IFLA SL Newsletter

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Making libraries enticing also for ”non”-readers?

By coordinator Mette K. Ofstad, Kragerø, Norway (mette.k.ofstad@kragero.kommune.no or msofstad@online.no )

Is it possible to seduce the so-called non-readers into school libraries and make them feel welcome and even eager to find books that are especially interesting to them?


If you ask students about libraries, most will answer that they are quiet, unassuming and rather dull places. Some students will tell you the school libraries are pleasantly useful, but for many, especially boys, school libraries are a place they would rather avoid.

We need to get everyone to read. Every fourth 15-year old in Norway does not read well enough to function properly, one out of four drops out of high school, 400 000 grown-ups out of our 4,5 million in Norway are functionally illiterate. Last, but not least, we seem to keep up the social differences in the end results. One way to iron out the social differences is to have offers of doing “homework” at the schools. What better place to do this than in pleasantly furnished school libraries with clever librarians and others as helpers? Why not open the school library also for the kindergarten that is almost always close by? Research show that if kids get a head start it is all to the good. A school MI-library would be a wonderful learning arena for pre-school kids also.

In Kragerø, a little seaside town south in Norway, we have devised a project called SMIL (as in smile) – an ongoing project for the last three to four years. The letters pertain to Strategies for learning, Multiple Intelligences and Learning Styles. The goal is to give teachers a tool box with diverse methods to cater to every students learning strategies and styles and intelligences. So the idea came up: Why couldn’t we cathegorize the books and media according to the eight multiple intelligences as in Howard Gardner’s interesting theory, and put them in a corresponding nook or corner? Then the very bodily-kinestetic boy who wants to find something interesting, could find it in a jiffy because all the books that pertain to his bodily-kinestetic intelligence were prominently set up and easy to find in a specific corner of the room?

A quiet going treadmill with a reading rack could also be part of the interior decoration in this part of the library.

For the spatial intelligence corner we wanted books about the visual arts, biographies with pictures about famous painters, books on how-to-draw, books on maps in every category, interesting books with most only pictures or photos, comics an so forth. A powerful computer where students could manipulate pictures and video would be part of the equipment in this part of the MI-library as well as room for drawing, doodling and making squiggles. An easel with a possibility to paint could be a part of the outfitting.

This is how we plan to do with every one of the eight intelligences in our MI-library. As in New City School in St.Louis we are having a small theatre in the centre which can also serve as an exhibition area and can be used for performances from outside sources or by the school’s own students or teachers. This way the MI-library will become a room of many different activities.

In Norway most every school is a public school, so we applied for extra funds from official sources and had a bit of luck as we received a sum more or less sufficient enough to go ahead. We have hired an interior designer who is a specialist on school libraries. She is quite smitten with the MI-idea, and she has lots of exciting solutions. Since the funding is a challenge even though we have received funds, we co-operate with the local high-school class of carpenters. They are doing the carpentry which in parts of the room consists of a landing of two levels which gives lots of room for sitting or lounging or being a sitting area for performances of different kinds, but also other activities such as for standing up for choir-singing, band exercises and so forth. The school has 260 students and 20 teachers and is our biggest primary school. The room is about 90 square meters and has three adjoining group rooms – each 15 square meters – which will be back-up rooms for some of the intelligences. We need to have workplaces with headphones for music, and we also plan for a huge aquarium and terrarium as well as an ant-farm inside glass in the naturalistic intelligence area.

The school libraries of Norway came into being during the school reform of 1775, but have not been prioritized as they have in Denmark og Finland. They are mostly a sorry chapter, and something needs to be done. With a teacher from Kalstad school I travelled to the official opening of the MI-library at New City School in December 2005. Our enthusiasm just grew when we saw what Thomas Hoerr and his teachers had accomplished. I have just finished translating his book on “How to become and Multiple Intelligence school?” into Norwegian. The book is a testimony on how well the school has carried out the ideas of the multiple intelligence theory – not only in the classroom, but now also with their library.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if both Thomas Hoerr and Howard Gardner could come to our opening of the first European MI-library in Kragerø Norway? It is exciting that such a relatively small school works on establishing a school library so much out of the ordinary.

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July 2, 2007 - Posted by | 6. Issue 44, 7. Theme 44, MI-Libraries

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