School libraries adapt to the times

May 01, 1997


Staff Writer

When Phyllis McCleaf first came to Washington County in the mid-1960s, most of the county's elementary schools didn't have central libraries.

And the ones that did didn't have librarians, said McCleaf, who spent her first five years as a classroom teacher at Sharpsburg Elementary School.

In the fall of 1969, she was one of a handful of people chosen to fill several new elementary librarian positions, serving two schools each.


Now every elementary school in the county has both a library media center and its own library media specialist, said McCleaf, who remembers her title changing in the 1970s.

A lot more than names have changed, said McCleaf and other county library media specialists, whose jobs have evolved to keep up with technological advancements and state and national curriculum standards.

Library media specialists do much more than keep tabs on their collections, said Roseann W. Fisher, supervisor of library media services for the school system.

All certified teachers, they have an essential curriculum developed three years ago based on state outcomes and goals, Fisher said.

Along with traditional library skills - like how to use the Dewey Decimal System to locate a book - students are taught how to use the newest technology resources, like the Internet and automated card catalog systems, she said.

Teaching students to effectively use the Internet to gather information involves more than just search strategies, Fisher said.

They need to learn how to evaluate the information to determine if the source is valid, she said.

They also need to know how to cite Internet sources and, very important, applicable copyright law, Fisher said.

In addition to teaching, the school library media specialist serves as a resource person for students and teachers, a consultant and technology trainer to staff and, in many cases, their school's technology coordinator, she said.

The extent of technology varies from school to school, Fisher said.

All 40 school library media centers have at least one computer with Internet access, she said.

But only 14 of them have replaced their old card catalog systems with computerized catalog and circulation systems, which save time for both the library media specialists and students, Fisher said.

Coming from Maugansville Elementary School - which has a traditional card catalog system - third-grader Becky Barnhart said she appreciates the improved computerized version she found at Paramount Elementary School this year.

"It's a little bit easier because you don't have to look through the cards, and it tells you if it's on the shelf," said Becky, 8.

The change in just the past 14 years has been amazing, said Diane Mentzer, library media specialist at Paramount Elementary School.

"It's like a whole new way of doing things," said Mentzer, who sees the change as positive.

Of course, school library media centers have no choice but to embrace technology, she said.

"I think they've made the library easier to use for people, which is the way society it going," Mentzer said. "Everything is so quick and fast, we need to keep up with the times."

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