Media Center Happenings
Meghen Bassel and Melissa Britton
Building and Renovation Processes Explored
After polling a number of media specialists, ranging in size, level, and location, we found that there is typically one media specialist involved with designing media centers that are under new construction or renovation. The involvement of the media specialist in the process ranged from being able to completely design the media center with the space given to being allowed to select shelf layout. Kirsten Pylant of Augusta Preparatory Day School stated that “An architect drew the plans, our Head of School worked with a Board of Directors committee overseeing the entire project, from renderings to fabric/wood choices. As librarian, I determined layout of shelving, signage, etc.” Unfortunately, there were a few media specialists who stated that there is not a media specialist involved with the renovation or building of a media center in their district. Overall, most felt that there should be more involvement of the SLMS community to help develop learning spaces.
Media Center Budgets
While it may seem that there would be a standard allotment of funds for the school media center there is actually no set system for this. The amount of money earmarked for media center use can vary drastically from district to district and even more so between the public and private sectors. Within the public school sector, most media specialists interviewed noted that their recent budget remained the same or was slightly lower than the previous years. The cause of any decreases was typically blamed on a weaker economy, although some schools stated that their decline was due to reallocation of funds to another area of the school. Because districts and school leaders normally grant a set dollar per student amount for media center use, changes in student enrollment can also impact funding. Heather Loy of Wagener-Salley High School stated, “My budget is still a per pupil allotment and was $10.40 in 2002 but now about $9.30 so we’ve lost a dollar!” A newer fad for some school districts is for all technology purchasing, both in and out of the media center, to be handled by a district technology plan. At least one of those polled stated that she only gets funds for book purchases. For public school media centers, fund raising ideas to supplement their budgets ranged from book fairs to chili cook-off events.
Private schools typically have much more stability when it comes to funding. Media Specialists Kirsten Pylant and Jenni Shaver, both who work in private schools, discussed that they typically are granted a set amount on money to use for their media centers. Those funds are either used for captital projects or for books. While the exact amount for some private schools could not be released to us, we were told that they typically have enough funds to complete their desired changes and upgrades while also keeping the collection and technology updated.
Are schools really putting their money in technology? You bet they are! Several schools from varying school districts and varying sizes were surveyed about technology in their SLMC. Many stated that they felt their technology was current and expected additional funds for future technology needs. Only one SLMS felt that her media center was not on the cutting edge. Rhonda Criss of Hammond Hill Elementary explained, “Our Library Media Center is moderately 'current' concerning technology." Rhonda continued on to say that she had recently purchased some iPads, but she did not feel that her school had additional plans for improving technology.
Kirsten Pylant, who is employed at Augusta Preparatory Day School, had the most current technology ranging from 3D printers, laptops, computer labs, printing stations and other technologies to support a variety of needs, even robotics. Kristen stated, "Next year 5th grade (part of our MS) will be provided Chrome books, and we will then add them to the higher grades in the MS over the following 18-24 months."
Even as schools struggle to repair schools and update their textbooks, technology budgets continue to be strong throughout most schools. Printed material budgets are starting a slow downward trend as technology is definitely continuing to grow and be supported. Technology can bridge a gap for some children and offer additional options to classroom teachers. Many feel that students are more engaged and active learners with technology. To enhance the educational experience of students, the SLMS must keep abreast of current trends and strive to provide these resources.
Learning Commons - the New Trend!
During the Media Happenings interviews, we heard a familiar theme. There is a transition taking place as we speak. Libraries that were morphed into media centers are now again experiencing a change. Schools have recently added spaces to their media centers for specialized use such as MakerSpaces and STEM labs. Now the shift is from media centers to learning commons. The idea is to create a flexible learning environment that fosters a social atmosphere paired with a collaborative setting.
A number of the schools stated that their are either undergoing a change or plan to begin in the near future. The idea encompasses more than just making furniture mobile. It is an idea that the available space should function for all the needs of the teachers and students. Additionally, the idea focuses on the fact that the SLMS is a teacher-librarian who is continuously evaluating services and media program. Maggie Davis from Grovetown High School stated that she plans to begin the transformation with small changes. She had added a charging station, ordered an Apple TV, and has removed some shelving to help expand the capabilities of her media center space.
