Archive » May 10, 2012
The 21st century librarian – a need revisited
By SaraLloyd Truax, Staff Writer
When it comes to school librarians, it is like getting three professionals for the price of one.
Replacing retiring Vicki Storey with a certified librarian is high on the English Departments’ list of priorities. During the April Santa Ynez Valley Union High School Board meeting, the English Department made its annual presentation and, at the board’s request, presented a “wish list” for the future.
“The board has always been very supportive of having a librarian,” says Peggy Kelly, who worries current economic woes might get in the way of common sense. Storey’s job is about so much more than just keeping the school’s books organized. Kelly doesn’t believe replacing her with a non-certified teacher librarian will serve the school well.
“What we will see if we lose the library position is the unraveling of the very successful programs that helped our kids become better readers, better writers and stronger critical thinkers. I believe that the library and the librarian are mission critical for an effective English program and certainly for my senior classes,” says Tory Babcock.
Quietly hiding in the library from the acclaim she deserves, Storey is one of the few people on campus virtually every student develops a relationship with on some level or another over their tenure at the school. Kelly says all of her students report positive relationships with Storey because of the level of help she provides.
Storey does so much more than just help guide students to literature that will pique their interest in reading and learning. Although Storey does a lot of that, Kelly says.
“Some of my classes are assigned quarterly outside reading books of different genres,” says Jo Ann Reck. “So, we go to the school library where Vicki pulls books of the required genre (i.e. biography, non-fiction, etc.) that especially suit the grade and type of class I am bringing.”
Storey’s vast experience helps her to know which groups of students are interested in which types of books, and allows her to be sensitive to the needs of student who can’t afford to simply go out and buy one. Storey makes sure the library has on hand plenty of clean copies of the books students want to read so no student is “stuck with what’s left over,” says Kelly.
“It is an invaluable help to have such a knowledgeable librarian aiding in expanding the love of reading to SYHS students,” acknowledges Jo Ann Reck.
For students with reading difficulties, Storey downloads audio versions of books to student iPods and even adjusts the speed at which books plays to mirror a student’s reading pace. It is one small way she turns, what before was sheer frustration, into a more pleasant and productive endeavor, says Kelly.
“You’d be amazed how many times you go in the library and she’s helping a student who is struggling to write a paper,” Kelly adds. Although there is a computer lab, Kelly takes her students to the library to use the computers there, instead. It gives her an extra set of eyes and hands to help.
Having a librarian is a huge help. Storey can set up a network so students can easily edit each other’s papers on line, keeping each student’s notes separate which allows both the author and the teacher to make full use of the edits, says Kelly.
Kelly isn’t the only teacher to make good use of the librarian’s mastery of computer issues. “Six to eight classes a day will go through there using the computer while at the same time, another class or two might be in their checking out books.” The bottom line, says Kelly, is that the library is a busy place – a huge resource for students and teachers alike. To put someone in there without Storey’s skills will set school achievements back instead of forward.
“There is a close nexus between our past success on critical reading and writing tests and the number and quality of books available for our kids. Thanks to Vicki’s efforts, the English department’s free reading program is highly successful,” says Babcock. But Storey’s interaction isn’t limited to students. A teacher librarian is also a media specialist, and in that capacity, helps teachers when they have software issues. In addition, she aids in the identification of new programs that assist teachers – especially when it comes to developing the 21st century projects the school requests, says Kelly.
When the new online grade book was implemented, it was Storey teachers went to with issues. She is the one who assists the non-technically inclined teachers with their webpages, email issues and other problems as they arise. Where would teachers turn without someone with Storey’s expertise always on hand ready to help, Kelly asks?
Kelly says Storey is a wonderful collaboration partner on research projects for both her and students. Storey is available to help shape and define the new high-interest projects. Once that is accomplished, she often comes back to class to help present the project to students, giving clues on where pertinent information might be found. It is something at which Storey excels.
And, says Kelly, Storey or any teacher librarian will assist teachers outside the English Department as well. Whether the research project is assigned in a history, or science or even media class, the extra training a teacher librarian has makes them a strong resource for all students, even those with special needs.
One of the other wishes the teacher’s presented to the board is to keep class sizes down. “It hasn’t been too bad yet,” says Jeff Reck, expressing his hope the board will do what it can to keep it that way. Class size will impact test scores, a significant issue raised the Department’s presentation.
Starting with STAR testing, department chair Jeff Reck noted that the scores for the junior class – while high compared with other schools in the county – always come in lower than their peers at Santa Ynez. This, he says, is simply because “the junior test is the hardest.”
Nonetheless, the scores of students testing either proficient or advanced have risen since 2008 from 54% to 65% in 2011. English 1 and 2 attained results of 78% and 69%, respectively.
But, Reck says, when it comes to certain sub-groups taking the California High School Exit Exam, or CAHSEE, “there is definitely a lot of work to be done.” Last year, the department beefed up the attention paid to those students still learning to speak English and those coming from socially disadvantaged families.
Jo Ann Reck says that these students tend to peak in fourth grade and then their performance falls off as the support they receive diminishes. “They don’t get enough support outside of school,” she says. “We need to keep their programs going, because if is not sustained, they will lose the progress they make.”
One program to help students functioning below grade level is Read 180, says Barbara Landon. For eight years now, Read 180 has focused on comprehension, reading fluency, spelling and vocabulary. It is taken in addition to regular English classes. Many students achieve mastery in one or two years.
This year the department started helping students prepare earlier and more aggressively for the CAHSEE. “I felt pretty good about my three classes,” says Jeff Reck. He notes that Melanie Dickey “does an amazing job with the kids that struggle the most.” He also acknowledges that programs cost money – “it’s tough to pull off” – but it also impacts the school’s standing with respect to the No Child Left Behind Act. Not having the programs can be costly as well.
Last year’s 21st century learning project base on Toni Morrison’s Beloved was explained before a final hint to the board that the department could be more productive with document readers in their classrooms. That is, if wishes come true.