Welcome to the Media Center Spotlight, a journal that will focus on library media specialists and media centers around the state.
When I first walked into Rocky River High School’s Media Center on May 17, 2013, accompanied by Yvonne Morbitzer. the Media Center’s Teacher Librarian (and the District Librarian as well), I was captivated by the high ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows, and huge round pendant lights. Although it looks light and airy, I didn’t see one of the more than fifty students in the Media Center gazing out the windows. That Friday there were four classes in the Media Center actively researching for German, English, Biology, and Spanish. Yvonne introduced me to her aide, Shawna Gorby, and then proceeded to walk me behind the Circulation Desk and show me the charging stations for the 30 Chromebooks that students and teachers can use while in the Media Center. Beyond the 30 Chromebooks, students and teachers have access to two other labs – the TLC, or Teacher/Librarian Collaboration Lab, located in a room next to the Media Center, with 30 desktop computers and the laptop lap, located in the center of the room, with 24 laptops. Teachers and students also have the use of a smart podium. While students have ample access to technology, they also have access to books, both print and electronic, as well as databases.
I asked Yvonne about the Media Center’s book collection. With the move to the newly renovated Media Center, Yvonne explained that “their goal was to end up with as updated a collection as possible.” From 15,000 books to 7,000 books and as you look around the Media Center you will see that Yvonne did “break all the Dewey rules.” Her goal was to focus on making the print collection very accessible to students; hence, reference books are interfiled with the nonfiction titles, and cutter numbers in the literary criticisms reflect the subjects’ last names. Since English classes use the Media Center the most, the literary criticism books flank the smart podium and laptop lab so students can easily find and use them for their research.
What is also noticeable when you enter the Media Center is the flexibility of the seating. Tables and chairs on wheels that will easily configure to fit any class and facilitate collaboration among students; comfy chair-and-desk combos in nooks, and a winding “cafe table” that features an upholstered bench on one side and a table top dotted with power and data connectors on the other. Most of the students in the Media Center are from specific classes; not study halls. Since implementing a policy earlier this year in which study hall students must have teacher passes and sign in, Yvonne has noticed that the students who do come to the Media Center are more focused.
As practicing library media specialists we all know that it’s more than just the physical space – it’s the teaching and learning that occurs that is important. I shared a list of questions prior to my visit and asked Yvonne to reflect on one or two of them. Yvonne spoke about an “ah ha moment” that made a difference in her instruction. With the advent of more research being done using electronic sources she noticed that students had difficulty distinguishing the pieces and parts of citations (e.g. article titles, journal/book titles, database titles). She created collaborative lessons with her English teachers to help students improve their understanding of and ability to recognize the parts of a citation – an important skill for college-bound students. Another question – “What is an example of a great collaboration you’ve had with a classroom teacher” led to an in-depth conversation about the Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War Exhibit. Yvonne applied for and received a grant to host the traveling exhibit in October 2013. It is part of a collaboration between the American Library Association (ALA), the National Constitution Center (NCC) in Philadelphia and the National Endowment for the Humanities. (http://atyourlibrary.org/culture/traveling-exhibit-explores-lincoln-constitution-and-civil-war). A huge undertaking, Yvonne explained that the public library as well as the historical societies (Rocky River and Western Reserve), Rocky River Education Foundation, and the school district are all working together. As part of the event, James Swanson, author of the high school’s summer reading books Manhunt and Chasing Lincoln’s Killers will be the keynote at an evening event for the community as well as a school assembly for the students.Students in technology and art, as well as library students at all schools, have created projects that will be on display at the event; tiles decorated with quilt patterns, a fathead of Lincoln, log cabins, and liberty Wordles. In addition, music students will perform Civil War spirituals and ballads at the opening program. It’s quite an undertaking and I hope that Yvonne will share her experience as a conference presenter or in a future issue of the Media Spectrum.
At the conclusion of the tour, Yvonne introduced me to her principal, Debra Bernard. We spoke briefly about the Media Center’s renovations and what it has meant for the students and teachers at Rocky River High School. Thank you Yvonne Morbitzer, Shawna Gorby, and Principal Debra Bernard for welcoming me.
Click on a picture to see a larger view.