From Now On

The Educational Technology Journal

 Vol 13|No 5|January|2004
Please feel free to e-mail this article to a friend, a principal, a parent, a colleague, a teacher librarian, a college professor, a poet, a magician, a vendor, an artist, a juggler, a student, a news reporter or anyone you think might enjoy it. Other transmissions and duplications not permitted. (See copyright statement below).

Hitting the Books:
Back to the Library

Finding good information with the help of Dewey, a good teacher and a skilled librarian.

By Jamie McKenzie

(about author)

© 2004, Jamie McKenzie, all rights reserved.

In some high tech schools, books are making a strong come-back. After a short-lived flirtation with digital diversions, smart schools are balancing digital with print.

Despite the hype, the hoopla and the promises, the Internet has failed to replace print collections and libraries. The "virtual library" has its strengths and its advantages, but it has not begun to deliver quality content for many topics and must rely upon its hard copy partner - the classic print collection - to provide reliable, professional information.

Students in Grand Prairie using computers to find books in their library collection that might answer questions from their "Wonder Boxes1."

Smart districts maintained strong library programs and budgets throughout the roaring nineties even as some of their neighbors shrugged off the importance of books, embraced the dancing promises of digital libraries and replaced school librarians with aides or computer teachers.

Across North America, the elementary librarian became an endangered species as leaders used the Internet as an excuse to eliminate jobs, cut back funding and shift priorities. New schools often opened with little shelf space and no staffing to support skill development in the suddenly critical area of information literacy.

1. Wonder boxes are a strategy suggested by Debbie Miller in her book Reading for Meaning as wondering is a fundamental phase of the questioning/learning process.

The Full Featured Library
The Grand Prairie ISD, a large suburban district south of Dallas, has maintained a firm commitment to a strong library program throughout the past decade and into the present century. Forward leaning and eager to explore the potential of new technologies, Library Director Belinda Jacks made sure the emphasis upon new technologies was offset by a continuing investment in library fundamentals.

Librarian Evelyn Eddington explains the Wonder Box strategy to Belinda Jacks.

A rapidly growing district that constructed a dozen new schools in the past five years, Grand Prairie never fell for the false promise of virtual libraries but continued instead to build full featured media centers that offered a robust print collection to balance a promising but sometimes unreliable menu of digital information, some of which was provided by the State of Texas and some of which was purchased with local funds.

Lots of books
Lots of computers
Story center
Good teams
Skilled Librarian
Click here for photo gallery showing the actual lesson

Teacher: Tanya Bailey - Librarian: Evelyn Eddington

In December I was treated to two different lessons in two different schools and libraries. In the first school, Garcia Elementary, pictured above, the students used computers to find print books in the school library that might help them answer questions from their wonder boxes. Teacher and librarian teamed to help them locate books once they had written down titles and Dewey decimal numbers. They then helped them find or build answers in the texts they pulled from the shelves. This new electronic card catalog resembled Amazon.Com with a highly graphic user interface and an appealing way of displaying search results. I could see student passion grow as they moved from computers to books and then back again.

In the second school, James Bowie Elementary, students were considering the life of the school's namesake, James Bowie, trying to decide if he really was a hero. Because they were getting ready to put him on trial, they were split into two teams, one dedicated to his defense and the other to his prosecution. Seated at large tables by team, they held materials printed off a Texas Web site - an article from an historical archive. The computers glowed in the background as paper became the technology of choice for this investigation. Their teacher and the librarian had led them through a cluster diagramming exercise that enabled them to identify the traits of a hero so they could use these to structure their research.

Lots of books
Lots of computers
Paper and pencils
Good teams
Skilled Librarian
Click here for photo gallery showing the actual lesson.

Teacher: Sherry Bahle - Librarian: Elaine Tricoli

Back to January Cover

Credits: The photographs were shot by Jamie McKenzie .

Copyright Policy: Materials published in From Now On may be duplicated in hard copy format if unchanged in format and content for educational, nonprofit school district and university use only and may also be sent from person to person by email. This copyright statement must be included. All other uses, transmissions and duplications are prohibited unless permission is granted expressly. Showing these pages remotely through frames is not permitted.

FNO is applying for formal copyright registration for articles. Unauthorized abridgements are illegal.

From Now On Index Page