Alum’s IDEA Wins ‘School Librarian of the Year’ Award Todd Burleson ’98 created a libratory at Chicagoland school


2016 School Library Journal School Librarian of the Year Todd Burleson, Hubbard Woods School, Winnetka, IL (School Library Journal, September 2016) (PRNewsFoto/Scholastic Inc.)

2016 School Library Journal School Librarian of the Year Todd Burleson, Hubbard Woods School, Winnetka, IL (School Library Journal, September 2016) (PRNewsFoto/Scholastic Inc.)

If lightbulbs actually went on over people’s heads like they do in cartoons, the one over the head of Todd Burleson ’98 would be blindingly bright. Burleson has created not only a new concept, but a new word to go with it: Libratory, a library that blends into a laboratory, maker space, place to encourage creativity and hub of design thinking.

For his creation, School Library Journal and Scholastic Library Publishing have recognized Burleson with their School Librarian of the Year award.

 This National Louis University alum, who holds an M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction and a school library endorsement, transformed the Hubbard Woods Elementary School library in Winnetka, Illinois, into a libratory space for students to explore creativity and technology – the IDEA Lab.

Hubbard Woods School used to have a computer work area as part of its library. But the school took out the desktop computers, freed up the space and put in a 3D printer, a vinyl cutter, a green screen and other tools, plus laptops on a movable cart. Students can use the space as a workbench, a robotic programming center, an electronics bench and much more.

The library and IDEA lab make one big libratory space, with no walls between them. As a result, Burleson said, the students’ creative projects spill over from the IDEA lab into the library space. While they have plenty of tools, including K’Nex, Lego, iPads, robotic platforms like Dot and Dash, KIBO, Sphere, woodworking materials, programming kits, green screens and a television studio, Burleson said the focus is on imagination and creativity.

While the libratory may look similar to the Maker Spaces many public libraries are installing, Burleson explained it’s used in a different way. In public libraries, a person often comes in with a specific plan and makes something. But in the libratory, teachers can create learning experiences and kids can experiment, try something out and collaborate if they wish.

Fifteen years ago, students at the school started doing a daily television newscast, and that has moved into the libratory. “We do a daily news broadcast in which the students completely develop, write, produce their stories, the weather, special reports and so much more.  They even compose the music for the intro and outro of the show.  Through the year they even have chances to create stop motion videos and other video projects that we use for our opening and closing segments of the news,” he observed.

In addition to Burleson’s recognition as an exceptional library professional who uses technology to engage students across various areas of learning, he will receive a $2,500 cash award and $2,500 in print and digital materials.

“I am humbled and honored to be selected as the 2016 School Library Journal School Librarian of the Year. I’ve never worked harder or had more fun than my time working with students and encouraging collaboration in the library. My passion for learning, I’ve been told, is slightly contagious and I am excited to share my experiences and continue my professional growth with educators across the country,” said Burleson, as quoted in the School Library Journal.

Read the 2016 School Librarian of the Year announcement

Read the School Library Journal feature on Burleson