From August 15 -20, a group of eight American and Canadian School Librarians took part in a study tour to Germany.
On Friday, August 19, the group visited the School Library Working Place of the City Library of Frankfurt. Stacy B. Rosenthal of the Council Rock High School South in Holland, Pennsylvania shares her impressions:
Claudia Neitzel was also thrilled to have us visit her library at the Friedrich-Dessauer-Gymnasium . This school library, which serves just over 800 students that feed almost entirely from two composite schools (the Leibniz school and the Helene-Lange School), has over 6,000 titles, mostly non-fiction books, and 20 computers that can be used for internet access, research, and OPAC. This school has a very small fiction section because fiction is offered in the public library, which is right next door. Although students can visit the public library and check out materials, public library patrons can come to the school, but may not borrow materials.
Similar to Mrs. Marschhäuser at the Carl-von-Weinberg school, Mrs. Neitzel chooses books to order from annotated lists with reviews sometimes written by libraries. She also chooses books based off recommendations from students and teachers. Like my school library and the library at the Carl-von-Weinberg School, the school also provides access to information through databases and CD-ROMs. The databases are actually offered through the public library in Frankfurt, so every school has the same throughout the city.
The students, aged 16 and older, that attend the Friedrich-Dessauer-Gymnasium come prepared for a heavy workload, as they attend one of the composite schools from grades 5-9, then migrate to FDG for their remaining three years upon achieving suitable success there with real intentions of taking the German examinations. About 100 students that applied to FDG did not get accepted for the current school year. Students may choose to discontinue their education after 9th or 10th grade. While this school offers the same subjects as other secondary schools, arts, biology (but not chemistry), and sports are also offered. All students must take math and German. They can drop one natural science and they have a choice for history between geography and world history. The students have ten classes per day for about 45 minutes each. Some periods double and last for 90 minutes.
Several points that Mrs. Neitzel spoke about were interesting to me. First, she is evaluated informally by the school, but formally by the head of the public library. I have found throughout my career, and most of my colleagues in America agree, that when school administrators evaluate us, they do not know much about school libraries and what we do, so it would be nice to have someone evaluate us that is familiar with libraries. On the other hand, I am not sure if an external evaluator would fully understand the personality of each school that he or she needs to visit for evaluations.
Second, I found it interesting that there are no fines for overdue books for students at school, but there are fines for overdue books in the public library. Most secondary schools in America charge overdue fines.
Next, Mrs. Neitzel had a few interesting programs. She usually hosted an author visit at her school, something that we have done in the past at all levels and plan on doing again in the future. To promote literature, she had an activity titled “What’s Your Favorite Book?” in which she asked teachers to tell her their favorite book, then made a game using the teachers’ pictures and pictures of book covers. We have done a similar activity, mostly in the form of PR (public relations) around the school to promote reading and a display in the library, but I like the idea of an interactive activity. Activities such as these were collected into a cookbook by the public library. This binder, entitled sba-Curriculum (Schulbibliothekarische Arbeitsstelle included best practices for school librarians to use with their students in grades 1-10.
One activity that Mrs. Neitzel did with her students that many of us on the study tour really liked was her library orientation. At FDB, the students come to the library for a 90-minute orientation with a tutor. (Most of the tutors are also school teachers.) She puts the students into groups, which have 45 minutes to answer one of the following questions:
1. What do we have here? / What’s here?
2. How does borrowing / lending work?
3. How do I find something on a shelf? (How are the books arranged? What do the call numbers on the spine labels look like?)
4. When should I do research in the databases versus surf the internet to find information? (Databases vs. Google)
5. Search, Find, and Cite/Quote
(Using the table of contents and appendix, and how to do in-text citations)
6. Who is writing the information? Are they substantial/credible? What authority do they have on the topic? Is the writing authenticity?
7. Online and eLearning (electronic) – this leads the students to find sources outside of the library
After researching the answers to the above, the students then present their findings to their peers and Mrs. Neitzel fills in the pieces that they miss. We liked this type of orientation because the lesson required active participation and very little lecture by the librarian. I am going to attempt to translate Mrs. Neitzel’s activity from German to English for my colleagues in America and Canada so that we can adapt it for our libraries. This lesson has been a popular topic amongst those of us on the study tour since our visit!!!!