Igniting the Spark: Library Programs That Inspire High School Patrons

By Roger Leslie; Patricia Potter Wilson | Go to book overview

Introduction

On an ordinary work day several years ago, I changed my vision of what my school library media center should be. During first period, I began helping a class choose fiction for book reports. The reading teacher had only one selection criterion: The book had to contain at least 100 pages. To my frustration, it was the only criterion that the students used as well.

“What do you like?” I asked. “Adventure? Love stories? Horror?”

“Mr. Leslie, I hate to read, so I don’t care,” nearly every student replied. “Just make it 100 pages.”

I had witnessed this lack of interest evolve over many years and had even inadvertently contributed to what was becoming an epidemic problem. To meet student needs, I perused catalogs and reference materials such as Joni Richards Bodart’s The World’s Best Thin Books to order easy reading, high interest titles. Books by Avi, Jay Bennett, and Gary Paulsen, all excellent writers for middle school students, were squeezing out authors like Alice Walker and Walter Dean Myers, not to mention the greats whose classics now served only as dust mite headquarters worthy of a science experiment.

When I was an English teacher, I had successfully introduced seniors to Chekov, Kafka, even Joyce. As a school library media specialist trying to meet the needs of all grade levels, I watched my educational ideals fade under a desperate attempt to pull students into the library media center however I could. When studying my periodical circulation records that fateful day, I grew heartsick. Ninety percent of all magazine requests were for Low Rider and WWF, titles I initially refused to add to my collection.

Although these magazines may be both entertaining and useful in some contexts, the power they had wielded in my high school library media center embarrassed me. Instead of broadening the scope of my resources, I had merely lowered my expectations of what students could handle or even cared to attempt. It was a destructive cycle that I was determined to stop.

Originally, I had no greater vision for changing my professional focus than to make my facility more meaningful to patrons. But when Patricia Potter Wilson and I agreed to write a series of books on library programming, I realized that my own experience was the springboard for this second installment of the series.

The first work, Premiere Events: Library Programs that Inspire Elementary School Patrons, formed a natural blend of topic and audience: Programs can comprise the very core of elementary curriculum. But for the secondary level, I had concerns. Programs can be any activities, great or small, that support learning and encourage patrons to use the school library media center. However, like many of my contemporaries, I once perceived them as rare, sometimes unworkable additions to my daily responsibilities. I was wrong. As my co-author and I learned when surveying high school library media specialists throughout the country, and as we hope you will discover from their contributions to this book, library programs are not infrequent events that drain already overextended media specialists. Instead, just as they do at the elementary level, library programs invigorate, expand, and enrich the school library media center’s role in education. Just as important, they often distinguish the most successful specialists at award-winning high schools (many of whom contributed program ideas to this text) from media specialists slowly burning out from the new responsibilities that global education has demanded of us all.

-xv-

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