Shortly before we flew back to Germany, we took another look at two interesting and unusual school library configurations, one at the Crooms Academy of Information Technology , the other at the Tuskawill Middle School .
Technology and Reading. The Crooms Academy of Information Technology, Sanford FL
As we enter the lobby of the Crooms Academy of Information Technology in Sanford, the first thing we see is the glass door leading to the school library. It’s located right in the middle of the school. Next we notice how the server closets, as befits a school with a focus on IT, are openly displayed behind glass walls. And we read on an abundance of plaques that we are at a venerable and successful school. As the headline of a newspaper article posted on the wall puts it: “One of the Top High Schools in the USA.”
It’s also surprising and impressive that the school enhances its technical focus—the curriculum includes courses on web design, Java and C++—with a focus on reading as well. So there is a Literacy Council Group, which includes Dr. Ray along with the reading teacher and the acting principal.
Another feature of the school is that, with only around 600 students, it is very small by American standards. So the teaching staff is deployed with considerable flexibility. Many teachers teach two subjects, and even the school librarian has further duties as senior class advisor. She’s the contact person during the final year if there are any questions about graduation. Such extra and cross-sectional duties are invaluable for integrating the library into the school.
We also learn that there’s a lot possible at this school that simply isn’t elsewhere. Close partnership with businesses brings in the money to facilitate a wide variety of things.
After just three short hours we leave a small but very good school library, which here, as per the strategy, is called the „cyber center.“
Houses Like in Harry Potter: The Tuskawilla Middle School, Oviedo FL
As we go up to the entrance to the Media Center of this Oviedo-area school, a surprise awaits us. School librarian Vicki Evelyn and her students have made a welcome poster in German and hung it over the door. We feel welcome from the first instant.
We experience the second surprise when they explain the concept of the school to us. Here you work in houses that are designated for the individual grades. Everything necessary for conducting class in the house is available in the immediate vicinity.
But at second glance you notice the lack of technical literature. The library is completely geared toward the individual houses and whatever is being taught in them at the time. So there are three additional library spaces for nonfiction. Astounding!
Asked whether the system works, Vicki Evelyn answers that she had found the concept interesting. Classwork had been the focus as it was being developed. Still, in reality it demands significantly more resources, in both personnel and supplies. And of course it’s been difficult to always specifically allocate nonfiction library materials to one house or another.
In my mind I add that it’s not only a matter of personnel and allocation by grade. In Germany we promote reading all the time—even for children—with nonfiction literature. Employing a strategy whereby technical materials are so specifically geared toward individual class instruction can’t make things very easy.
Overseeing four libraries would be a challenge for any library director, and Vicki has only one assistant as support staff. This is made up for—at least in terms of basic services like loans and shelving—by the help of “Peer Helpers.” Students with good grades and teacher recommendation can apply for these positions. After a brief training period, they’re ready to process loans using the library software (HORIZON).
Such strategies don’t work on their own. I left the library firmly convinced that success here depends on Vicki Evelyn’s ability to motivate the students, and to rouse and foster their sense of responsibility.
Wednesday, 24. November 2010
The School Library Reconsidered: The Crooms Academy of Information Technology and Tuskawilla Middle School
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