Spotlight on Vermont!

No time to visit other school libraries in your busy schedule? Wish you could see what your colleagues are doing to embrace “future ready” school library programs? Want to build networking within your region?

Welcome to a new feature of the VSLA website that connects all professional school librarians, tech integrationists, and those who love school libraries in our small, but geographically challenging state. Let’s share our ideas by showcasing what is happening in your school or district. Each month or so, watch for “Spotlight on Vermont,” (not “Moonlight in Vermont”-that’s taken).

Shelburne Community School

By Judy Kaplan

Another year, another spotlight on school libraries across Vermont.  The school year is off to a flying start, and I will continue to share observations and photos of various school library programs for 2018-19.  Please feel free to let me know if you have a renovated or new space that I could visit, or you have some exciting events and innovative ideas that you would like to share with our members.

Last week, I visited The Shelburne Community School Exploration Center (aka school library) to see the results of a multiyear renovation.  The library revision process was included in a major renovation of the decades old school to address changing needs and standards for contemporary education. The project was completed in time for the  2017-18 school year.

An article from the Shelburne News (Oct. 19, 2017) has details that explain the scope of the project.  The architects, Dore and Whittier, have a page on their website that describes the philosophy and the special features of the renovated library space.

Kari Ahern, who has guided the Shelburne Community School Library for many years, is delighted with the new space that enhances opportunities for learning. She worked closely with the architects and builders to design multiple, flexible spaces for readers and explorers of all ages.  There are approximately 800 PreK-8 students who have access to library resources and services, as well as faculty and staff, so providing varied areas for large, small, and individual learning is challenging. Take a look at the photos in the slideshow to see some of the flexible spaces from small conference rooms, storage and work spaces, to larger areas with mobile tables and bookshelves that can be rearranged easily.

Kari is assisted by a full time library paraprofessional, Fiona Kovacik, and supervises a marvelous new makerspace, that has the potential for both high tech and low tech projects.  Through modeling, and professional development, she has encouraged teachers to incorporate maker projects into the curriculum. Kari brings years of experience in constructivist and integrated learning as she develops information and literacy resources to help all learners in the school.  The print collection reflects the range of learners and interests, and the electronic resources curated on the library website are tailored for 24/7 access to in house and online resources.

Of course, there continue to be typical school library program challenges, even with a fabulous new space, and even for experienced professionals.  As we all know, change is a constant in education at all levels, national, state, and local. The Shelburne Community School Library has always operated with a flexible schedule, meeting the students’ and teachers’ needs weekly and monthly, without restricting access to library resources and services. Research has shown that this is a best practice for school library programs, although it continues to be a hot topic

Kari is currently navigating a new administratively imposed fixed schedule for K-5  that has changed the open access philosophy for resources and services, including the makerspace.  With the large number of K-5 classes each day, the result has been that time for middle school students individually, and for classes has been restricted by the K-5 schedule. With new administrators, Kari has to find ways to work within the confines of their goals, and to find ways to demonstrate the impact of the changes in the scheduling that detract from personalized and just in time learning.   Advocacy continues to be critical for all school librarians who have to demonstrate that library programs are essential for all learners in a school community.

During my visit, Kari did quick readers’ advisory with a swarm of middle school students who had limited time for book selection, before the arrival of a fifth grade class.  The fifth grade class worked in small groups using ipads and an app called to follow a scavenger hunt that Kari had created to help them learn to find materials in the library. Looked like it was challenging, but fun… Then a kindergarten class arrived for 40 minutes for story time in the “Story Portal.” As I was leaving another kindergarten was coming through the doors... just a taste of a busy day in Shelburne Community School Exploration Center.

Kari welcomes anyone who might like to come for a visit and see the Exploration Center in action. You can contact her :     

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