Running Amok in the Stacks

Climbing Everest without Supplemental Oxygen!

In reviewing Empowering Learners, in particular the section on staffing it states, “The school library media program has a minimum of one full-time certified/licensed library media specialist supported by qualified staff sufficient for the school’s instructional programs, services, facilities, size and number of teachers and students.” (p. 32).  This is such a challenge for many library media centers due to budgetary cuts and lack of funding to meet this guideline.  I work in a school district where there is one certified library media specialist for every two elementary schools and my sister-in-law was a library aide in a district where there was one certified library media specialist that had oversight of all of the elementary schools and each school then had two full time aides.  For that to change, collectively we need to advocate, advocate, advocate about the integral role the library media center is and the importance of having fully qualified individuals staffing those centers.

It is also vital that we create spaces both physically and virtually that are inviting to our students and staff, filled with relevant  and timely materials.  While I feel my libraries, are welcoming in the physical sense, we also have to contend with block scheduling instead of flexible scheduling and there is little opportunity for students to come in at their leisure to pick out a new book or engage in research.  It is a goal to recruit enough parent/student volunteers that I can have a section of time each day for students to come in and check out a new book or look up information even if it isn’t there scheduled time to come to the library.  As it is, I am more than accommodating to students, but it is difficult to help students check out materials, when I am also trying to teach 25 kindergarteners.  If I could recruit enough parent volunteers to staff the library during lunch time, while I have cafeteria/playground supervision then students could come in from 11:25 to 1:25 each day to use the library at their leisure.

In reviewing the text by Woolls, I must admit in relation to managing and planning the physical space in the library, I am very fortunate.  One of my libraries was remodeled several years ago and is well designed and laid out with one exception.  The tables chosen for the space are very large and round.  They take up the bulk of my floor space and are difficult to configure in any other way than they are now.  This makes it difficult to create a space for independent learning by other students who may need to come in at times other than their assigned library block.  However, the space is attractive and easy for students to find materials and also easy for one person to oversee to ensure the safety and learning by all.  My other library, while older has it’s pluses and minuses also.  It is much more spacious with room for students to spread out and read or study.  It is light and airy with skylights and a view of the school courtyard.  The downfall to this space is that it is located in the center of the building and has now walls around it.  So, extra care must be taken to not disturb classes directly adjacent to the media center as well as the disruption of students coming in and outside from recess as they pass by to their classrooms.  One of the capital improvements that our new principal has in mind is to wall off the library with glass sliders which could be opened if necessary for a larger event or closed to preserve the integrity of the space.

Again in reviewing the text by Woolls regarding staffing and management, again I am very fortunate.  I have an extensive management background prior to coming into the school district, so job delegation, follow-up etc. are some of my stronger areas.  Also, having been in the school for 4 years, I have learned quite a bit about classroom management from my fellow teachers, administration, and prior graduate work and will continue to undergo training this summer at a week-long BIST behavior management seminar at the end of July.  With that being said, I intend on working with my library aide on classroom expectations and guidelines as this was one area where my predecessor and I disagreed.  Here style of classroom management was very erratic and the students didn’t know from day to day what her expectations were.  I plan to write a comprehensive plan for job responsibilities, procedures, and classroom management that falls in line with our school wide positive behavior strategies, so students and staff alike know that the expectations are the same whether they are in the classroom or in the library.

The reading by Corbett, emphasizes the shift we need to make from assuming all information is found freely on the web as it is not.  Just as UCM has an extensive collection of online databases for student and faculty use, they did not come without a cost and again it is up to us to advocate for greater digital integration and personalization for our school population.  I personally am finding the speed at which this is happening to be mind numbingly slow.  District wide, we have some e-books available in our collection, but at this point we have no way via Kindle, Nook, iPad for students to access these titles.  In my collection, I also have non-fiction books that have a companion website, but with only three computers available in the media center for student use there is not a truly viable way for students who do not have access at home to utilize this resource.  I understand the hesitancy to jump on the portable media bandwagon, by the district administration, but I have to question how often do they use their smartphones and iPads each and every day.  I would bet all of them do and I am sure our students who as Corbett said are “digital natives” would not hesitate to embrace the same tools.

