My school is on winter break this week, but I’m spending the day by writing reference letters for students. What are you working on today?
Archive for February, 2012
Dallas ISD librarian Mary Virginia Meeks has been moving mountains in her library. Check out this video:
From the Preston Hollow Advocate article comes this story of creating a dynamic gathering place for middle school students, many of whom are on free or reduced lunch:
“This is not your mama’s library,” librarian Mary Virginia Meeks says. “We don’t believe in shushing.”
In the past few years, amid state and local budget cuts, Dallas ISD sliced library funding by about 20 percent. Still, in fall 2010, the Marsh library received a much-needed renovation through a grassroots fundraising effort that put the students to work. Over Thanksgiving break, 40 students worked two-hour shifts, cleaning, painting and re-organizing. In return, the school waived any outstanding fines.
In April, Meeks held a read-a-thon during which students camped out in the library for six hours to read books in exchange for pledges. They raised more than $1,700 …
After that, the vision for a more active and inviting library took off. The money raised at the read-a-thon paid for comfy couches and chairs. The PTA provided paint and fabric. Marsh corporate sponsor Fidelity Investments constructed a new bar in the center of the library called the Tech Café where students can use school-issued laptops and drink hot cocoa for 25 cents a cup. Uplift Education board member Todd Williams donated the bar stools.
Circulation has jumped by at least 150 percent from two years ago, and traffic has skyrocketed with about 260 students using the library each day. Teachers must reserve class time at least a month in advance …
However, Marsh’s transformation could not have happened without first getting the students interested in using the library.
Before Meeks arrived in 2010, the facility had not been updated in 50 years. It remained closed before and after school hours.
“It was just kind of there,” says Kyle Richardson, Marsh’s former principal … “We were already doing great things, but the library was the missing piece,” Richardson says. “I’d like to be able to say we went out and found the perfect librarian. But Mrs. Meeks walked in the door. She came to us with a vision. It was almost too good to be true.” …
Meeks found that the main thing keeping students away from the library was the fear of unpaid fines for lost books. So, with permission from the higher-ups, she wiped the slates clean in exchange for students’ service in helping remodel the library. Even now, the book return policy is more relaxed to keep kids coming back …In recent years, libraries have made a shift from stiff, quiet zones to social places where people not only read but share ideas. Librarians are now media specialists, teaching students how to use new technologies and conduct research.
“It’s not just about books. It’s computers and other forms of media. It’s a learning commons. We want kids to have good memories here and to make them feel more comfortable going into a Starbucks or a university library,” Meeks says. “That was the goal” …
Although Meeks had the vision, the students made the library a success. They have taken over through programs such as “adopt-a-shelf” in which the students clean, organize and maintain their own areas of the library.
“When these kids lives are a mess, they feel helpless. This shows them they have power. It isn’t hopeless.”
I saw Mary Virginia present at Dallas ISD’s August 2011 professional development day. While this video shows her skills building community, she could talk data that day like nobody’s business. If you had told me that day that this was just her second year as a librarian, I would have told you you were joking.
Thanks, Mary Virginia, for showing folks what can happen when kids are put at the center of their learning. (And thanks to @nikkidrobertson for posting about the story on Twitter!)