CMLE recognizes that change is afoot in schools and media centers. Change is also happening at CMLE as we have a new strategic plan that includes a refined focus on serving school media centers. Because of this, it’s a perfect time for CMLE staff to reach out and connect with our K-12 media centers.
Part of this outreach includes visits to school media centers and Monday I had the great pleasure of visiting Maria Burnham at Sauk Rapids Rice High School (SRRHS). As Maria and I tried to identify a “typical” day for the visit, we recognized that we could do our best in choosing the most probable day, but things always change. There are always the unexpected fires to put out that you had not planned for, which are the types of activities that often demonstrate to the school how very indispensable you are!
One of the things we do during our visit is gather information about your school and media center. We are getting requests from librarians who would like to “shadow”, or walk alongside another type of librarian for a day. CMLE manages this shadowing program, and arranges the matches, so by gathering this information during the school visit, we are better able to provide a good match. For example, a college librarian may want to specifically shadow a media specialist in a 1:1 initiative school. Why? College librarians are beginning to ask themselves questions about how these students will engage or thrive in a college setting, which is still for the most part based on computer labs and the reading of print items like scholarly articles, sometimes, lengthy scholarly articles. Should they consider making changes in how they teach at the college in an attempt to provide a smoother transition between high school and college?
Anyway, Maria and I quickly polished off the data gathering portion of the visit, and moved into her fast-paced day. I learned that Maria finished her media degree and began working for SRRHS in 2011. Maria also has the good fortune of having media paraprofessionals, and she is not confined to covering any prep time for teachers. So, her schedule is flexible, but typically packed with a great balance of students, staff, and media center/books.
I was with Maria for 5.5 hours, and in that time I witnessed a consummate professional. She moved easily between the media center and four short but powerful teaching sessions in labs throughout the morning. As we moved between settings, she put out fires along the way, and always circled back to the media center to check emails for problems or checking for her flashing message light which typically signals some emergency situation. She keeps her cool and gets a lot done along the way. Everyone seemed to know her and by the quick conversations, it was easy to see that she has embedded herself well in her school in a relatively short amount of time.
One of my favorite takeaways from my visit with Maria was her ability to market the media center and herself. Every Monday, Maria sends an email called Mondays with Maria, which is a tech tip message for teachers and administrators. She tries to make the tips practical;things that can easily be implemented to solve problems. On this Monday, Maria wrote a message about using Google Docs to arrange a holiday potluck, rather than a sign up sheet in one physical location. Each week she also does an “Appy Hour” message, where she shares information about an app. And finally, she typically sends a message each week promoting new books or services in the media center, or in this case, encouraging students and staff to check out some books to read over the holiday break! Using these marketing strategies along with her presence as an invited co- teacher and troubleshooter/lifesaver, Maria keeps her name, expertise, and promotion of the physical media center easy to see.
When asked, “What parts of your job keeps you up at night?” Maria did not hesitate. Her circulation statistics are not increasing, and she wonders what will happen to literature? Will students still read good literature? And, with such interest in Google searching, will students push harder to get the really good quality information, rather than adopting a “good enough” attitude. These are commendable things to ponder, and probably haunt many caring professionals. In a nutshell, I had a great time, learned lots, and came away knowing that the Sauk Rapids Rice High School media center is in very capable hands!
During our school visits, we hope to learn more about school media centers and the services they provide. We also hope to describe the type of services CMLE can offer, and explore additional ways that CMLE might be of service. We strive to make these visits a mutually beneficial experience, and in this case, I believe it was just that!