Mass. High School Realizes Dream of Providing Library Resources to All

Article excerpt

As you travel along the 'Pike through central Massachusetts to the rural western part of the state, you will find that your stereotypical vision of a small town seems pretty accurate - unless you turn off the main road at Exit 8 and visit the high school in Palmer.

A modern glass facade rises from the trees, suggesting the presence of a progressive spirit in this quiet town of 12,000.

After touring the school's library media center, one discovers that, although Palmer students are far away from a major metropolitan area, access to the entire world lies at their fingertips.

* Turning Vision into Reality

Much of the credit for the expansive library resources offered at Palmer Public Schools goes to Donna Guerin, director of library media and information services. A media specialist at Palmer High School since 1979 and former English department chair, Guerin continually formulates state-of-the-art resource scenarios, then proceeds to turn vision into reality.

One day in 1984, Guerin says, she "grew tired of the lines of students" at the few computers that were equipped with periodical databases. She envisioned each student from a class sitting at a terminal performing research and accessing information simultaneously.

By 1989, Guerin had already educated herself about several promising new technologies and had become active in library and education associations. At the same time, plans for a new high school were underway.

The building project, for which Guerin was a member of the technology committee, gave her the opportunity to propose the library of her imagination. She quickly sought the advice of a system consultant. "I knew what I wanted, I just didn't technically know how to get there," she explains.

Michael DiBari of Systems Software Support, located in Northfield, Mass., helped implement a LAN that connected Palmer High and the nearby elementary school via fiber optic link. As a result, computer labs and administrative systems at both sites are now all networked through two central file servers.

* Configuration Supports Growth

In addition, the schools' library media centers and CD towers are accessible from multiple locations on either campus. This configuration facilitates a redirection of educational focus from text-based toward resource-based learning. It also supports the inevitable changes, enhancements and growth in technology.

Students use the network in all places of instruction to access and retrieve information for their research projects. Guerin collaborates with teachers across all disciplines to develop relevant projects. She and the teachers bring classes to a computer lab, where each student sits at a terminal and loads the library's resource menu, which lists its many databases. …