Review: Libraries of the Future published by BECTA

Les Watson

It's not surprising that IT used to be about technology. In the early days of educational IT computers were so puny in terms of processing power and memory that handling information in any real sense was virtually impossible. The emphasis in the late 90s, however, is clearly on the information component of IT, so much so that having information to communicate has changed the acronym to ICT. This change of focus has significant implications for traditional information brokers such as librarians. Libraries of the Future, which was a joint NCET, British Library, Department of Education Northern Ireland project, provides some insight into the changing role of School and College libraries and librarians. One outcome of the project is the 'Libraries of the Future' pack which consists of the project report, a staff development pack, and a supporting video.

The main aim of the project was to develop a realistic vision of 'libraries' of the future. The project was divided into two phases. Phase one provided a multimedia computer, collection of CD ROMs, and an Internet connection to the participating schools, and phase two collected materials which focused on the management of resources and development of learner skills. Whilst the project report makes interesting reading, and has recommendations for a range of individuals and agencies I suspect that it will be the staff development pack and video that most schools find useful. These materials focus on three areas :

The pack provides a range of questions for discussion and illustrates some approaches to answering these through the printed materials and the video. What the materials make clear is that the school library has a key role to play, not just as provider of information, but as an active participant in developing the school's approach to learning. A vision of the library of the future is given at the start of the pack which looks forward to a time when electronic communications are ubiquitous and cheap enabling a connected community involving school and home in information provision and use. Any School or College reviewing its provision and use of the library will find the whole Libraries of the Future pack to be a useful source of information and activities.

Libraries of the future is available from

BECTa,
Milburn Hill Road,
Science Park,
Coventry, CV4 7JJ
Tel 01203 416669.

The whole pack (report, staff development materials, and video) costs 25.45. Items can be purchased separately as follows: Libraries of the Future final report 10, Staff development pack 12.50, and video 9.95.

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