The transition also includes relying on digital sources rather than print. Unfortunately, it seems that the biggest drawback to the process is weeding - LOTS of weeding. This can be a heartbreaking process to book lovers. The end result, however, can be quite impressive.
Pictures of a transformation can be found at:
Library Media Supervisor
“A library, no matter how big or small, is a careful balance of love and responsibility. A machine, if you will, cranked by those who care most about reading”
- Kimberly Karalius, Love Fortunes and Other Disasters
Seven of our surveyed schools responded to our questions about a Media Specialist Supervision role in their district. Three responded that no such position existed, two stated that a group was formed from which a SLMS is the rotating leader, one has an administrator from another department assisting, and only one actually had a Media Program Specialist. Cindy Rodriquez from Monte Sano Elementary stated ,"The district had a MPS that was a former media specialist so she knows what we each face. She supports us and talks with administrators on our behalf.” Cindy explained that there are many benefits of having the support of a Media Program Director. A Director can help the SLMS meet the needs of the students by providing supportive feedback on print material purchases, state standard lesson plans, focusing process skills and content knowledge for the teachers, and help increasing the SLMS proficiency and abilities with technology. The SLMS could also benefit from having that liaison between themselves and the county personnel when there are conflicts in the school buildings.
Unfortunately, many schools see the role of their SLMS as circulation specialists, fixed asset managers, textbook distributors, and standardized test givers. Because of this, there certainly seems to be a need for not only representation but also as an advocate at the county office level. A Library Media Supervisor who has been educated, trained, and worked in the field might be able help schools focus the tasks of their SLMS into more appropriate duties. The role of SLMS has changed and it is vital there is a director in place to guide and educate school leaders. The SLMS should be viewed and used as instructional leader and partner, program planner and communicator, collection developer, and information technology literacy specialist of the school. Media Centers are the learning hubs of the a living educational environment. A guide at the county office level could certainly bridge a gap.
Advocacy for School Libraries
While many SLMS love spending their time discussing the latest book or technology trend, there is a desperate need to promote the role and impact of media centers. Students are now turning to places like Starbucks and Panera Bread to visit and study. What should the SLMS do? Advocate for their libraries! Libraries have always been the best places to get information, study, and meet your friends. It has consistently been the safe place for students to gather.
There are many tricks in place to bring student back! Offering drinks and snacks have made college libraries more welcoming. MakerSpaces, STEM labs, and Learning Commons are a growing trend in secondary school. But how can SLMS be great advocates for what is offered? This was a question we asked our surveyed schools and they had many different answers. The two private schools did not note a problem with their Media Centers being advertised due to extensive use for various programs. In fact Jenni Shaver from Westminster Schools of Augusta stated, "One thing we are adding to the library program is a STEM lab/ MakerSpace. This year we are adding robots to our coding program and will share that technology with the community in open enrollment after school and summer programs." Kirsten Pylant from Augusta Preparatory Day School stated, " Just last night our space was used for a community-wide meeting relating to Canadian Colleges, attended by some people outside our school network due to promotion through news outlets." The other schools surveyed stated advocacy for the library was achieved through involvement with International Reading Associations. Additionally, community work, social media, collaboration with other school libraries and the public library, working with the teachers within their own building, and reaching out to the parents in their community were listed among techniques used.
The public needs to know in very informal terms what SLMS complete in their jobs. A SLMS everyday is
- Building capable and avid readers
- Collaborating with teachers to build exciting learning experiences
- Teaching information literacy as a part of collaborative learning experiences
- Enhancing learning through technology
While this is a casual message it is one of importance. More and more schools are testing the waters to see if media centers are really as necessary as they once were and the answer should always be YES!
Our appreciation to the following media specialists for helping with our newsletter:
Mac Barron, Swainsboro High School
Rhonda Criss, Hammond Hill Elementary School
Maggie Davis, Grovetown High School
Heather Loy, Wagener-Salley High School
Kirsten Pylant, Augusta Preparatory Day Schook (PK-12)
Cindy Rodriquez, Monte Sano Elementary School
Jenni Shaver, Westminster Schools of Augusta, Lower School
Additional SLMS were interviewed, but their responses were not received in time for inclusion.