Test Kitchen

gasWhat’s your library like?

If it’s like most school libraries, that’s a pretty obvious answer -books, tables, circulation desk, some reference stations, a computer lab or two – you get the picture.

There’s nothing wrong with that of course.  What I’ve just described has worked for a long time and has served schools and students well.  It continues to do so.

But for how long?

It’s an interesting question given the remarkable explosion of devices that have access to unimaginable information resources.  That combination has challenged the role of libraries and librarians in schools for awhile now, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.  But it also represents opportunity, as recognized by these recent articles here and here.

Good libraries will continue on the same trajectory doing the same things.  Maybe that’s OK.

But maybe that’s not.

The most remarkable libraries will be characterized by moving beyond the normal, beyond the typical and expected, to become the locations in schools that give rise to the unexpected.

You might think that doesn’t match well – the school library and the unexpected.  But that’s what will be necessary if school libraries are to remain relevant, meaningful locations for engaging students in learning.

With that in mind, I was intrigued when I read about  Harvard’s Labary Project and their Library Test Kitchen.

Library Test Kitchen?

I’ve certainly heard of test kitchens in the context of restaurants.  Of course I have a favorite – it’s in Boston and called Legal Test Kitchen, which is part of the Legal Seafood Chain.  It’s described as a “more cutting-edge”, sometimes “experimental” culinary approach…”

Collide the idea of a test kitchen with a library.  What would that look like?  What role would that have in a school?  What could emerge from such a space?

A Library Test Kitchen, like its restaurant counterparts, could be constantly preparing new services for patrons, mixing new and old in different combinations, new flavors and new recipes.  The Library Test Kitchen would have permission to innovate, take risks, and serve as a location where teachers, teacher librarians, students, and community design, mix and remix.

Think Google Labs for your school library, and for your school.  Some things make it, some don’t.  In any case, things move forward.  Imagine your school with a More>Even More…

But I wonder if such a space or concept is beyond the capacity of  mainstream public education.

I wonder if its beyond what libraries want to be.

I wonder if such an idea is beyond what school leadership visualizes.  I wonder about the imagination necessary to create such an entity and I wonder if most schools have that capital.

How might we begin to build test kitchens in our schools?

Full Disclosure:  my responsibilities at Glenbrook South High School include managing and leading the school library.



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