A year in the life of a student-centered library

There’s no “typical” day for a library media specialist. In one school day, we can teach a class about fake news, help one student find the perfect resource for his research project, and guide another toward a “just-right” book series that appeals to her personal interests. For 21st-century media specialists, the idea of the library as a quiet space is out and creating new opportunities for deeper learning with students is in.

Our district, Hillsborough County Public Schools (HCPS) is the eighth-largest school district in the nation. We provide a wealth of educational opportunities for students and families that range from Head Start to adult-education programs within our 227 traditional public and magnet schools. We are a melting pot of urban, rural, and suburban areas. The word “diverse” doesn’t begin to describe our wide array of students and schools. It’s our job to make sure that at every school, every student has equitable access to high-quality reading, learning, and technological resources.

As we look back on 2017, we’d like to share the best practices that have worked for us, as well as a few predictions about what 2018 will look like for media specialists.…Read More

Secrets from the library lines: 5 ways schools can boost digital engagement

Once your school district makes the commitment to have a digital library, the next step is for people to understand how they can stay engaged.

In “Secrets from the Front Lines: How Schools Can Boost Digital Engagement,” Kelly Hladek, library media specialist and technology liaison at Morton High School, School City of Hammond, IN, discussed best practices for engaging students, teachers and the community in the district’s eBook and audiobook collection. In just one year of having a digital collection, checkouts from the district’s digital library increased by 184 percent.

Secret 1: Harness Visuals…Read More

#8: 3 must-have skills for today’s librarians

[Editor’s note: This story, originally published on July 17th of this year, was our #8 most popular story of the year. Happy holidays, and thank you for tuning into our 2017 countdown!]

Districts nationwide are looking for new and innovative ways to provide training and resources for their staff, all while keeping within a limited budget. What many administrators fail to notice is that their greatest asset is already in their building.

It’s the 21st century, and school librarians are no longer just “the keepers of the books.” Librarians and media specialists are highly trained, highly versatile staff members, whose scope of responsibilities spans all students and all subjects.…Read More

#10: Why personalized learning should start in school libraries

[Editor’s note: This story, originally published on February 3rd of this year, was our #10 most popular story of the year. Happy holidays, and thank you for tuning into our 2017 countdown!]

With personalization a growing initiative in schools, the library may not be the first thing educators think of as a resource. However, according to Michelle Luhtala, library department chair at New Canaan High School, CT, and Jackie Whiting, librarian at New Canaan High School, the library is often the best place to look for personalizing instruction through assessing, reading and making.

How Libraries are Personalized Learning Hotspots…Read More

The biggest lessons librarians learned in 2017

For the sake of our students, we must embrace the changing role of the school librarian. 2017 was a year filled with makerspaces, student engagement, personalized learning, and more. Here, two seasoned librarians shed light on their biggest lessons learned in 2017 and look forward to the up-and-coming trends for the new year.

“Never underestimate what students are capable of.” – Robin Glugatch

There’s no denying that libraries today look a lot different than they did 20 years ago. This year was the second year that our library was a makerspace. We added new robotics, drones, and video game design, and engaged students using our new Lightspeed audio system. Throughout the year, I saw students evolve, gain confidence in their public speaking skills, and enhance active listening skills when myself or others were speaking. We also painted an entire wall green to utilize the Green Screen with larger groups. The library is leading the way in adding technology and research materials to the curriculum to enhance learning.…Read More

Media specialist: These are “My Tech Essentials” to make students’ voices heard globally

Educators today are trying harder than ever to diversify their teaching practices, using a variety of tools and materials, incorporating different learning styles, and also allowing students to have a voice in their learning. At the David C. Barrow Elementary School, we have a project which takes all these things into account.

As the media specialist, I created the annual “Barrow Peace Prize” project in collaboration with the 2nd grade classroom teachers and art teacher, where students from across all the second-grade sections pick six nominees from civil rights history and decide what attributes the winner must embody. I give research instruction utilizing many educational tech tools that the students incorporate into the project to develop a nominee that may win the Barrow Peace Prize. This recognition not only reaches the David C. Barrow student body, but the entries are voted on by people from all over the world, and the nominee with the most votes (and the students who researched them) is awarded the Barrow Peace Prize.

Here are three tools we use to make the Barrow Peace Prize project a reality.…Read More

In practice: School’s redesigned library of the future leads to deeper learning

Modern. Beneficial. Fun. Engaging. Immersed learning. Student led. Teamwork. Leaders. Creators. Inviting. What do all these words have in common? They are all terms I’ve heard used to describe the atmosphere and activities in our recently revamped Library Learning Commons.

Along with the addition of sleek and colorful university-style furniture and an Interactive Smart Screen Projector, last summer’s renovation included a variety of cutting-edge equipment to empower our new, rad Makerspace.

New Picturesque Library Layout Paves the Way for Dynamic Patron Usage…Read More

This is how you build the library of the future

When looking towards the future of education and instruction, hardware will not be the catalyst for change. The people behind the technology will be the ones who transform student learning. Media specialists operating within the demands of 21st-century innovation find themselves tasked with the responsibility not only to be as tech-savvy as possible, but to tap into their creativity to create an inspiring library learning environment. The 4 C’s (collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity) will drive our pioneering approach to developing the libraries of the future.

As teachers, today’s librarians and media specialists bring a valuable understanding of the potential that both information and technology have to support an effective learning environment. Innovative librarians tend to be at the forefront of identifying, modeling, and implementing the latest technologies in ways that allow students and teachers to see and garner the benefits.

While innovation is often associated with the latest gadget or software, it doesn’t always equate to a high-tech solution. More important is a strong foundation for the approach to learning.…Read More

Media specialist: 3 ways to break down barriers between students and reading

What do you picture when you think of a librarian? If you have an image in mind of this little old woman, stamping books in her half-rimmed glasses, then you would be one of many still drawing on this archetype. Many people today would be surprised by how much librarians have shifted from the stereotype I just described. In fact, we’ve changed so much that the title “librarian” barely applies anymore.

Now, with so much technology as an interwoven part of a library’s infrastructure, my fellow ex-librarians and I are more frequently referred to as “media specialists,” though I sometimes go by “library media specialist” to help people gradually adjust to the new identity.

As a media specialist at Southside Middle School in Tallassee, Alabama, my responsibility is to oversee the distribution and use of most of our school’s technology—both in the library and out. Much of this tech is already integrated into the classroom environment, with every teacher having their own smartboard and projectors and all the middle schoolers in the district carrying their own iPads as part of our new 1:1 program.…Read More

Fascinating library project has students award peace prize

[Editor’s note: This piece is the first in our new monthly series focusing on Innovative School Libraries and Librarians. Be sure to keep checking back during the month of August for new library-focused articles!]

The Barrow Peace Prize is a cross-curricular project that allows 2nd-grade students to consider the character traits of peace and extend their voices to a global audience.

Named for our school, David C. Barrow Elementary, the project begins with each student selecting one of six nominees from civil rights history to research. They then create a persuasive video essay as well as a watercolor painting showing why their chosen nominee best displays the qualities of peace. The videos are voted on by people from all over the world, and the nominee with the most votes (and the students who researched them) is awarded the Barrow Peace Prize.…Read More