How 1:1 Made Me a Better Librarian

Happy Library Week, friends! 

Our school recently hosted a site visit for other staff in our county to come observe our students and staff using their laptops and observe how 1:1 has changed education at our school.

I walked around with some staff who asked great questions and were eager to hear what we had to say about the impact 1:1 has had on life at our school. At the very end of the visit, one person in my group asked me, “How has 1:1 changed your job as a librarian?”

For a second, I felt caught off guard. In reality, I really should have prepared myself for that question, but I hadn’t. Thinking about it, our school going 1:1 has changed absolutely everything about my job as a librarian – and how our library functions.

Supporting Staff

When our school went 1:1, our faculty was on the normal range of tech readiness, from tech-super savvy to tech phobic. It was a perfect way for me to collaborate with teachers in different ways, including showing them various websites to enhance instruction, offering to support them in the classroom when they were trying out new technology they weren’t comfortable with, and being someone they came to for brainstorming new ideas.

Professional development I provided for teachers has become more individualized and departmentalized, focusing on specific ways to implement student devices in their classroom. It became, how do you use the technology meaningfully and not using them just because students have them or only for testing. I also have been able to suggest library-related topics, such as finding credible sources and fair use to content areas I hadn’t previously collaborated with. My skills and abilities as librarian have now become more relevant to my staff, and I am being seen as a technology and instructional leader in my school.

To be fair, I am incredibly blessed that I have two amazing technology specialists at my school, so I’m not responsible for loaner laptops or a student help desk. Instead, I focus on helping students with digital citizenship, teaching lessons about creating Creative Commons Licenses for their original work, intellectual property/copyright, website evaluation, and so much more! Now, I don’t have to teach these lessons in a vacuum; rather, I help teachers know when these lessons fit perfectly in their curriculum.

Scheduled Classes

At first, we definitely felt the difference in classes scheduling the library for use. Before going 1:1, our library had 48 laptops out for student use – 24 in two different areas of the library. Frequently, teachers scheduled the library for laptop use, whether it was for students working on projects, researching, or testing. The one that was most popular was testing, since our district-wide tests for content areas were given online, and especially when the Writing SOLs came in March, our English teachers had to figure out who would use the computer labs to practice and who would book the library’s laptops. The worst was when there were snow days that would mess up the laptop use schedule, and also when testing was happening: teachers were frustrated that the library wasn’t a quiet space during certain times of the day when other students were using the library and their classes were testing.

Since going 1:1, our library is no longer that kind of computer lab. This was freeing, and at the same time, eye-opening. I had no idea how much of our schedule was made up entirely of classes using our computers without much librarian collaboration. At first, it was really quiet: since students had their own laptops, testing could now take place in the classroom instead of in the library. We were free to use our space as it was originally designed to be: for library-related lessons, checkout, etc. This was an extra dilemma for me, however: I wasn’t nearby anymore when students were working on projects, and teachers didn’t come in as often to schedule their classes. Lots of projects began happening in classrooms, and I realized I needed to start reaching out more to teachers to see what they were doing with their classes; there wasn’t as much spontaneous collaboration as before. However, not having all those laptops on tables freed up a lot of physical space in our library. It was time to remodel!

The Laptop Dilemma

As mentioned above, our 2 sets of laptops occupied tables in two separate sections of the library. Instead of having 48 available, we made 20 available for student use in a laptop cart. This was key because technology specialists in our county decided our students would not be printing from their devices; rather, if they needed to print something, students would use library laptops instead.

When we realized not all 20 were being used, and it was really cumbersome for students, the following year we made 3 laptops into a “Quick Print” area that was logged in with a library account and students can now print from their Google Drive. It is fast, easy, and very infrequently is there a line of students waiting to print. Our teachers have made use of Google Classroom for digital submissions of assignments, which has drastically cut down on the documents being printed by students.

Quick print station
Quick Print station for students to print class assignments.

Space Makeover!

It was incredible to reclaim the space that our laptops had taken up for all those years. With all the laptops, we didn’t have a teaching space, so that’s what we created! We used a wall-mounted flatscreen tv with an HDMI connection to project what we needed to show students, and we organized the tables that the laptops used to sit on in various configurations, depending on what the teacher (and we) needed. Sometimes it was rows, other times it was small groups for 4 students each, other times the tables were up against a wall so we could use the full space. It was an amazing gift to have this space, instead of what we used to do – set up a large mobile projection screen in front of the laptops on the tables. It was a huge barrier! Going 1:1 and containing the laptops to a cart gave us a true teaching space. Teachers scheduled it for stations, student group presentations, and yes, even lessons! 

Student presentation
French students present a project in our teaching space to their classmates, who give feedback digitally.

The other space where laptops used to sit was a puzzler at first. We still had the tables to accommodate 24-30 students, but we didn’t need two teaching spaces at the time. Instead, we designated the space as the perfect area for our library’s new makerspace! With parent donations, student input, and funding from both our PTA and administration, we were able to launch our makerspace in the fall of 2016. This was a new opportunity to collaborate with teachers, give students access to materials and innovative ways for them to develop critical thinking, creativity, and collaborations with others. (Stay tuned for a full post on our makerspace!)

Students at work in our makerspace.
Students work on a class project in our makerspace.

All of this would not have been able to happen without our school going 1:1, not needing our set up of laptops on tables, and having extra free space. Our makerspace and our teaching space truly refreshed our library and made it look like a completely different place.

More Student Focus

Before we went 1:1 and students needed to work on a digital assignment, they were able to use our laptops that were confined to 6 laptops to 4 rows of tables each. When a particular project was due, it was super crowded! When friends (or not so friends) sat near each other, and needed to work on different assignments, naturally off task behavior occurred. It became a behavior/supervision issue, and it wasn’t pretty. When groups needed to work on an assignment together and it was crowded, it became a logistics issue for how to fit everyone in the small area safely. Not a whole lot was accomplished on those days.

With students having their own computers, they are able to sit wherever they would like in the library, finding a table, couch, or even floor to sit on. Students have become much more focused on their assignments and are flexible to sit wherever meets their needs (and work as a group, too!). There is no demand for our computers, because they have their own. Going 1:1 has made our behavior issues disappear and has given us opportunities to talk with students about making good choices about where they sit in the library to be most efficient in their school work.


Creating a Quick Print station has helped our students be more efficient in the library, and has provided opportunities to support students with digital issues that once didn’t have the same impact. 

I am so grateful to have been at a school that has piloted 1:1 devices, and my job is so different. I have really focused on how to help both our staff and students in their digital lives, and it has improved how our school community uses our library (instead of just being another testing place!) Our students and staff are more innovative, they have become more technologically savvy, and it has inspired collaboration. Students are more focused on their digital assignments now that they are able to spread out throughout the library. Our space has become more flexible and modern in its arrangement and reflects the needs of our community. If anything, 1:1 has been the breath of fresh air we have been waiting for.

PS: Click here to watch a quick video I put together of our library’s 1:1 transformation!

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