Last Friday, an administrative team from an Iowa middle school visited the SCSD campus to talk about creating a new vision for their school library. The principal on this team had been at the August School Administrators of Iowa conference where I was part of a panel discussion, "Transforming Your Teacher Librarian into a Leader" moderated by our superintendent, Sam Miller. At the conclusion of the presentation, we encouraged attendees to get out and see first hand what successful programs look like and this principal decided to take us up on the offer.
One of their main take aways was - it isn't all, or even primarily, about the facility (although it is a big plus to have attractive, well planned, space, seating, shelving, etc.)
It is about the people and about access - great people and access to great books and technology.
Our middle school media center is really just a repurposed classroom, but because of Mrs Butterfield's dedication, creativity and love of the students, it is a vibrant, welcoming and busy place. Since school started almost 1,700 books have been checked and 100 holds placed. We can't keep Iowa Teen Awards books on the shelf. TEAM READ starts in a couple of weeks.
Over twenty students come to Tech Club Tuesday mornings. We are constantly moving books around to make room for what is in high demand and now have more than 1,000 books in storage.
When I am at SMS, I rarely sit at my "desk". I'm either working with students or I am in a classroom. So far this year I am working with Kerri Coons and TAG students on a radio show and I'm gearing up with Travis Kerkove for our 3rd year of collaborating on a multi-week research project.
Mrs B and I both worked with Mrs Velasquez with a cool International Dot Day project pairing up 8th and 4th graders to create dot superhero stories and illustrations.
Every day we make connections with learners and teachers.
I told the visiting Admin team about our awesome "integrated library system", DestinyQuest, which is used district wide, but loved most by our elementary students. I wish they could have been in a third grade media center class the first time 3rd graders logged in to their own accounts. It is one of the most exciting weeks of the year for me and such a great "sandbox" for them to learn about social media etiquette in a safe, private environment that is focused on literature.
It was obvious to them that our Lakeview media center buzzed with the energy of learning, with students using the book collection (over 3,500 books circulated since day 1), getting computers from the carts, using the flexible space for small group work and assessments. I loved showing off the facility, but again emphasized -
it is the people that make the library a great place and I couldn't have a better co-worker than Paula Day. This is our 11th year working side by side.
It was the vibe at the high school that really blew their minds though. When they arrived at 7:50 am, the place was humming. Students were reading, working on online, chatting quietly, listening to audio with headphones, playing chess and just having a great start of the day. While we stood and chatted near the entrance, they watched the activity and especially noticed how Mrs Pentico easily interacted with the students, asking about their studies, homecoming plans and reading.
It's the people - and I am so thankful to have Mrs Pentico as part of the media services team!
I told them how our library is used by classes and how I am very often not in the library, but in the classrooms, collaborating with teachers on everything from science fair research to EasyBib training. They asked, "how do you get teachers to work with you?"
Relationships, follow-through, just-in-time access to resources and expertise - and chocolate.
I heard back from one of the team members the following week.
"Thank you so much for your time on Friday. We were so impressed! ... talked nonstop on our way to (the next library) about the wonderful things we saw at your schools."
I am so lucky to work with such phenomenal staff and students. I am proud to share our vision.