School libraries have existed in America for almost as long as public libraries — at least 100 years — but they’re about much more than just books today! If you’re a new teacher, an experienced teacher in a new district, or even an old teacher in the same old district, you might be surprised to find that your library media center has jumped into the 21st century.
While books still constitute the core element of any library, there are a variety of other items that can be checked out: Kindles, iPads, audiobooks, laptop carts, DVDs, class sets of books, ebooks, board games, math tools, and more.
If you are lucky enough to have a certified librarian in your district, you might have access to databases — such as Learn 360, Discovery Education, NBC Learn, Country Reports, or Jstore — that you can use to find lesson plans, videos, and articles, among other things.
Infohio is a particularly innovative collection of databases that also includes online books, learning videos, English and foreign language encyclopedias for all grade levels, practice tests, career information and research resources for the entire school community. Conveniently, Infohio can be accessed from school or home with a special username and password that can be obtained from your school district.[quote]The library connects us with the insight and knowledge, painfully extracted from Nature, of the greatest minds that ever were, with the best teachers, drawn from the entire planet and from all our history, to instruct us without tiring, and to inspire us to make our own contribution to the collective knowledge of the human species. I think the health of our civilization, the depth of our awareness about the underpinnings of our culture and our concern for the future can all be tested by how well we support our libraries. — COSMOS, CARL SAGAN[/quote]
Your library staff is an excellent resource in itself. They can recommend websites or online gaming for your subject area or help you create presentations, newsletters, pathfinders or web quests. They know where to find free images and music that can be used in student research projects. Often they know how to use eReaders such as iPads, iPods and Kindles, digital cameras, document cameras, projectors and interactive white boards.
Your teacher librarians can also provide direct instruction to students. They are available to collaborate on a regular basis with teachers in their building or district when the need arises. They are always happy to come to your classroom to talk about books or to train staff and students on how to use the online catalog. In addition to special classes, they create library programs, such as author visits, and reading and writing activities. They can even set up online field trips and museum tours appropriate for your grade level and subject area.
Your library staff can help you with everything from evaluating websites for authoritative information to just finding a book on the shelf. They are information experts and are always on the prowl for the most interesting, colorful and exciting books, ebooks, book apps, learning apps, websites, and new technologies that students want to use.
They next time you are feeling isolated, overwhelmed or at a loss for a good ideas, stop in your school library and talk to your library staff. If you are in a school that has no library, check to see if there is a high school library or a local public library nearby, because they will probably be more than willing to help you with whatever you need.
By Susan Ridgeway, Wooster Education Association