Books still top shelf at NWI school libraries
By Carole Carlson email@example.com/648-3154 March 9, 2013 11:16PM
Natalie Credille, left, and Alexis Moncada are surrounded by electronics while studying in the Hobart High School media center Wednesday Feb. 21, 2013. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 11, 2013 6:05AM
Logan Allen sits quietly in Hobart High School’s media center, his eyes boring into a hard backed book.
Allen, 17, is fascinated with the old-fashioned skill of blacksmithing and finds books more instructive than online information.
Alice Cope, director of library media services for the School City of Hobart, says Allen is a frequent visitor to the school’s library and he’s often found with his nose in a book.
“I like the book better,” Allen says. “You can start and finish a book and put it on the shelf and have that achievement.”
A handful of school libraries across the country are dumping books in favor of all manner of digitized materials.
Locally, Northwest Indiana schools are standing by their books, while phasing in digital materials and creating, they hope, a hybrid of resources to support learning.
Turning the page
School libraries have reduced their book collections because of weakened budgets and the advent of technology.
School City of Hobart officials tackled both whey they designed the high school’s new media center that opened in 2009 with the new school.
Cope says it was designed with walls of glass to create a welcoming destination for students.
“This place is happening all the time,” Hobart High Principal Brent Martinson said.
“Brickie Cove” is positioned in a corner of the media center where students can grab a cappuccino or a hot chocolate and snuggle down with an assignment, read a book or join a learning center discussion.
Occasionally, a student will bring in a guitar and start strumming, keeping the atmosphere casual.
Cope has pared down her collection from 15,000 to 10,000 books and has purchased 30 Nook tablets that students can check out. Still, she thinks there will always be a role for books.
“Some kids need that tactile feel of a book,” she said.
Cope said library media specialists work closely with teachers to complement lesson planning that’s shifting to a Common Core curriculum.
“Our focus is to promote college and career readiness. They infuse each other,” she said. “I try to be an instruction partner with the teacher.”
Cope and Lake Ridge Schools media director Theresa Ramos are proud of State Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz, a library media specialist, and they hope her new standing shines a light on their profession.
“It gives me a huge sense of pride,” said Ramos, an officer in the Indiana Association of School Library Educators.
Ramos has heard tales of school libraries that removed books in favor of computers.
“It was heartbreaking to me. I don’t think that’s the answer.”
Ramos waxes on about the kinetic art of turning pages and the smell of a new book and the how it plays into the science of reading.
“I tell kids when you pick up a book to do research, you make decisions. You look at the chapters, how dense the text is and you take all that in at a glance. You can’t do that in an electronic medium.”
Ramos admits she owns an iPad and an iPod. “I even let my own children use them on a limited basis, but call me crazy, I truly believe in real honest-to-God texts.”
A new chapter
Lake Central High School is designing a new media center as part of a $160 million improvement project at the high school and Protsman Elementary. It’s expected to open by 2015.
“It’s the perfect opportunity to research what other schools say is working, what’s best for our school,” Principal Robin Tobias said.
The school is culling its collection from about 26,000 volumes to 12,000 to 16,000, Tobias said. Students will be able to bring in their own e-readers and tablets, he said.
Lake Central’s new media center will have a larger footprint than its old library to incorporate small meeting areas. The media center will be walled in with glass.
“It will be very inviting, though it will be more scholastic-driven than lounge-driven,” Tobias said.
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