I had the opportunity to participate in the Elementary School Tour as part of the 2019 AASL National Conference on Thursday, November 14. During the tour, the group visited two elementary schools in Jefferson County Public Schools.
We started our visit at Norton Commons Elementary where librarian Kristina Bloch (@nces_library) and principal Allyson Vitato (@NCES_Knights) shared information about setting up a library in a new building and how the program continues to evolve. Then we traveled to Dunn Elementary School. Here librarian Erin Wallace (@LibraryDunn) shared how she collaborates with teachers and discussed how technology is integrated into projects.
I always learn a lot when visiting other libraries! Each library has its own identity, but common themes can be found in spaces that are focused on what is best for kids. As I sat back and compared the two libraries I was struck by the similarities. Below are four thoughts from the visit.
Both of these librarians use some form of a flexible schedule. They both have a fixed checkout time each week for classes. All other concepts and standards are incorporated into lessons that are co-taught with classroom teachers. They work with teachers to collaborate using Google Drive to collect materials. They shared how they consistently reach out to their colleagues with new ideas and lesson opportunities. The collaboration often starts with them, but as the lesson develops it becomes a team effort. The lessons and activities they shared were connected to the classroom curriculum so that everything was done to support the grade-level standards. As Wallace stated, “What I do matters more. The collaboration makes the content more meaningful.”
Both of these libraries were in schools that use project-based learning and STEAM lessons. They work to support this focus. During both tours, students were there to share their work. The students shared the process they used to create their projects. The technology the students used was to help them create their work and not something extra. Both schools used resources related to Google Apps for Education, coding, green screen technology, and a variety of other digital tools.
Reading and Information Literacy
Both of these libraries have made reading a priority. They shared how they incorporate time for book checkout and how they promote reading throughout their school community. Bloch shared how she loves to incorporate technology, but still wants to have the time to talk about books with kids and get them excited about reading.
Both schools are using the design thinking process as part of their STEAM focus. When students research it becomes a part of this process as well. In both libraries, you could see evidence of how students developed questions, collected information, reviewed what they had learned, and shared their work with others.
Advocacy Is Key
Both of these librarians seemed to have strong relationships with their administrators who support their goals. At Norton Commons, the principal shared that the library should be a priority and directly supports what is happening in classrooms.
Both of these librarians are sharing what they are working on regularly with their school community. They are continually reflecting on the strengths and challenges in their school libraries. Then they make changes that in the best interest of their students. I am glad I was able to meet them both!
Author: Kelly Hincks
I am the librarian at Detroit Country Day Lower School in Bloomfield Hills, MI. I have worked as a school librarian for the past eleven years. I was a classroom teacher for four years prior to that. I have worked in charter, public, and private schools. My favorite thing about being a school librarian is the opportunities I have to work both with students and teachers. I love the co-teaching opportunities and connections I have been able to make! I have served on AASL committees as a member and chair. I currently serve as secretary of my state association, Michigan Association of School Librarians (MASL).