In watching the screencast, by Sherri Bryan, it is important to note that the reasons why libraries and librarians must advocate for and be at the forefront of the move to creating a learning environment are as applicable here as in California  and every other state as we move toward Common Core Standards.  Importantly, she notes the move away from block scheduling and advocates a flexible learning commons schedule for teachers and students to come in an utilize the space to best suit their needs.  She also relates the importance for having flexible physical space for group use, for use by individuals, and class use.  She also points out the importance of being able to use digital devices, either owned by the school or personal devices.  Something that is virtually non-existent in my current school district.  The vision of a learning commons in this presentation is a great template for creating a learning commons in every school across the country.

I enjoyed Hansen’s view on the library as the hub of the school filled with the buzz of productivity instead of stern shushes by an authoritarian and stern librarian.  While I can see that is an ideal goal especially for middle and high school students, it might be more difficult to implement in a grade school situation, especially younger grades where students need more guidance and structure.  However, I believe the concept of a learning commons is doable and completely relevent in the grade school setting particularly the concept of flexible uses and the discarding of block or fixed library scheduling, but flexible schedule where teachers can reserve time to come in as a class for whole class collaboration and utilization.  This would free up more time in a school day for other uses such as small group collaboration, a space for reflection and thought, a place for presentation and more informal styles of learning.

Hansen also points out that this is a space for creativity, including resources for younger students, such as felt story boards or poetry walls.  By creating a learning space that is visually appealing, user-friendly, and flexible to meet the needs of students of all ages promotes learning both informal and formal and gives students a sense of pride and ownership by utilizing their own creations in the promotion of the media center as a  learning commons.

As Whelton reports in his blog, the beginnings of transforming his library space from an unappealing and cold space to one filled with color and creativity, I am encouraged to begin my next school year.  While I am enjoying my summer break, I also am filled with ideas for transforming my own space by creating places for student artwork, adding comfortable seating in place of one of my most hated pieces of “furniture” in the library which is a cast iron claw foot bathtub (don’t ask, I didn’t put it there and if I could have hauled it out on my back to the dumpster on the last day of school I most certainly would have done so), and repurposing my tall metal storage cabinets by painting them with chalkboard paint for younger students to draw, write, and express themselves.

While I am so excited to be moving forward in the time of change in the library, I also find it somewhat daunting.  It feels like I’m climbing Mt. Everest without supplemental oxygen and Sherpas.  One step forward, two steps forward, three steps forward, rest and regroup, one step forward two steps forward to the top.

References:

Bryan, Sherri. “Calgary LC 2012.” Calgary LC 2012. Web. 03 June 2012. <http://sites.google.com/site/calgarylc2012/home>.

Corbett, Tom. “The Changing Role of the School Library’s Physical Space.” School Library Monthly. Apr. 2011. Web. 1 June 2012. <http://www.schoollibrarymonthly.com/articles/Corbett2011-v27n7p5.html>.

Empowering Learners, Guidelines For School Library Media Programs. Chicago: American Association of School Librarians, 2009. Print.

Hansen, Jessica. “The Learning Commons.” Screencast.com. TechSmith. Web. 01 June 2012. <http://bit.ly/Kv4aeF>.

—. “The Learning Commons: Physical Learning Commons, Virtual Learning Commons.” Screencast.com. TechSmith. Web. 5 June 2012. <http://bit.ly/Kv4Y38>.

Whelton, Michael. “Our 21st Century Learning Commons Journey Begins…” Michael Whelton, 18 Apr. 2012. Web. 3 June 2012. < http://michaelwhelton.com/2012/04/18/our-21st-century-learning-commons-journey-begins/>.

Woolls, Blanche. The School Library Media Manager. 4th ed. Westport, Connecticut: Libraries Unlimited, 2008. 279. Print.

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