Focus on DIS library media specialists


April was School Library Month, and Danville Independent Schools is spotlighting library media specialists. We asked them some questions about their roles, including some most people might not expect, what they love about their libraries, and more.

Library media specialists are Norma Hopkins at Mary G. Hogsett Primary School, Sarah Beauman at Edna L. Toliver Intermediate School, Lynyel Duggins at John W. Bate Middle School, and Laura Eason at Danville High School.

What’s part of your role as school library media specialist that most people probably don’t know that you do?

Hopkins: I take care of all the technology needs of the school and coordinate the social media accounts and the website of Hogsett.  I also teach a couple of small reading enrichment groups.   

Beauman: In addition to purchasing and taking care of Toliver’s library books, I manage the student technology accounts and Chromebooks. I also teach every student in the school things like 3D design, coding, and robotics.

Duggins: Part of my role as school library media specialist that most people don’t know that I do is also the social media for Bate, and Bate’s website.

Eason: In addition to the library, I teach a dual-credit class for aspiring educators through the University of Louisville, and I am the Building Assessment Coordinator. As far as a library-related job assumption, I am not just sitting around reading all day and checking out books.

In addition to my testing duties and teaching duties, I do spend time researching books and trying to curate a collection that will resonate with the high school students and support our curriculum in various formats. Once the books arrive, it takes time to catalog and process them for check-out.

The district librarians meet monthly to share ideas and collaborate on district-wide projects. This is one meeting that I look forward to every month! The other librarians in the district are fabulous!

What’s your favorite part or section of your school’s library, and why?

Hopkins: My favorite part of Hogsett’s library is the Book Star section. This section spans the back wall all the way across. Because many of Hogsett’s students are just beginning to read, all the Book Stars have picture tags. It makes it easier for a beginning reader to find their favorite popular books easily. I love that the students can find a favorite book character independently.

Beauman: I love our fiction/chapter book area. Middle grade fiction is so fun to read and share with our students!

Duggins: My favorite part/section of the library at Bate is the historical fiction genre. I have always loved historical fiction, but when I was able to choose my two subjects for teaching in the middle school, English/language arts and Social Studies were my two subjects that I emphasized on.

When I was studying social studies/history in college is where I learned to really love young adult historical fiction books. I love how the authors have great storylines, and then add in just enough historical facts to get the reader really interested.  Two of my favorites are “Bud Not Buddy,” and “Ground Zero.”

Eason: I can’t say that I have a favorite part of the library. Being in the library is like being in a candy store: everything looks good to me! However, I do have a preference for mystery and nonfiction. I don’t, however, choose books based on what I like. I think people should know that librarians are trained to choose books that are appropriate for their students and reflect a wide variety of ideas and experiences.

Not every book works for every child, but it’s empowering for children to make their own reading choices and be able to see themselves in books. Books act as mirrors and windows: readers get an opportunity to see themselves in a book, and books offer a window to imagine other places and experiences. Reading expands minds and provides enjoyment. Most of our students will have a variety of jobs and careers in the years ahead and they will be able to learn new vocations by reading and be able to advance their careers through reading. Reading is powerful.

We know libraries are about so much more than just books! What are some interesting things outside of checking out books that students can do in your library?

Hopkins: Since Hogsett is for grades PreK-1, students have the opportunities to use puppets in the puppet theater. They also have a writing station to make books, write letters, or create a note for someone. At this age, their writing might just be a drawing. The students have materials to create art. There are opportunities to build with Legos and other types of blocks.  We have days when creating something from various materials might be a choice.

Beauman: Students can build and design in our makerspace. They can create green screen videos, design and print an original 3D design, and code a robot.

Duggins: Some interesting things that we do in the library besides just check out books are makerspace, gallery walks/timelines, “book tasting,” games, puzzles, research (using books and internet sources through Kentucky Virtual Library, author visits, KBA (Kentucky Bluegrass Award) book activities and celebrations, Book Taco celebrations, and more.

Eason: Outside of books, the DHS library offers students some of the things that they need outside of the classroom. Sometimes that is just a quiet place to work or reflect. Other times students need a space to create a project, and the library’s design studio offers a green screen, video and audio production tools, and an iMac and iPad.

We have a number of games that students grab when they get a break. We also have a big selection of STEM kits and activities for students to build and experiment with. Students who like to express themselves can use the button makers, the Cricut machine, heat press, and even a sewing machine!

How do you ensure the environment of your library fosters a love of reading and learning?

Hopkins: Hogsett is on a scheduled library class rotation with the rest of the specials group (art, music, PE, Spanish, and SEL).  As much as possible outside of the library class rotation, students are able to come in and visit other parts of the day. There are several comfy little chairs that a small child can snuggle in with a good book. There is a reading tent. Students are encouraged to get a reading buddy (a stuffed animal) to read with.

I also work a lot with Boyle County Public Library to promote their events on social media and with the students. Whenever possible, we connect performances to books. For example, the Lexington Children’s Theater was at Hogsett on April 27 for the K-1 students. The performance was based on a book called “Anansi the Spider.”

Beauman: I work to make sure our students have access to a wide variety of books. I teach students how to use our library space and encourage them to explore it freely. It’s so fun to watch as students discover their love of books and find their new favorite author, genre, or book series.

Duggins: I feel like we have really worked on our library here at Bate to ensure that it does foster a love of reading and learning. We’ve updated our library this year by painting over the summer, created a little coffee bar/cozy book reading area, and just recently got new flooring.  It looks great, and I’ve heard lots of compliments from the students about how everything looks better, and they love coming to the library. I also collaborate with the teachers, and if some students want to use the library as a reward to come in and read in a quiet place, they can definitely do that too.

I have classes here every week, so when they are in the library I do a lesson with them that goes along with what they are already doing/reading in their classroom, and they are able to check out books every other week. My schedule is flexible, so if the students want to come in as soon as they finish their book, they are allowed, as long as they have a pass and it is okay with their classroom teacher.

Eason: To foster a love of reading and books, we have promotions throughout the year. We participated in the Kentucky Bluegrass Awards this year. Students who chose to participate read some of the KBA books and voted before spring break for their favorite. Our winner was “Firekeeper’s Daughter,” which finished in second place behind the winner, “I Must Betray You.”  I had a Valentine’s promotion that tied reading to candy giveaways. The English classes regularly visit the library, and we have activities tied to books and booktalks.

At the beginning of the year, we played a “Price is Right” style game all tied to books. I work games into our activities as much as possible. I’m promoting our poetry collection for National Poetry Month. I have classes come to the library, and we analyze primary source materials on a topic that they are studying in class. I love these opportunities for students to see for themselves what others saw and responded to in that time period and draw their own conclusions.