sometimes students want to work alone. Comfortable seating, such as beanbags, can help students find a peaceful place to read and study.
It’s time for the media center to once again be a place that every student loves to visit. Its purposes are just as crucial now as when the walls were lined with encyclopedias. It’s only in the media center where students interact with knowledge in a way much different from other areas of the school.