Magazine article Multimedia & Internet@Schools

From Musty Old Library to 21st-Century Program

Magazine article Multimedia & Internet@Schools

From Musty Old Library to 21st-Century Program

Article excerpt

CONTRARY to popular belief, musty libraries haven't disappeared; they are there, waiting for media specialists who love challenge and change.

Perhaps you've been hired to upgrade a 1950s-era school library into a media center and program for the 21st century! A media specialist who worked in a rural Southern school district wrote to me that there were no computers in the media center or any of the classrooms there. With the exception of an automation system, an elementary media center I visited last spring could have been the '60s-era library I inherited more than 30 years ago. Those places still exist, even in schools with state-of-the-art technology and a strong technology integration program. Perhaps you inherited a musty library or were hired to make change. Maybe you are the school's first media specialist. Where do you start?

Defining Your Objectives, Finding Your Partners

What end results do you want to see? Quite likely, it's an updated, inviting facility with enough technology to support student learning, an up-to-date-collection, and a program that meets the needs of today's learners. Talk to people at your school. Ask what they like and what they would like to see changed. You can do this even while deciding whether to take the job. Begin preliminary planning. Temper your enthusiasm and ideas with an understanding about the very slow pace of change in education. It doesn't matter how eager and energetic you are. Ultimately, it's up to you and the relationship you establish with others in the school.

Consider the people who approach you with ideas to be your first partners. Carol, a special education teacher, bounded in with an idea my first day at work. Her contagious enthusiasm contributed a great deal to the change process.

Work with the Carols in your school. Get to know the movers and shakers. Reach out to people your predecessor may not have worked with. One of my best partners in change was a "shop" teacher. Be sure to get to know and involve the information systems and technology support staff. They should be among your allies and partners as you plan for change.

Be mindful that many teachers don't know what kind of media program they want. I experimented with "focus groups," but quickly learned that people unfamiliar with anything but a '60s-era warehouse didn't know what they were missing. One-on-one conversations and modeling change went a lot farther. Many media specialists I've communicated with have commented on the positive responses to their new ideas. One noted, "Teachers and administrators have told me point blank on numerous occasions that they are so glad their 'last' librarian is not at our school and how shocked they are at what I do."

Trust your instincts and the people who hired you. If they want you to make change, trust that they will support you as you plan for change. Principals often know the existing program isn't what it should be, but don't know what it could be. The principal who hired me wanted a kid-friendly place. We moved in that direction when we set up the media center's first computer lab. The media center was no longer just a place to find information, but a place to produce and communicate information. Recognize that principals are busy people who might not be able to provide the hands-on, detailed support you want--or know how to support you when it's something new to them. Communicate often with the principal to educate, gain support, and ensure there aren't any surprises.

Attack the physical environment. Get rid of junk and clutter that so often invades libraries. Remove items that smack of the out-moded. Throw out old cardboard storage boxes; replace them with brightly colored banker-boxes if you can't afford nice cabinets. Put up bright posters, colorful displays, plants, flags, or whatever you can to spell out "inviting."

What about weeding? A secondary media specialist said she's worked in four media centers and began her job in all four with a thorough weeding. …

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