What's in a name? That which we call a library by any other name would smell as sweet.

Source: http://21k12blog.net/2011/08/23/21st-century-library-word-cloud/

Forsooth, once more I am plagued by an internal argument of a circular nature.

Is 'library' still the right name for a library?

Consider this definition.


A building or room containing collections of books, periodicals, and sometimes films and recorded music for people to read, borrow, or...
A collection of books and periodicals held in such a building or room.

bookcase - athenaeum

Is that still correct?

What actually comes to mind when you hear the word 'Library'? Is it a place of innovation, a place for making, a place for playing, a place for inquiring, reading, talking, eating? Is it a place that leads Digital Citizenship development, a learning common, a social place a space for wrestling with knowledge and technology? If this isn't what comes to mind, then what does? A silent space, a place for study and silent reading. A place where books go to die...if so, is that a problem? Me thinks, yes.

One of my areas of responsibility is leading the development of our library space at HPSS. No question, I am passionate about libraries. Historically I think my passion derived from my love of literature and my love of librarians - they were my literary pushers, providing a steady supply of material feeding my book addiction. As an English teacher and HOD English I was at home amongst the books, I even bagsied library duty so I could indulge in a little lunchtime book huffing whilst pretending to care that some student smuggled a water bottle into the library, or dared to make a sound. However, in more recent years I have seen libraries in a new light, I have seen them not only as a source of literature, but also as the heart of inquiry, a place for developing literacies in every sense of the word. The library is the MLE already realised, a cross-curricular learning common that welcomes all curriculum areas. They are becoming as much about producing media as much as they are about consuming it. They are the home of 21st century pedagogy without even trying. They are also the natural home for digital citizenship, in it broadest sense.

Now more than ever, the library is the heart, or possibly even the brain of a school. So what then is my actual dilemma? I guess it is about the term 'library'. Is it the right name for our modern learning environment library vision or should it be renamed? I-centre, zone, learning common are all terms I have heard, used I am guessing, to rebrand the space. But what are we actually trying to achieve In doing this? As the saying goes, "You put a lipstick on a pig? It is still a pig." If we simply rename a library are we kidding ourselves? I suspect we might be.

For several weeks now I have argued with myself and anyone even slightly library-related that crossed my past - should we call it a library? I was nearly convinced that the answer was no, particularly if we wanted it to sound as modern and exciting as we see it. That was until I raised the topic with the National Library lovelies Lisa, Paula and Elizabeth at a recent MLE PLG (that's a modern learning environment professional learning group) who each challenged my thinking in different ways. Elizabeth with her passionate tale of how the National Library revisioned their Auckland space, talking about visions, principles and values informing design....never considering a name change was needed and also Lisa and Paula who called me on my thinking, asking me what we hoping to achieve by renaming the space when what actually what we wanted to do was redefine the space.

So library it is, but not a library as you might know it. This is a a library, redefined.


  1. A space containing collections of books, periodicals, films, music for people to read, borrow, and....
  2. A space containing a range of computers, tablets, cameras and other technology for people to create with, and....
  3. An online space that provides ubiquitous access to digital resources, and....
  4. A space for making, breaking, playing and developing digital citizenship skills, and...
  5. A collection of books and technology held in such a building or room.

bookcase - athenaeum
learning common


  1. Yes! Great post Claire. I believe libraries can be as diverse as the people who use them, breaking the 'rules' and being more things to more people. I have resisted the change of name because I believe that a library is an information centre, an icentre, an anything that works for the community it serves. And with enough support, resources, SMT support and acceptance and the embracing of change librarians and schools can make MLEs and libraries synonymous with each other.

  2. I like your reasoning - all except the missing person...
    A Library is just a room with books etc. in, unless there is a Librarian to select and maintain the collection.


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