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Sundi Cowser MEDT 6461 Dr. Snipes 19 Feb.

2011

SLMS Interview and LM_NET Research


I interviewed Darnita Williams, the School Library Media Specialist at New Manchester Elementary. She has been an SLMS there for five years, and truly enjoys her career. She worked as an elementary school teacher for 10 years prior to becoming a media specialist. I began the interview by asking Mrs. Williams about public relations, since I covered the public relations section of the Policy and Procedures Handout for my group. I was interested in what she had to say about how she conducts public relations. She stated that she does not create newsletters anymore, because its not worth her professional time. When she first began as a school librarian she spent a lot of time creating attractive, informative newsletters, and discovered that teachers did not really read them. She knew they were not reading them because teachers would ask her questions about information that she had put in the newsletter, and when she asked if they had read it, they usually responded no. She created newsletters for about the first two years, but then stopped after that. (D. Williams, personal communication, February 15, 2011) I could relate to what she was saying, because I remember when I was a teacher, I often did not read the newsletter that the Media Specialist sent out by email. I usually just hit the delete button. I do like newsletters, and enjoyed creating one for class. Maybe a good way for teachers to actually read it would be to place a paper copy of the newsletter in their mailbox. Then they would at least scan over it. With email, its usually sent as an attachment, and many

teachers just are not going to take the time to open their email, then open an attachment and wait for it to pop up. Another great way to promote the media center is including information about the media center in the schools parent newsletter. Media specialist Kimberly Brosan said:

I use the HS Parent newsletter to promote the curriculum work that teachers do using the library. It is so easy to write this column. I just keep track of the activities and do a few sentences on each. We do this newsletter once every 10 weeks, so my column takes up one whole page (both sides of the paper) in the newsletter. The teachers love it because their names and classes are recognized, and it is shameless self promotion for the library. Very effective. (Brosan, 2001)

Another excellent form of public relations is, being approachable and flexible. Because you never know what someone is going to ask for. . . You don't have to have spectacular "special days", you have to consistently provide what people need every day(Brosan, 2001). I agree that this is excellent public relations. Being approachable and friendly is a great way to attract teachers and students into the library. When I worked at a middle school, there were two media specialists hired for the job. One worked at the beginning of the year, and the other came in to replace the first in the middle of the year. Both media specialists were very unfriendly and wore stern expressions whenever a teacher brought their classes into the media center. That made me not want to continue taking my students there, or try to collaborate with the media specialist. Being approachable and having a smile can go a long way toward promoting the media center. I asked Mrs. Williams how she conducted public relations then, since she did not do a newsletter. She said, The most effective form of public relations for me is to make announcements in the morning(D. Williams, personal communication, February 15, 2011). That has worked best for her. Whenever she wants to promote events that are going on in the

media center she simply makes an announcement in the mornings or afternoons, and has found that announcements and word of mouth promote the media center activities the best. She also sends out mass emails to parents through Notify Me. Another way that she promotes the media center is through the schools main website and the media center website. I asked Mrs. Williams about Accelerated Reader and if its something that she encourages. I have read differing views about AR, and many naysayers say that it actually takes away the intrinsic motivation to read. Mrs. Williams says that she is a big supporter of AR. She said, I have seen a big difference in students reading level with AR. Its a very useful program, especially when the teacher encourages it (D. Williams, personal communication, February 21, 2011). An interesting topic that we discussed was flexible scheduling. She said that when she began working at New Manchester elementary she had a fixed schedule. She had learned through her Masters program at West Georgia that the media center should not have a fixed schedule, so she fought it all year long and had discussions with her principal about it. The next year she had a flexible schedule, and has had that since. But, this year she changed things up a bit. Mrs. Williams said, You may think Im crazy, but I opted to enter back into the rotation, at least partially. Twice a week I teach a technology class to 5th graders, and one day every other month I get to see every grade level (D. Williams, personal communication, February 21, 2011). I was a bit confused by her statement, but she further explained that for example on Mondays for one month she teaches technology to third graders and on Thursdays she teaches it to fourth graders. The following month she would teach second graders every Monday for the month and first graders on Thursdays for that month. She said that she likes it like that. That

way she is able to spend time with every grade level in the building, but not have a completely fixed schedule. Mrs. Williams said that her budget is not based on FTE counts. Its usually a little less. There are around 800 students in her school. The principal decides how much money to give her. She relies mainly on book fairs and box tops to do all of the things that she wants to do like purchasing more books, renewal of software support, supplies, and technology. For example, she was able to purchase a SMART Board with money the media center earned from the book fair. She receives her budget at the beginning of the year, and sends her orders in around October or November. She sends emails to teachers at the beginning of the year for teacher requests from the library. After making her book purchases, if there are books that teachers need that are not at the library, they can be ordered from the West Georgia Regional Library system. Books are brought in every Thursday from the public library upon request. Media specialists in Douglas County can also borrow from other school media centers in the county. Mrs. Williams absolutely loves her career as a media specialist, and feels that it is the best job in education. She is able to share her passion for books with students, collaborate with teachers, and teach technology to students. She also enjoys the fact that she is able to teach every student in the school, and not just one classroom of students. She has great rapport with teachers and students, which was evident by her winning Teacher of the Year at her school last year. I look forward to learning more from Mrs. Williams about running an excellent media center.

References Brason, K. (2011, September 26). Re: TARGET: Ideas for Library Promotion / Public Relation. Message posted to Educators Desk Reference LM_NET electronic mailing list, archived at http://www.eduref.org/plweb-cgi/fastweb?getdoc+listservs+LM_NET2001+12310+6+wAAA+public%26relations