SCHOOL LIBRARIANS SHINE!
Welcome to Library Lions interviews Raising a Roar for libraries and the outstanding librarians serving youth in schools and public libraries across the U.S. Please Roar today’s guest, Librarian Rebecca Moore.
I am one of three librarians at The Overlake School in Redmond, Washington. We are a 5th-12th grade coed independent school and all 520 students share the library, which has 20,000 print volumes, 1,300 eBooks, 40 databases, 17 camcorders and still cameras, 75 print magazines, and 56 computers.
I love working with the students, whether it be helping them find resources for a project, helping them choose a great book to read, or laughing at their entry in the annual Bad Writing Contest. I love surrounding them with an atmosphere of learning and literature, where it’s not only okay to enjoy research, reading, and writing, but it’s also fun! And of course, I get to read the books as well.
I also enjoy going to conferences with other school librarians and learning what they do in their libraries, and talking about all the new developments, technologies, programs, books, issues, etc. that affect all our libraries. The community of independent school librarians is an energetic and collaborative one; you can always find someone to help you with any issue, whether it’s figuring out what book a student is looking for (“It was blue, and had a girl in Paris with a magic elevator or something…”), or getting opinions on the latest method for delivering eBooks to students and faculty. We call our AISL (Association of Independent School Librarians) and ISS (Independent Schools Section of the American Library Association) listservs our “collective brain,” and often consult them.
School libraries are a vital and underappreciated link in a student’s education. As the universe of information continues to grow exponentially, the need for the ability to find, comprehend, and credit high-quality, relevant information will also grow. Librarians and library programs exist to help students and teachers master these skills, and learn how to adapt and apply them even when schooldays lie far behind them. School libraries also strive to imbue students with a love of books and reading, which studies have shown not only aid in academic achievement, but offer lifelong benefits as well. Libraries celebrate information and stories in whatever form they occur, and offer the navigation tools necessary to take full advantage of them.
We have so many middle school contests and activities it’s hard to choose! We do a Bad Writing contest, a literary character smackdown,
The Photo Finish contest
Story in a Tweet, Food Haiku, Book Spine Poetry, the Green/Gold Readathon, Author Visits and more. Something special for 2012-14 is my chairing the Top Shelf Fiction for Middle School committee for VOYA library magazine, with which Overlake students help out by reading and commenting on books nominated for the list. Several of their comments will make the final list published in the magazine.
“The Overlake library Is a great place to read or do homework and if you don’t have any homework it provides a fun place to hang out with friends.” –Michael, 6th grade
“I thought there was no escape from reality—books proved me wrong.” –Nina, 8th
So many funny things happen here it’s hard to choose! There was the time we looked up at our clerestory windows (at least 15 feet up), and saw a ninja stealing along the roofline—we later learned that students were making a video. Then there was the time I heard guitar playing outside and went out to find a student playing the guitar—also on the roof! Another student smuggled an amp into a study room under the mistaken impression that the room was soundproof. It wasn’t. Then there was the girl who had come up with an elaborate scheme to invite a boy to Tolo, which involved the librarians playing along.
House of Hadesby Rick Riordan. Riordan is, hands down, the most popular writer for middle schoolers these days. His books have an irresistible combination of action, adventure, fantasy, humor, suspense, mystery, and a large cast of characters who each have their own unique personality and issues, so that readers really care about what happens to them. The books also have roots in worlds already familiar to students—the modern world, and classic mythology—which also helps readers connect with the books. Few authors have Riordan’s ability to combine humor and seriousness with the right balance: J.K. Rowling, Jonathan Stroud, Brandon Mull, Angie Sage, and John Stephens are some others who get it right. As to why this particular book is popular, it’s the most recent entry in Riordan’s series about Percy Jackson and his friends, and the most recent book is always in demand!
I think the key to a great author visit is choosing the right author for the visit. You need someone who is both a great writer for middle schoolers—humor, fantasy, science fiction, mystery, and action adventure are the most popular genres—and a great presenter both in small classes and large auditoriums.
Good communication, attention to detail, and punctuality is also key on both ends. We want to make sure we know beforehand what technology the author needs, to have the schedule set, and to have the myriad other details well in hand to avoid that last minute panic!
Our greatest success has been with authors who can hold students’ attention, particularly when speaking to the whole middle school. It takes lots of energy and humor, and a polished presentation that also feels natural. Students love to be included in the presentation in some way, whether as volunteers for something or just having their questions answered. Most of our successful presentations have also included the author telling about themselves as middle schoolers (with embarrassing photos), and how that younger self connects to their current self as a writer. It’s also important to talk about the books, to get students excited about them, particularly as we always have books available for purchase and signing.
One aspect of the Library program that particularly excites us is how teachers and students currently utilize our databases and eBooks. Some teachers, especially in the history and science departments, are moving away from traditional text books and now use the databases and eBooks to fill in. Our roar is that the Library had those resources in place so that when the teachers and students needed them, we had the sources readily available. As an example, our ABC-Clio Ancient World History database racked up 19,850 searches this fall; an increase from 7,717 last fall. It thrills us to see teachers and students adopting and utilizing our resources.
An anticipatory roar is that the Library is moving closer to becoming a true Learning Commons, with more flexible spaces for students and teachers to spread out and work on projects, and an ever-increasing collection of resources. As the school moves towards BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), we hope that losing our banks of student computers will add to our flexible space.
Thank you, Rebecca for your terrific interview!