On Friday, November 1, I visited Medina High School’s media center, recipient of this year’s OELMA Library of Distinction – School Award. As I enter the media center, school library media specialist, Karon Lippincott is helping a student find the “perfect” fiction book. As they wander around the well-stocked fiction shelves, I note the natural light filtered through glass bricks. With Laurie Halse Anderson’s Winter Girls grasped firmly in her hands, the student makes her way to the circulation desk at the far end of the media center. At 10 a.m. the Media Center is coming to life – students sit at tables studying, reading, talking, and setting up a board game. From my vantage point in the center of the media center, I can see that graphic novels have their own shelves as does the reference collection. As Karon explains, when she arrived at Medina High School in 2005, four years after the school was built, she weeded over 4000 books and that enabled her to move bookshelves in more creative ways. Her goal, she adds, is to inter-shelve the huge reference collection so she can convert that space into a demonstration area with a projector and interactive whiteboard. Medina High School with an enrollment of 2300 students received a district-wide grant to pilot one-to-one and is looking for more digital content, Lippincott explains. Her vision is to see information and technology literacies integrated into the curriculum where it belongs. She describes a recent collaboration with the Advanced Senior Composition teacher in which students took the information they used in their research papers and re-purposed it in an audience-friendly format using Google website. One of the research papers focused on how to buy a new car. These kinds of topics do not lend themselves to databases, so teaching students to evaluate the source to determine the authority of a website such as Mr. Muscles is critical. The research paper formed the basis for the website’s content and included works cited. As Karon explains, “we need to go beyond research as a paper or a PowerPoint and explore other types of media expression.” This is the future world of our 21st century students. Another example of taking it beyond PowerPoint is seen with Medina High School’s world history teachers who developed a PBL (project-based learning) using social contracts, explains Lippincott. Each group of 5 or 6 students creates and writes their own social contract and documents it through a specific medium such as a podcast or documentary. In their research, each group of students must develop a working definition of social contract and be able to determine what they are willing to give up for the greater good. As I tour the media center, I am drawn to the shelves behind the circulation desk that feature magazines. With the emphasis in online, I have to ask if these magazines enjoy wide readership. Karon lists some of the magazines that are more widely read by her students: Wired, Mental Floss, Twist, Car and Driver, Diesel Power, and Field and Stream. While standing at the circulation desk, we discuss student participation in library activities. Lippincott explains that she has library groupies who work in the library each period and also help her select books. Although it’s difficult to convene meetings with schedules, she approaches her groupies informally with such questions as “What have you read?” or “What have you checked out at the library lately?” As I make my way to the front entrance, I look to the right of the door and I see the OELMA banner – Library of Distinction- prominently displayed in the window.
From Medina High School, I went on to visit school library media specialist, Pam Shirk, at A.I. Root Middle School (Medina). As I enter the building, Shirk is standing with her aide in the hallway outside her media center supervising the array of books set up for the Book Fair. At the bell we make our way to Pam’s classroom. Entering the classroom, I note 31 desktop computers. Her 6th grade students are taking the 31-question Speak Up Survey to help the Medina school district determine their technology needs and wants. In between helping students access the survey and answering their questions, I discover that Shirk teaches a graded 9-week class as part of a special rotation with art, music, and gym. Since there are no school library media specialists in the elementary schools, providing this course gives the students a foundation in information literacy skills – age-appropriate INFOhio databases, website evaluation, keyword searching, citing using an interactive citation tool, plagiarism – before they graduate to the high school. Pam knows every 6th, 7th, and 8th grade student as a result of teaching this course for the past three years and that is one of the advantages, she states. In addition, all the classroom teachers are assured that students have the same knowledge base. Pam shares that being in the classroom takes time away from working with students and teachers in the media center as well as fulfilling her library management responsibilities such as cataloging and purchasing resources. With school library media specialists wearing so many hats in today’s schools, dividing one’s time to meet the needs of students, teachers, parents, and administrators means setting some difficult priorities. Before the students complete their surveys, I say good-bye to Pam and head to Edwards Middle School in Brunswick.
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