How Can I Help? Four Ways a Library Media Specialist Can Answer This Question

A Gibson County Special School District library media specialist explains four powerful ways she can help her students navigate the digital age.

Lisa Reiily is a school media specialist in in Gibson County Special Schools.

Lisa Reilly is a library media specialist in Gibson County Special Schools.

By Lisa Reilly

Our school library media center is equipped with 30 student computers and was one of the sites for the administration of the writing assessment to our more than 1,100 middle school students in February. Gearing up for the writing assessment, my lessons involved teaching students how to navigate the practice site. Because our current students have had little exposure to formal keyboarding instruction, I anticipated that the speed of finding letters on the keyboard would be our greatest obstacle. I thought this until I fielded this question: “Mrs. Lisa, what is a cursor anyway?”

Forget QWERTY, forget the undo tool, forget the highlighting tool… we need to back up and learn about a cursor.

Our students are growing up in the digital age, but that does not mean that they understand how to use the tools. Yes, there are students who are MacGyvers with just about any device they encounter; however, in my experience, the majority still need instruction.

So, how can I, the library media specialist, help?

1. I can empower with instruction.

Despite the cursor confusion, I stand behind the mission of my school library:

“To ensure that students and staff are effective and ethical users of ideas and information; students are empowered to be critical thinkers, enthusiastic readers, and skillful researchers.”

I love the word empower! This is not a task to be dreaded. I have witnessed time after time a student’s eyes light up after they have conducted proper research and communicated their knowledge to others. When I teach students how to find information, I am setting a foundation that supports deeper understanding.

2. I can inspire reading enjoyment.

One of the first things I do each year is teach my students how to use the library’s Online Public Access Catalog. I teach them how to search by subjects in which they are interested and show them where they can find descriptions of the resulting book titles. Then, I show them where to find them on our shelves. This instruction takes a little time and is not specifically tied to a standard, but the dividends are huge. When I help students find books that they truly enjoy reading, they read more books, and their comprehension improves.

3. I can teach the terminology.

Reilly helps students in the library at Medina Middle School in the Gibson Special School District.

The word cursor wasn’t the only term to trip up students during the writing assessment. I believe our student’s confusion should serve as an alert that we need to expose them to more terms regularly. As a library media specialist, I have the opportunity to not only teach the terminology, but to also deliberately use it in my instruction and even casual conversations with students.

4. I can stay flexible.

Finally, to borrow a football phrase, I need to be prepared to step back and punt. When the cursor questions arise from my students or even my fellow teachers, I must be willing to adjust and provide the instruction and service that is required at the moment.

My role as library media specialist continues to evolve in response to one simple question, “How can I help?”

It is my ultimate goal to always do my best to effectively respond to the answer.

Lisa Reilly is the library media specialist at Medina Middle School in the Gibson County Special School District.