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Your Library Media Specialist: More Than a Resource for Finding Books

My guest blogger this week is Mrs. Cecelia Carmenates, a library media specialist with Fairfax County Public Schools. Over the years we have been able work with teachers and students in our school to integrate literacy and technology in meaningful and creative ways.

Ah fall. The crisp air, the leaves of orange and gold, and the beginning of a new school year. As the buses start rolling and the students return to our hallways, I remember how eager I was as I child to get back to school. What new adventures awaited me, what new friends would I make, what new teachers would I meet, and what new things I would learn? The anticipation kept me awake those last weeks of summer.

As educators, we are familiar with the excitement and anticipation that fills our schools as a new year begins. Maybe we even feel a little of it ourselves. Certainly most of us return each year with the best of intentions to make this year a little better, do something a little different. So this year, as a part of those intentions, why not pay a visit to your school librarian?

Some of you may be good friends with your librarian and some may not even know who your librarian is. No matter where you fall in this spectrum, I encourage you to engage in a conversation with your librarian this year. They might just hold the magic ingredient in your recipe for something new this year.

Just what is it about school librarians that allow us to be privy to such powers? Allow me to point out three reasons: curriculum, connections and collaboration

Curriculum

We know the curriculum; our collection is built around it. We can match the best resources to your lessons. Forward us a copy of your assignments; we can suggest ways that will produce better work in less time and make both you and your students' lives easier. You might have a condition that unwittingly puts a roadblock on your students' path to success.

For example, you may require they use a book for an assignment on famous American scientist. Unbeknownst to you, your school library doesn't have biographies on several of the scientists on your list. Students start coming to you whining that there are no books on said scientist. They can't find anything!

In talking to your librarian you discover the school does have access to an electronic reference book with information on every scientist on your list. Plus, it's electronic so more than one student has access to it, no fighting over the Marie Curie biography.

Requiring students to find a current events article relating to math? Perhaps your librarian can suggest a periodicals database. Not only will your students find results quickly, they will more likely be on their reading level and they will be developing crucial 21st century skills like searching, retrieving and evaluating information from an online source.

Or perhaps your students need images from World War II for a poster or PowerPoint. If you leave it up to them, they will most likely do a Google image search. Not only are some of those images copyright protected, some are not at all appropriate for children.

Why not talk to your librarian. Most likely they will know here you can find images that are school appropriate and can be used without violating copyright law.

Remember, we spend the library budget on print and electronic materials that support your curriculum; we want you and your students to use them!

Connections

Not only do we know the curriculum; we know what the other teachers are teaching. Tell the librarian what you're planning; they might suggest that you talk to a teacher who did a fantastically successful lesson on that very same topic. They might point out that the Art teacher was just mentioning that he wanted to do a project that ties into the Social Studies unit you've been working on. Doing a poetry unit, the librarian and drama teacher are hosting a poetry slam; maybe you can give extra credit to your students who participate. Remember the school is a community of learners; teachers need to be an example of that ideal.

Librarians can be a very good connection in the school because we work with every grade and every subject.

Collaboration

Aside from curriculum and connections, we love to collaborate. Whether it's your rookie year or you're a vintage teacher, the school librarian simply wants to help you.

Contrary to some stereotypes, we are people people. We don't go into librarianship for the glitz and glamour, we do it because we love to help people find the information they need and because we love to promote literacy in anyway we can. We also love to learn. If we don't know the answer, we will find someone who does.

Budget cuts have you doing more with less; perhaps you often wish you had an assistant. Well, school librarians are teachers too. Not only do we have our master's degree in information science but we have taken graduate courses in education in order to be licensed educators.

Let us give you a hand! If you've got students who don't seem to be getting the material, and students who got it 2 weeks ago, why not talk to the librarian about an enrichment lesson. Librarians can work with a group of students on a project enhancing your curriculum while you work with your students who need a little more help.

Want to do something a little more than just the standard book report? Librarians love to talk about books and they're doing it in a wide variety of formats like blogs, wikis, and podcasts. Getting ready for a big research unit, include the librarian in your planning, we love to scour the Internet for reliable websites and create subject based pathfinders. There's one less thing for you to do.

So, once you've got your classroom routines down and the first hints of autumn arrive, think about touching base with your librarian this year, I bet they can come up with at least one way to make this year different, and a little better even if it's just that you discovered we have the best coffeemaker in the building.

Remember, we become librarians because we like to help people, and school librarians like to help teachers teach and students learn.

We want to be a part of the game so put us in coach, we're ready to play!

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