LBSC 640 Kathleen Ortiz November 11, 2009

Library Observation and Analysis

For my library observations, I chose two public schools from Montgomery County and one public school from D.C. I visited Cold Spring Elementary because it is the school one of my daughters attends. Cold Spring is a small neighborhood school with about 400 students. It has both GT and regular programs for its students. Christine Little has been the librarian there for two years. Prior to being a librarian, Christine was a third grade teacher in a Montgomery County School. She received her IT degree from the Towson program. As a new librarian, she was well aware of the SLMS mission and guidelines for developing 21st century literacy skills in her students. Cold Spring¶s library is very much the heart of the school both in the physical space it occupies and how the entire school utilizes it. In D.C, I visited Stuart Hobson Middle School which is part of a cluster community of schools on Capitol Hill. This Middle School has about 400 students. I chose this school because I used to live in that neighborhood. Janice McKinnon has been a teacher and librarian for the past 20 years. She is a graduate of the Maryland MLS program. She is retiring at the end of this year. It has a strong mission developed since its inception of community outreach and involvement. As first a parent, then a teacher and librarian, Janice McKinnon, has been an integral part of the school¶s growth. She is currently looking for a replacement for herself and struggling with leaving what she has created behind. Moreover, the entire D.C. public school system is very much in crisis. Teachers are demoralized and stressed.

