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The Digital Evolution of School Libraries – Jennifer Oaten

Girl reading in the school library

For many years, I steadfastly refused to get a Kindle. I always felt that nothing could replace the tactile experience of holding a physical book – the feel of the pages, the smell of the paper. To me, a book was the best way to read. However, after much resistance, I finally gave in and got a Kindle. To my surprise, I absolutely love it. I find myself reading more books than ever before. The convenience of having an endless supply of books, especially when travelling, has been a game-changer. This personal journey reflects the broader changes we are seeing in how we access and interact with information, both in our personal lives and within our school libraries.

School libraries have undergone a dramatic transformation over the past decade, evolving into dynamic, multifaceted learning environments. Recent findings from the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) 2021 underscore the vital role school libraries play in fostering a love for reading and improving reading comprehension. At Santa Maria College, we have embraced this evolution, and I would like to share our journey with you.

Empowering Readers

The PIRLS 2021 study confirms that students who frequently borrow books from school or local libraries perform better in reading comprehension. At our school, we have prioritised providing access to a variety of high-quality reading materials through our library. The results speak for themselves:

  • Book Loans – 9811 books loaned in 2023
  • eBooks – Students borrowed 1386 eBooks year-to-date
  • LibGuides* – 14305 views in the last 16 months
  • Study Rooms – 750 students book into the library for reading classes, every fortnight

*LibGuides are a content management and information sharing system specifically designed for libraries. They are web-based guides created by librarians to help library users find resources and information on specific subjects, courses, or topics.

Our students are making the most of our library’s resources. The library is open before and after school and many students come to the library during recess and lunch too, for studying, reading, teacher meetings and to play board games. It is always a hub of activity.

New reading booths in the school library

Transforming Spaces and Services

On a global perspective, school libraries worldwide have seen a universal movement towards creating inclusive, diverse, and technologically rich learning environments. To meet evolving needs, our library has reimagined its spaces and services:

Aspect Then Now
Primarily print materials
Blend of print and digital resources, including e-books, databases, and online learning platforms
Learning Spaces
Individual study areas
Combination of individual and collaborative learning spaces with flexible seating
Technology Access
Limited computer access
Expanded access to technology through the Creator Space, podcasting equipment, green screens, and VR sessions
Learning Formats
Primarily print books
Integration of digital learning through eLearning platforms and resources, UpGrade learning program, and gamification
Information Access
Limited to on-site resources
24/7 access to library resources through the Library Portal, remote access to databases, e-books, newspapers, etc.
Staff Roles
Focus on resource management
Expanded roles in teaching and learning support, information literacy instruction, and curriculum collaboration
Impact on Student Learning
Emphasis on reading skills
Holistic approach to student learning and success, development of 21st-century skills, improved research and information literacy skills

Preparing for the AI Future

Looking ahead, school libraries must lead the way in preparing students for a world transformed by artificial intelligence (AI). This means teaching AI literacy skills such as tool selection, fact-checking AI-generated content, identifying bias, and upholding academic integrity.

We are already integrating AI into our offerings. For example, our UpGrade courses will soon include an AI module where students explore the ethical implications of AI and learn to use AI tools responsibly.

Father and daughter reading

Nurturing Lifelong Readers

Parents play a vital role in nurturing a child’s love for reading. Here are some tips to try at home:

  1. Model regular reading
  2. Visit libraries together and participate in events
  3. Establish a reading routine
  4. Discuss books and ideas as a family
  5. Gift books and bookstore vouchers
  6. Encourage the use of school library print and digital resources

By working together, we can create an environment where reading is celebrated and valued.

A Bright Future

The evolution of school libraries is far from over. As information grows increasingly abundant and the digital transformation accelerates, our role in teaching students to navigate content critically and ethically has never been more essential. We are committed to creating a space where students engage with information in all forms, develop crucial thinking skills, and cultivate a lifelong love for reading.

We invite parents, educators, and the wider community to join us in this journey. Your support and involvement are crucial as we continue to transform our library into a hub of 21st-century learning. Together, we can ensure that our students are prepared to navigate the complexities of the digital age.


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