Tricia London is the Library Director at the Avon Middle High School and a 2016 Super Librarian
Our library has room for collaborative projects and classroom teaching at the same time. We have comfy couches and cushy chairs, great for reading. Our technology includes a SmartBoard and response clickers, Apple TV, Ipad cart, recording software and microphones etc. We were using green screens back in 2009. We have physical books, e-books, board games, SAT prep flashcards, puzzles, and K'NEX for building things We let students borrow knitting needles. Student art is displayed and concerts are held in the Library. One of my first memories of our library included a half dozen students, two sewing machines, an English teacher and a music teacher stitching together giant banners for a Multicultural Celebration. This is the kind of activity that has been going on for almost a dozen years. If you ask students, our library is a place where people come together to investigate, create, learn and grow (as well as charge their cell phone and emotional batteries.) We do all of these things in our friendly, flexible Library.
We have interesting space with seven doors into the library. One leads to the adjoining computer lab augmenting the twenty computers in the main section of the library. One door leads to the kitchen, helpful when we are preparing food for a Victorian Tea or a Diversity Club luncheon. When I arrived the space had just been renovated with new carpet, tables, chairs and bookshelves. The library is not always quiet and tidy (particularly this year as I’m in the middle of a major reorganization). I am in the process of weeding many books and modifying Mr. Dewey, a story for another day. We do however still have many books left on the shelves.
Since we are both a middle school AND a high school, our physical collection is larger than most school libraries because we must include materials written at a fifth grade level as well as materials appropriate for eighteen year old AP students. I find our students still need physical books. As the person who buys the YA e-books and audiobooks for the Commonwealth E-book Collection, it’s a little embarrassing to confess that our students still prefer physical books. As a teacher I need to bluntly say that I notice students synthesize material from multiple sources much better if they use physical books. There is less of a tendency to blindly copy and paste from the internet without really understanding what a source is saying. I’m not a crazy Luddite. I LOVE and use technology. Where would my life be without Flubaroo? I just think that physical books help students slow down so they can learn how to research in a mindful way.
How do students use our library? The library is a gathering space before school opens. Before school you might find about a fifth of our 350 students in the library playing video games, chatting on couches or comfy chairs, frantically printing out last minute papers. Some kids might be listening to Stephanie, a freshmen who reads us a daily inspirational calendar quote. One period a day I teach an Information Literacy class to seventh or eighth graders. The class is thirty days in duration. We learn about Information Hierarchy with 150 Beanie Babies as we tackle Taxonomy. We believe in project based learning. Our eighth grade knitting project is something students both look forward to (and dread). Students come to the library throughout the day with their class or for a study. Since I coach the Academic Decathlon team, twice a week we have team lunches in addition to after-school practice on Thursday. I’m the advisor for the Diversity Club so the Library is home for these students too. We are technically only open until three, but in reality it is more like 4:00 or later (especially during basketball season). We have Library Traditions such as Senior Sendoffs.
The Library extends beyond the physical space with a vibrant library Facebook page (“liked” mostly by parents and school committee members, also part of our school community.) We have a Twitter Account but, as you can probably guess, Mrs. London talks too much to really enjoy tweeting. Our students have online 24 hour access to resources. Our database statistics show that students and teachers use what the library offers and our e-book statistics continue to improve.
I am writing this reflection at the beginning of National Library Week thankful it is not “Learning Commons Week,” or “Media Center Week.” Libraries have been around since the 600’s BCE and the term has lasted; we will stick with our Library.
Tricia London - School Librarian
(who hopes her title is never changed to Learning Commons Facilitator because it takes too long to type.)
P.S. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, see for yourself what we do.