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There is very little budget for library development. Janice has faced these challenges and solved them in the school¶s program in a unique way that utilizes the school¶s strong ties to its community. Finally, I visited Winston Churchill High School in Montgomery County. Churchill is a large, well-established, blue ribbon high school with about 2000 students. The librarians are Paige Pagley and Andrea Christman. The library program is dynamic and well supported with both materials and staffing. They are extremely busy and vibrant librarians that work to maintain the high level of academic excellence throughout the school and also support the SLMS mission to ensure that ³students and staff are effective users of ideas and information.´ Churchill¶s library program is very much on task. Teachers work closely with the librarians to teach effective resource use. All three library program focus on the school mission to develop 21st century learning skills in ways that meet their user needs, are aligned with their school culture and make advantageous use all the resources available to them. Each of the three library programs work to meet their user needs to develop literacy skills in different ways. Each school is directed toward a different population of students: elementary, middle and high school. Although each library collection contains a varied assortment of fiction and non-fiction books, videos, online resources, and magazines, each collection is geared toward the level and needs of the student population it serves. As an elementary school, Cold Spring¶s library contains a wide variety of easy readers and picture books as well as more complex materials. Christine has also located web links appropriate for research for her students¶ ages as well as school curriculum. The science books are for the most part picture-oriented. The magazines as well are much more visual in nature. Christine is currently working on weeding the collection. The library is small and many of the books, particularly the fairytales, are old and dirty. She has found that books in bad condition are
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not appealing to her users. The technology in the library is a major draw for the faculty. They come to the library to use the promethean board and lab computers with their students. Christine is able to utilize this resource to create opportunities for collaboration and support curriculum with these resources. Stuart Hobson¶s library also has a wide range of book resources. The students find them useful in many of the projects they work on. In particular, the library houses a school archive that is utilized by the 8th grade social sciences teacher in a research project/presentation that her 8th graders do. Recently, a grant was received from the Institute of Museum and Library services to preserve these historical documents and hire an archivist to organize the materials so that they may be utilized more fully. This collection is slowly being integrated into the library¶s resources. The library computers are also used by students for research. They have no subscription databases so the students rely on filtered web research. Janice spends a great deal of time monitoring this usage and guiding students to credible websites for research. The library space itself displays many of the student projects and work as well as school textbooks and the school archive project. Four years ago, the library was gutted and redone with funds from The Friends of the Library organization. It received entirely new shelving, furniture, and books at the time. Janice feels that the collection serves the needs of her users but that the shelving design is slightly impractical and the wiring is totally inadequate. These are issues that would need to be addressed by a new librarian with the school in the future. Churchill¶s library is state of the art. Its collection contains many videos, books, magazines, newspapers and online resources for the students to use. Located next to the library is the TV lab so that can be utilized as well when called for. The library contains both a promethean board and smart board. Currently the smart board is used more as a projector
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because of software incompatibilities. The library staff utilizes all resources when working with both teachers and students to develop literacy skills and enhance content study. New materials are attractively displayed and different areas of the library are utilized for different purposes. One of the staff members remarked to me that she felt that the library had the ³right balance of books and technology´ for their students¶ needs. All three libraries consider the needs of their users in collaborative projects and as a consequence approach collaboration in slightly different ways. At Cold Spring, Christine has both flexible and scheduled library time with all students. She generally sees all students at least once a week. On the day I was there, she worked with two GT Language Arts classes. Some of the students read book reviews for audio casts that are uploaded to the school website. Christine then used the promethean board to teach a lesson on using the online catalog and locating books in the library. The students then completed a scavenger hunt using the catalog to find books they wanted to check out. Christine worked with the students to help them understand the library layout and signage to locate their books. At Stuart Hobson, the students use the library for many different projects. Most notable is the archive social sciences project. One student last year when using the archives asked Janice what a milkman was. This question led to the student doing research and a project on careers held by people in the area back in the ³old days.´ Janice has found that collaboration with teachers has become more difficult since the increase pressure in testing within the district. She has worked with teachers to set up collaborative blogs with other schools in the U.S. and other countries. She also utilizes her community to supplement the library services. On the day I was visiting, she held a book club during lunch with a librarian from NE Public Libraries. The students were able to hear about new books in a genre and check them out there.
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At Churchill, pathfinders are developed for research that are accessible in the library, classroom and on the website from remote locations. On the day I was there, the AP English class was working on a pathfinder research paper on ³Hamlet.´ The computers were utilized but also books and articles pulled for them as well. The research was guided but the students had free rein to work through the period on what they needed. The ninth grade class incorporated learning about Noodle tools in a group research project on ³To Kill a Mockingbird.´ Both teacher and librarian taught them how to use all aspects of the web application and to share results with their project partner. Again, both online and print resources were utilized. On both the Cold Spring and Churchill website, collaborative projects and pathfinders are highlighted as well as multimedia projects. Of the three programs, the Stuart-Hobson library is the most lacking in this area. The librarian does collaborate with teachers but finds that many just send students with assignments already developed. The school uses flexible scheduling and Janice sees it as somewhat of a drawback in that she cannot always work with all of the students. Moreover, with curriculum/test pressures, she is finding teachers have less time to develop collaborative projects. She also does not maintain a page on the school website and perhaps does not outreach to her teachers as well as her students and community. But even in these stressful circumstances, some collaboration is occurring. In each school, all available resources and avenues are used to support student learning. Each school library program demonstrated an awareness of the school¶s own mission and the need to align literacy skills with those goals. The Cold Spring website states that the school promotes life-long learning for its students as well as supporting their current learning needs. The library supports this mission in its emphasis on guiding students in exploring their world. Reading for pleasure is emphasized in the book reports as well as reading for curriculum content.
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The students used the on line catalog to locate books that were relevant to them. Moreover, the audio casts emphasized why these individuals enjoyed these particular books. The online pathfinders and resources are age appropriate but challenging to the students as well. StuartHobson emphasizes that it is a community cluster of schools that prepares their students for both high school but also involvement in their community. They promote the rich history of their of the library¶s budget comes from community sources and the PTA as opposed to the D.C. public school system. Janice utilizes her knowledge of the community to help enrich the student¶s experiences within the school. She also utilizes this alignment with the community and the school mission to further develop library resources for her students. Churchill high school takes great pride in the academic success of its students and providing them with state of the art resources to achieve their goals. The library works to maintain the standards of literacy skills in keeping with that mission. The research done at the library is well coordinated with subject content and employs information literacy in all areas of technology and print resources. In this way, each school librarian has worked to make the library programs an integral part of the school¶s culture. All three school library media programs make advantageous use of all resources to meet their user needs on the individual student level, the faculty/class and school community levels. While each library serves a unique user group within the school system at varied ages and developmental stages, each focuses on developing skills for effective information use. Each library manages within the confines of the culture they have found themselves. The Montgomery County schools do not have access to blogs and many collaborative Web 2.0 applications but they do support multi-media learning within the school network utilizing pathfinders, subscription resources, and multi-media presentations. The D.C. school lacks the budget for subscription resources, promethean boards and other cutting edge technology, but is able to use

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free Web 2.0 applications for blogs and guided research. Moreover, the rich support of the Capitol Hill community with its strong network of museums and libraries widens the scope of learning at Stuart Hobson Middle School. Janice uses the community support to work around budget constraints. The Montgomery County schools utilize their strong budget to work around other roadblocks. None of these programs exist in either a vacuum or a perfect world. Each has challenges that require resourceful strategic thinking. However, I did not hear one librarian in my observations express the opinion that this library program was ³theirs.´ The emphasis was entirely focused on their users and how to provide them with the support needed to develop their information literacy skills and turn their students into lifelong learners.

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