OWHL Holds Library Design Challenge Regarding Digital Future

Welcomed into the Nest by a room full of applauding students, Head of School John Palfrey was honored for his contribution to the field of library science. His latest book, “BiblioTech: Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google,” served as the basis for a design challenge and conversation regarding the digital future of the Oliver Wendell Holmes Library (OWHL) last Friday evening.

Palfrey’s book argues that anyone seeking to fully participate in the age of technology has to understand how to not only find, but also utilize the vast stores of information available online. The book also explores how libraries must make the transition to a digital future in order to survive our modernizing world.

Mike Barker, Director of Academy Research, Information and Library Services, said he thinks it is important for students to be able to find online resources, use online databases and check the reliability of a source.

“I think research is one of the most important skills students can come away from here with. It cuts across all disciplines and classes. Later on in life, they’ll learn that research is an amazing tool to just adapt to different jobs and tasks that will help you collaborate with all kinds of different people,” said Barker.

Students in attendance broke up into small discussion groups guided by librarians. Some of the groups were asked to consider the merits of real versus electronic books, while other groups looked into potential improvements on the physical design of the library.

Several ideas came up, including alterations to the library space, the addition of more lighting and the institution of a research mentor system to assist students. Many of the ideas centered around shifting the library’s focus towards the digital realm.

“I think that people really value the library, but it would be a better space if we could work to make it fit our needs better as a community,” said Annika Sparrell ’18, an attendee at the event.

Other students applauded the library’s initiative to further diversify its resources and provide a wider range of functionality to students.

“Our library is not just for books. People come here to work on group projects. [Barker] gave us an entire room [above the second floor of the library] just for robotics… It’s really nice to have a building where you can come and just do what you want to do — even things like robotics,” said Jocelyn Shen ’18, an attendee. Her club, which participates in the international VEX Robotics competition, was given space in the library to work.
“[The library] is a space to talk about different things that may not have to do with work or academics. [The use of this space is] still a way of learning, just different,” said Rahmel Dixon ’17.

Barker hopes that increased student input will help guide the library’s transformation over the coming years and encourages them to reach out with feedback or suggestions.

“For me, personally, this was an awesome opportunity to hear what students think about the OWHL now, and what they want in the future because we want to co-develop this future [with student input and feedback],” said Barker.