The library media center at my school, Richmond Elementary in Richmond Vermont, has received an enormous gift: a pilot year with a flexible schedule. It’s the ideal situation for school library work: an opportunity for collaborative teaching and creative learning far beyond what fits into a fixed schedule of once-a-week library classes. Please join me for the journey.
In May 2015 I was fortunate enough to hear Athens, Georgia library media specialist Andy Plemmons speak at the Dynamic Landscapes conference in Burlington, Vermont. I have followed Andy and his library media center on Twitter for several years, and I was looking forward to hearing more about the amazing learning that goes on in his library. Students at Barrow Media Center benefit tremendously from their media center’s innovative programs, which Andy documents on his media center blog, Expect the Miraculous. Andy’s keynote presentation was fantastic: you can see his Google presentation here and and the video of his keynote here.
At Dynamic Landscapes I learned Andy is able to provide these programs because his library media center has a flexible schedule and a schoolwide commitment to collaborative teaching. Andy and his classroom teachers meet quarterly to plan library work for the upcoming months. This flexibility allows classes to visit the library when it makes sense for them, in connection with their curriculum units, rather than once a week whether that fits with their learning or not. It also gives Andy the flexibility to plan activities like a student book budget group that uses a whole host of cross-disciplinary skills to identify new books to order for the library — talk about Problem-Based Learning! The Barrow Media Center can also offer this kind of flexibility because students are empowered to visit the library and check their own library books in and out regardless of whether another class is already using the library.
As I looked at Andy’s library and at mine, it was clear there were three major differences. Additional budget and staffing was not one of them; our libraries are very similar in terms of staffing levels, and Andy’s library actually serves more students and more grade levels than mine. The differences lie in the Barrow Media Center’s flexible schedule, culture of collaborative teaching, and students’ ability to check their own books in and out. So these were the areas I decided to work on during this year of change.