As a new school year begins, I find myself excited, exhilarated and overwhelmed all at once. My guess is that I’m not alone in experiencing these conflicting feelings that go along with the territory of being a school librarian/media specialist in today’s ever changing educational landscape.
This past year, our high school library was renovated to provide a more modern, up-to-date, technologically and visually pleasing learning commons area for our students. As with any major change in any organizational setting, the renovation created its share of controversy, from the number of books removed to the addition of a teen friendly café seating area, lounge chairs, new technology including computers, large screen TVs and even a colorful fish tank complete with living, breathing fish. Through the support of the Library Task Force, my high-energy, “can do” principal and our equally inspiring director of technology, the vision of a modernized and beautiful library space was realized.
Along the way, as mentioned, the journey was anything but smooth. I have a favorite Warner Brothers cartoon, “Punching the Timeclock,” that summarizes the ride. It stars Sam Sheepdog and Ralph the Wolf, who enjoy breakfast together, leave the house and go to work, thereafter spending the day attempting to “blow the bejeezus” out of one another until the 5:00 p.m. bell rings and both hold hands, exiting stage left together. This is perhaps an overly idealistic image but one I nevertheless embrace. It is important in this education business, and in the larger business of life, to engage all mental forces in debate and also to reach a peaceful resolution that all parties can live with…
As a librarian I am first and foremost a book lover at heart, so even knowing that these library space changes needed to happen for the sake of our students, I had tearful moments as I discarded the old to make way for the new. During our book giveaways for students, staff and community members I started to feel better as I watched students and staff eagerly stockpile and carry away armfuls of dog-eared classics.
Though I embrace the engaged learning that happens when the right technology tools are put into play in our schools, I will also continue to see the promotion of reading as an important part of my role. Books have less of a “wow” factor, certainly, than the large, shiny new desktop computers and portable laptops plus Ipads, but apparently they are still much loved by a large number of staff and students in my school community. I see this as no random accident, but the result of parents, teachers and other adult role models who have encouraged our students to value reading and the pursuit of knowledge in all forms, whether by weathered, yellowed print copy or on shiny electronic gadget.
Smiling widely as I enthusiastically greeted our ninth grade students at the door, I was delighted to see their equally smiling expressions as they glanced across the new library space during orientation activities. That space includes modernized technology, new books and also “nooks.”
If we can hold fast to our values as professionals and remain open to change and innovation at the same time; if we can respectfully dialogue about how best to implement that change, including all stakeholders; then we will serve our students and each other well on this “Jeweled Dance Floor.” In the words of David Bowie, “Let’s dance!”
Invited you to a party
In the ballroom tonight
Will be my special
How would you treat them
And Hafiz knows
There is no one in this world
Is not upon
His Jeweled Dance
Author: Cathy Collins
Ms. Collins has worked as a Media Specialist/Librarian for 14 years. She is currently a library media specialist at Sharon High School, where she has worked for the past four years. She began her career as a reporter who covered business, arts and education-related issues. While interviewing the headmaster at a private school, she realized that she wanted to combine her love of research and writing with a career in education. At that point, she returned to school for a Masters in Library Science and further graduate studies in educational leadership. Ms. Collins has published her writing in various journals including “Library Media Connection,” “NEA Today,” education-related blogs and websites including AASL’s “Knowledge Quest.” She is a 2012 Reynolds High School Journalism Institute Fellow and project consultant for the E-Book, “Searchlights and Sunglasses: Journalism in the Digital Age.” She received a “Teachers for Global Classrooms” fellowship from the U.S. State Dept. in 2014 and is the recipient of AASL’s Intellectual Freedom Award (2014) as well as a “Super Librarian” award bestowed by MSLA (Massachusetts School Library Association). She is a Massachusetts Library System Executive Board Member and has served on the MassCUE Board as PD Chair since 2013 along with the NEISTE Board. She earned National Board Certification as a Library/Media Teacher in 2009. In her spare time, she enjoys nature walks, reading, travel and yoga.