The 411 on media centers

December 30, 2002|by PEPPER BALLARD

Whether the facilities they oversee are called libraries or media centers, area school librarians are still pushing books, but information is higher in demand.

At Clear Spring Middle School, Library Media Specialist Betty Walter said, "Now we're information specialists rather than librarians of print materials."

Her statement couldn't be more true.

Walter, in charge of a library with more than 800 books and a lab with 31 computers, skirts students through computerized card catalogs, printed and printed-out literature, search engines and loosely bound encyclopedias all while checking in and checking out the ever-changing curiosities of the middle school mind.


"As time changed and the world changed I had to keep up with the information explosion or I'd get run over," Walter said.

A school librarian for about 30 years, Walter said when she started teaching, card catalogs were thin drawers of index cards that required a little skill to navigate. Librarians were book keepers, not the keepers of all things.

She no longer teaches card catalogs. Instead she has a computerized index of the books on and off Clear Spring Middle's shelves. The teaching of card catalogs needs to stay in elementary schools, she said.

A special feature on her library search shows students an image of what the card would look like in paper form. That feature helps younger students more familiar with the older style write book reports.

Walter also holds the keys to the computer lab where writing, reading, math, social studies, science, slide show and career search programs are available for students to use on a scheduled basis, mostly in the classroom.

Students also use the Leonard P. Snyder Memorial Library, the Clear Spring branch of Washington County Free Library, after school for research needs.

At the Washington County Free Library main branch, Donna Parks, Children's Department head, said, "I'd like the teachers to be more aware of what we own and what we can help them with."

Parks said the library, which has been on an automated card catalog since 1994, has developed into a major multi-media resource center.

In addition to many books and the Internet, the library has video, audio, microfilm, magazines and more to supplement the children's lessons in school. The library even has a few demo e-books, or electronic books.

Parks said students tend to research the Internet before finding an appropriate book, which bothers her.

"They're really cutting out a part of their lives when they don't get books as well," she said.

Books will always be around, in one form or another, she said.

Librarians will always be around, too, in one name or another, she said.

Parks, a librarian for more than 30 years, said she will always call herself a librarian, despite a recent trend renaming professionals "information specialists."

That's what Pennsylvania calls its librarians, but the district's librarians call themselves whatever they want, said Cindy Keller, Chambersburg Area School District library supervisor.

"It's like the flavor of the month," Keller said. "It depends on who's doing the talking."

The same holds true in Berkeley County Public Schools. There, the librarians who call themselves library media specialists are those who tend to call their libraries a media center, said Mary Jo Brown, the school system's spokeswoman.

She said that in addition to the school system's library curriculum, similar to that of Washington County, one of the Berkeley's schools has an added special feature.

Musselman High School is home to the south branch of the Martinsburg Berkeley County Public Library, which has extended hours for students wishing to catch up on homework.

Parks doesn't foresee Washington County Free Library changing its name to a media or information center even though the titles encompass the work her colleagues do.

"It's a library. A library houses a lot of different things, but it's still a library," she said.

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