On Thursday, April 30, 2015, I visited St. Patrick Catholic School in Troy, Ohio. Katy Miller, school librarian since 2010, is a graduate of The Ohio State University with a specialization in transportation logistics through the Fisher College of Business. Her love of reading as a student at St. Patrick Catholic School eventually led her to Wright State University’s school library media licensure program and Professor Susan Berg. When asked what do you like most about being a school librarian Katy smiled and said “seeing a light bulb go off when the children come across something exciting like a book.” She enjoys the organizational aspects of librarianship as well as the discovery.
In 2012, St. Patrick Catholic School added two additional grades and the “old library” became a classroom. The new library as you see in the photographs is small but it is clear that Katy’s passion for organization and discovery are keys to the library’s look and overall ambiance. As I look around the library, I am immediately struck by the painted murals above the entrance and extending the length of the wall – “Books are a uniquely portable magic.” As Katy explains, the murals were done by a parent volunteer. Each pastel panel captures what is often special about a story for a child whether it is the mermaid or the creature. The fireplace, also painted by the talented parent volunteer, looks inviting as a place to draw up a chair or two.
As Katy gives me a tour of the library, she points to the storage units above each section of bookshelves. Each storage unit is labeled and houses such items as Dr. Suess hats, seasonal decorations, book processing material, and personal belongings. With a small room and no storage, the storage units above each bookshelf enable Katy to keep organized and uncluttered. The tops of bookshelves by the windows are adorned with 4th grade projects that reflect their reading of Shiloh. Before the new shelves, new wood floors, tables, chairs, and circulation desk arrived; Katy spent the summer weeding extensively. With weeding came re-cataloging. She credits Chris Miller of MDECA for all her guidance in the conversion process to INFOhio’s Sirsi. The free-standing bookshelves are on wheels, which gives Katy flexibility when planning activities in the library.
At the far side of the library are the computer terminals. As I talk with Katy this afternoon, several of math classes come in with their teacher to use the computers Next year, St. Patrick will have a cart of Chromebooks. Katy is also the IT Department of St. Patrick’s so she will be responsible for setting up the Chromebooks. On the far wall, is an interactive whiteboard with a ceiling mounted projector that enables Katy to project lessons for her classes. “Discovery is integral to learning,” says Katy. So during her lessons she will often have the students go to INFOhio databases, explore the databases, and figure out what they would like to pursue. She also likes to organize scavenger hunts for the children using INFOhio’s online databases and resources.
During her collaborative lessons with the 7th and 8th grade classes, she is particularly proud of the infographics the students are creating. The 7th graders are creating infographics about geometry; the 8th graders are creating infographics about the American Constitution. At the outset of the projects, Katy outlined what an infographic is and the advantages of using infographics to communicate ideas and data. She had the students look at examples of infographics. Then using Canva or Infographics Creator, she created accounts for the students after they created a rough draft of their infographic. It is the first year for the project and she is excited to work with the teachers to assess the students learning.
As I wander around the library, the magazine rack captures my attention. With all the emphasis on digital resources, every media center I have visited so far as a magazine rack of some kind. The placement of St. Patrick’s magazine rack is close to the door so students can see the magazine titles easily. What is different is that Katy uses the magazine rack to highlight teachers’ favorite books. Each book has a bookmark with the teacher’s photo on it. As I stood by the Middle School collection, a young student walked up to the rack to survey the new magazines that are encased in plastic binders.
When I ask Katy about the Middle School shelves, she remarks that with the addition of the 7th and 8th grade classes several years ago, the students were eager to have a space for age-appropriate books. This is a tough decision for a school librarian, particularly in K-8 buildings. What is also difficult for Katy is the labeling of AR books. She is personally against labeling because she believes that it “closes off their mind to the adventures of reading.”
Katy’s love of reading and sharing her passion for reading with the children is exemplified in what she does with the children of St. Patrick’s during the Dr. Suess celebration in early March. During that week children and their families are encouraged to donate gently used, age-appropriate books. The books that are collected are donated either to Bethany House or to Dayton Children’s Hospital. She communicates about the book drive through the Tuesday folder, a school-wide folder that goes home to parents and caregivers. In the Tuesday folder, she includes a newsletter from the library in which she highlights things that are happening, asks for volunteers, and so forth.
As I leave the library I note the display to the left of the library door. For all its simplicity it captures Katy’s excitement about introducing children in her school to books and reading – a road, a rainbow, and reading signs such as Focus on Reading, Be Prepared to Read, Reading Zone.
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