Orange High School, Joanna McNally, School Library Media Specialist;
Brady Middle School – Betsey Lee;
Moreland Hills Elementary School – Pamela Black
On Monday, October 7, 2013, I visited Orange School District recipient of the 2013 OELMA Libraries of Distinction Award – District. An eastern suburb of Cleveland, Orange School District has three schools situated on a beautiful campus: Orange High School; Ballard Brady Middle School, and Moreland Hills Elementary School. Each of the schools is staffed by a licensed school librarian. As I entered Orange High School, I was greeted by Joanna McNally. Walking down the hall together toward the library, McNally informed me that the high school was host to over 30 exchange students from Denmark and they were all having lunch in the library. As we opened the door to the library and looked to the right, tables were filled with students and teachers talking and eating. “There is always something going on in the library” should be the motto for the Orange High School Library.
A cursory look around the library reveals ceiling to floor windows that look out to a main hall into a courtyard, comfortable seating, flat-screen television mounted on the wall, presentation spaces on either side of the library, and a welcoming circulation desk. Walking back to Joanna’s office, I saw a well-equipped workroom, computer lab, and low shelving that accommodates the fiction collection. Books to entice readers are placed on top of the shelves. In the four years that Joanna has been at Orange High School, the library has been transformed. As you look up toward the ceiling, you cannot help but notice the exquisite book banners suspended from the ceiling. A sign posted by the entrance lists the Excel TECC Visual Art & Design: Orange High School Reads recipients, which includes over twenty-six original art banners created by students to promote literacy and reading through the arts.
Orange High School has 700 students and I sat with a group of them while Joanna and I grabbed a sub and water to eat. I asked the students what they had learned about doing research. One young man responded – “Citing sources using Noodletools. I use Noodletools all the time.” Another young man spoke about his passion for reading. After the students left for class, Joanna and I talked about her four years as a librarian at Orange. McNally discussed what had to happen to “change the culture of the library – to help students, teachers, and administrators see what a modern library looks like and what services it can provide.” Beyond updating the physical space and services, McNally has worked very hard to “get teachers and students behind responsible and ethical research.”
After lunch I had occasion to speak with one of Orange High School’s English/Language Arts teachers. He talked about the many ways in which McNally collaborates with the teachers so that their students know the right way to do PowerPoints; understand how to cite sources using NoodleTools; search Google more effectively; create concept maps; and find and locate more credible sources for their research. Beyond teaching and working with students, Joanna, he says “has shown us so we can teach the students.” Joanna sat down with me again and elaborated on some of the ways in which she has gotten teachers and students behind ethical research. One recent example is when she and the Spanish IV teacher collaborated on an artist inquiry that met Common Core (CCSS) State Standards 7, 8, and 9. Students were required to select an artist and one of their works and then present their information in Spanish. McNally created a LiveBinder of online resources, demonstrated how to cite their information using NoodleTools, and showed them available print resources. Working collaboratively with an Honors English/Language Arts teacher, McNally co-teaches three research units during the school year, meeting many of the CCSS. In the first unit, students get a copyright refresher, learn proper presentation tips, use NoodleTools to cite sources, and work in groups to present. In the second unit, students take a personality assessment and then use scholarly journals by having them search for articles about issues related to careers; for example, a student might look for articles on careers for introverts. In the third unit, students work in small groups and read literary nonfiction texts, determine a problem/solution from the text, research using credible sources, write a problem/solution paper in APA format, and then present to their peers and adults.
Digital citizenship is a pressing issue in today’s schools. Orange’s Curriculum Director supported McNally, along with two other teachers, a technology teacher and a special education teacher, in the design and implementation of an online digital citizenship course for all 9th graders. Content includes such topics as: netiquette, digital rights, digital responsibilities, and digital safety. For each of the units there are readings and video, discussion posts, reflection, and a ten-question assessment. The final assessment is a capstone in which students present what they have learned. Beyond citing their sources, students must create a public service announcement.
From Orange High School, Joanna and I took the short drive to Ballard Brady Middle School where I met Betsey Lee. As McNally and Lee collaborated at the circulation desk, I wandered around the library. The book displays around the library capture the visitor’s eye – Banned Books, Horror & Mystery, and ALA Top Tens. Bright blue comfy seats look inviting to any middle schooler. Library desks and chairs are off to the right. A desktop computer lab, suitable for an entire class, is located on the the left of the circulation desk. Betsey explained that Brady is a 1 to 1 school, the only one in the district and this is their third year as a GoogleDocs district. Each of the 500 students has a Chrome book. They are used in school and then are stored in the advisory homerooms and re-charged after school. With the move to 1 to 1, Betsey acknowledged that the research component is changing. Instead of relying on books, she works with teachers identifying Web sources and databases and working with students and teachers on evaluating websites.
Lee and I drove to Moreland Hills Elementary on the Orange School District campus. Home to almost 900 K-5 students, the library is a light and airy space with high ceilings and lots of natural light. Pamela Black is finishing up with a class of primary students. Sitting on chairs at low-topped tables, they lift their expectant faces to Black as she conducts the mini lesson in the center of the room. All around the room, there are books – picture books, chapter books, fiction, and non- fiction. Beautiful wall hangings and posters transform the lightly colored walls into a children’s paradise. Before Pamela and Betsey posed for their photo op, I asked her what is her favorite activity as an elementary school librarian? Reading aloud to children she responded unequivocally. And your favorite book, I asked…. Yo Yes by Chris Raschka as she smiled and snatched it from the reading area.
Thank you Betsey, Joanna, and Pamela for enabling me to visit your school libraries and share your valuable time with me.
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