On November 29, I traveled to Mount Vernon High School in Knox County to visit Keith Cawrse. Mount Vernon City Schools enrolls 4,000 students in six elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school. Home to the Yellow Jackets, the sprawling high school sits next to Mount Vernon Middle School, the subject of a Media Center Spotlight in 2013 with school library media specialist Laura Rochte.
A quick stop at the main office and then up to the second floor to visit the @MVHS_library. Keith meets me in the hallway just as I am about to enter the media center. To the left are chairs and tables designated for quiet study; to the right are six desktop computers for student use. On the walls above the computers are brightly colored posters about search tools, reference books, fiction and nonfiction, magazines and newspapers. Keith explains that the high school has gone 1:1 this year. As we walk toward the back of the media center, Keith talks about the renovation of the former lab to a lounge. The lounge, with its high-top tables and chairs and cushioned chairs, is an inviting place for students and teachers to meet. The students call it Cawrse Cafe. Keith along with the principal, teachers, and buildings and ground staff installed the new floor.
Opposite the lounge is the instructional space with a mounted interactive whiteboard, projector, tables and chairs. Brightly colored directional banners are suspended from the ceilings. In addition to the instructional space, lounge, and quiet space, there are study carrels for independent study and testing as well as single tables.
From the instructional space, we move to the front of the media center and to the magazine shelves. Keith explains that the magazines are not as widely read since the introduction of Chromebooks. I notice an array of magazines for every interest – Outdoor Life, People, PC Gamer, Time, Sports Illustrated, Car and Driver, Popular Science, and Seventeen. Next to the circulation desk are bookshelves that are used to display new books. Keith explains that he purchased about seven hundred new fiction books. From the circulation desk we move to three additional rooms – Keith’s office, work room, and audiovisual graveyard. Like many schools I have visited over the years, school library media specialists ponder what to do with old equipment such as projectors, televisions, tape recorders, etc. as well as all the accompanying VHS tapes, slides, and records.
While standing at the circulation desk talking with library aide, Jennifer Miller, a student walks up to the desk to ask Keith about how to formulate a thesis statement for a persuasive speech. Shortly, a group of students enter the media center from study hall. Students sign in with either a pass from their classroom teacher or study hall teacher. One of the students asks to borrow a laptop. Keith explains that there are eight laptops that were a joint purchase with the “In the Know” team. The students won an “In the Know” contest and Westfield Insurance gave them funds to give to the school and to the team. The team and the adviser asked what they could do for the media center and elected to donate the money for the purchase of laptops.
In the quiet area, I notice a cart of books and ask Keith about it. He explains that he is collaborating with the health teachers on a ninth grade project on drugs. Among the resources students use for the project are the books on the cart. As a DBI Coach with INFOhio, Keith is excited to share INFOhio resources with students as well as other online tools – including citation tools. Keith also works with individual students working on their senior research paper.
I ask Keith what effect the move to 1:1 has had on the use of library services, he remarks that “while it has created many great opportunities, it has created many challenges as well. The teachers don’t need to sign up for the computer lab in the library, so I have to make greater efforts to find out what they are doing and how I may be able to help them.” Keith is very excited about the integration of technology because there are “so many great educational tools that aid in the instruction process. Collaborating with teachers to find what would work best for different content areas is exciting and oftentimes engages students more than traditional teaching methods.”
When I ask Keith about when he most often sees an “ah ha” moment in one of his students. “When I find that one book that grabs the reluctant reader and hopefully converts him to a lifelong reader.” As we walk to the door, Keith tells me that “being a librarian is rewarding. The position is dynamic” and that’s what makes the field so exciting.
Keith joined the Mount Vernon High School staff in 2015 after several years at Mansfield High School. In summer 2016, he became an INFOhio DBI Coach. He is excited to share his newly found knowledge about databases and other INFOhio resources with teachers, administrators, and students.
Written By: Susan Yutzey