Libraries Transform: Because Carolyn Foote Knows That Technology and Access Are Key to Learning

Because Carolyn Foote Knows That Technology and Access Are Key to LearningOver the next several months, we'll be sharing a series of profiles featured on ALA's new Libraries Transform site. These profiles highlight libraries and library professionals that are adopting innovative strategies to help libraries transform.  

Carolyn Foote is district and high school librarian at Westlake High School at Eanes Independent School District in Austin, Texas. She is a member of the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) and was named a White House Champion of Change. She blogs at Not So Distant Future and tweets @technolibrary

Carolyn is helping libraries transform by leading a 1:1 iPad program for students and teachers.

What big change are you implementing that is helping your library transform?

Our library initiated a pilot with six iPads five years ago to determine their usefulness in the classroom and library.  We invited students and teachers as well as library users to participate and give us feedback about ease of use for library services, educational functionality, and teacher ease of use. The library served as a Petri dish for testing out a new technology and giving our school community access to it. Now our school district is 1:1 iPads for all grade levels. As we transitioned to 1:1 for each student, the library offered space for a tech support area for students, and redesigned a section of the library named "the Juice Bar" to offer daily tech support for our 1:1 program.

How has this transformation in your library helped to transform your community?

Our library sees technology functions in the school as a natural partnership and so we have tried to provide support for both students and teachers - instructional support as well as support with equipment like portable keyboards, charging stations, etc. The 1:1 initiative has transformed access for our students, as well as instruction in our schools. At the direction of our educational technology department we have become a Google Apps district which allows for much collaborative work. And the library staff has stayed highly involved in working with new apps, working with our instructional technologists, teachers, and students to support new projects and research. 1:1 has allowed many more collaborative opportunities, whether it's an online chat about student research projects, or collaborative brainstorming via an app. The access has changed the educational ecosystem at our school

What is one of the best strategies for achieving change in your library and how have you leveraged it?

Being willing to experiment and take risks is the best way to achieve change. By being willing to try new programming, new technology, and new policies, we can demonstrate to our patrons (students and teachers) that  we all learn through experimenting. By being willing to take risks, we can also learn a great deal about our patrons' needs and preferences. That also means we need to be agile and willing to spend less time pre-planning and more time actually exploring and trying new ideas.

What resources (books, articles, mentors, web sites, etc.) help inspire your evolving vision of change in libraries?

I've found so many amazing resources to influence my thinking - from blogs like Buffy Hamilton's Unquiet Librarian, to books like The Third Teacher and The Language of School Design to work like Danah Boyd's It's Complicated.  Building a 21st Century library encompasses so many areas - from space design to the maker movement to understanding students' use of social media - that reading in a wide arena is really necessary to keep ahead of trends and understand how to move forward. Social media like Twitter is also a foundational resource for connecting with other librarians who support one another's professional growth. Social media has allowed me to engage with and come to know so many talented library professionals who are leading our field and who willingly share their knowledge, and that has enhanced my own thinking and practice.

The Libraries Transform campaign is designed to increase public awareness of the value, impact and services provided by libraries and library professionals. The Libraries Transform campaign will ensure there is one clear, energetic voice for our profession, showcasing the transformative nature of today’s libraries and elevating the critical role libraries play in the digital age.
If you are a library professional interested in sharing a story about how you are helping libraries transform, please contact Miguel Figueroa at