Every morning before school starts the Jefferson Middle School library is the place to be. On a recent Friday morning librarian Renee Wood welcomed 83 students. Sometimes the group is so large, there are no chairs left. The students don’t mind and happily spread out on the floor.
It is not a silent library and “shhh” isn’t heard very often. Instead, students come to read, use computers for research and, gasp, even interact with fellow students. In the age of cell phones and mobile devices, coming to the Jefferson library allows students to connect with each other face to face, often while playing board games.
“You can come here to work, read, play games and have fun,” says 6th grader Paxton Kesselring.
“We want our school libraries to be a place where students (and the community) want to be,” says Doug Shudde, Director of Academic Technology, Library Services and Textbook Services. “Our libraries have long evolved from the libraries of yesteryear. With all the technology available now, our school libraries are the central hub of the campus where students go with their friends to both learn and connect.”
Libraries have had to evolve with technology and the impact it has had on student learning. While good “old-fashioned” books still seem to be popular with students, more and more are reading on their Kindles or tablets.
Northside libraries have kept up with the times. A major step forward was the establishment of the Northside ISD Digital Library, which provides access to more than 6,000 downloadable eBooks, audiobooks, and music 24/7. The service was previously available for middle school and high school students, as well as NISD staff members, but was expanded to include elementary students at the beginning of this school year.
So far this school year, 6,229 items have been checked out from the Digital Library, and more than 1.4 million items have been checked out at school libraries.
Wood has seen firsthand the changes technology has brought to school libraries which is why she earned her master’s degree in educational technology.
“I saw the direction that libraries were headed, and knew that having a background in technology would be an asset,” says Wood. “The library supports the entire school and students want help with technology when they come here. Some don’t have access at home, so this is where they turn.”
Students continue to turn to their school libraries but in new ways that reflect their changing educational, technological and social needs.
“It is unique because you don’t just have to read here,” says 6th grader Gianna Garcia. “I’ve made new friends here and I’m now inspired to read all kinds of different types of books.”
April is School Library Month and this year’s theme is Communities Matter @ your library. If you’d like to be part of a school library community, volunteers are always welcome. Library assistant positions were eliminated several years ago due to budget cuts, and librarians appreciate the assistance with jobs like shelving and checking out books. Contact your school librarian for more information.