ReImagine Ed: A Conference Unlike Any Other

This weekend, Lovett School hosted ReImagine Ed: the Next Chapter.  It was an unusual experience; not always comfortable, strangely contentious at times but, ultimately quite rewarding.  Gathered together were librarians, architects, performers, designers and experts from the field of librarianship.  Our task was to design the library of the future with three main guiding questions:

1. Design a successful ‘unquiet’ library
2. What must K-12 libraries do to spur continual innovation, to make libraries the places and spaces our learners crave going forward?
3. Like a city provides a park the people can use in the myriad of ways, how can the library of the future be designed like a park of possibilities

Groups were arranged randomly and were tasked with going through the design process from brainstorming everything, focusing in on things that can be done tomorrow; projects that need more thought and planning and those that are possible in the near future.  We then met together in a larger group to discuss which possibilities we were going to work on for a presentation on Sunday.  We were to produce a product or a concept and “pitch” it to the group in 10 minutes or less.

It was an amazing, frustrating, exasperating, exciting process!  I don’t know how designers do it all the time…taking hundreds of ideas and narrowing them down to a workable plan.  I came away with a head full of ideas (I particularly liked the  one I thought up…a holographic wall on which students could “throw” their ideas, pictures, etc. and manipulate them in many different ways…think the wall that the techies on the show NCIS use).  Some groups presented actual products that could be created now, like the “Flash Cart” that would house many different kinds of technology like iPads, smart surfaces, white board, etc. and would move from place to place, as needed.  The design challenge that seemed to permeate every group was the idea that the library of the future would be flexible, both in space and with regards to technology.

The library of the future would be a wide open space with furniture and even walls that could be moved and manipulated to create spaces that  users need, when they need them.  There would be an array of experts on hand to help answer questions …the librarian, tech people, teachers from different disciplines.  The library of the future would have 24/7 availability of information in an array of tools and technologies.  There would be places for groups and quiet spaces for doing quiet things.  Technology would be everywhere but invisible.  The user becomes the designer because the user is the reason we are all there.

I just loved the constant flow of ideas and imagination that swirled around me all weekend.  In spite of the few negative or difficult people and divisions that arose, the general feeling was very positive and exciting.  As a librarian, I also know that not only does the actual library have to change but so do the people who work in them.  We professionals need training in so many different areas than librarians of yesterday.  We need to be technologists, explorers, archeologists, therapists, but most of all, we need to be just as flexible as our spaces!  So, here’s to flexibility and future and the possibility of the DREAM LIBRARY!!!

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