The Durham Media Center has evolved over the years from a library functioning primarily to house books, and to host students using books, into a dynamic, engaging hub filled, not only with valuable fiction and nonfiction texts chosen with subject area standards, curricular needs, and students’ interests in mind, but also supplied with new, relevant, engaging media and technology resources including computers, student laptops, device charging stations, and a collaborative media table. Now even more is on the horizon as the Durham Media Center continues to embark upon next phase of the “Learning Commons” model which calls for innovative learning centers that blend classroom spaces with media center resources to better align with Common Core Standards and 21st Century Skills (Devaney 1).
At its helm since the fall of 2011, are media specialist Erin Baker and media paraprofessional Tracey Webb who have already employed many of the facets of the learning commons model. Over the past several years, the pair have streamlined the collection emphasizing current and pertinent materials. Print and digital resources necessary for academic success, as well as for pleasure reading, are in the hands of library patrons. Media staff have also redesigned spaces to accommodate a range of independent and group activities from reading to study to group project creation. Specific instructional zones are available for lessons as well.
Mrs. Baker and Mrs. Webb strive to create a positive, active, engaging learning environment where students and staff are welcome, comfortable, and have the resources necessary to meet their learning objectives. A variety of book promotions, trivia, events and giveaways are interspersed throughout the year like last year’s Hunger Games Cornucopia of Gifts, this year’s The Maze Runner paperback giveaway and annual events like “Scary Books Trivia” in October, “Blind Date with a Book” in February, the Scholastic Book Fair and Read Across America celebration both in March, the “Golden Ticket Giveaway” in celebration of National Library Week in April and so much more. Throughout the day Mrs. Webb and Mrs. Baker handle materials circulation, assist students with technology use and oversee the media center spaces and resources. Mrs. Baker also teaches lessons guided by the Georgia NETS Standards, the Standards for the 21st Century Learner and media center skills with a particular focus on research. She collaborates with teachers and delivers direct instruction guided by subject and grade level Common Core Standards bringing an additional layer of digital skills and research expertise to classrooms. Recent collaborative efforts between Mrs. Baker and classroom teachers guided eighth grade students through creating QR codes featuring audio representations of their personal poems defying stereotypes, seventh grade students through properly citing literary research using MLA format, and sixth grade students through supporting argumentative claims using research databases within Cobb Digital Library, to note just a few examples.
Now, with financial backing from the Durham PTA, local funds, and earnings from several years’ Scholastic Book Fairs, additional reengineering of physical spaces is in play to provide modern furniture and mobile, state of the art technology. In the current plan are twelve additional desktop computers and a reconfiguration of the “Instructional Zone.” This addition will allow for an entire class population to gather in one area in contrast to the current layout which spreads students out over the entirety of the media center. Secondly, a state of the art media presentation system featuring a 70” interactive flat panel, built-in web browser, USB ports, VGA inputs and speakers will be added creating an extension of the “Instructional Zone” where students can receive direct instruction from a classroom teacher or the media specialist. The final phase of the project will transform the “Collaborative Zone” at the entrance of the media center replacing round four-top tables and chairs with mobile tables in fun shapes that can be combined like puzzle pieces in a variety of configurations to serve myriad collaborative needs. Also in the works are café style tables allowing for students to work while standing. Students and teachers will soon have even more choices to meet an assortment of learning styles and needs at Durham.
Extensive research justifies the impact strong library programs have on student achievement, and the Durham Media Center’s library program and staff undoubtedly impact academic success and the overall experience students have during their formative middle school years. To learn more, be sure to visit the Durham Media Center web site.
Devaney, Laura. “Why School Libraries Are Transforming into Learning Commons.” eSchool News. eSchool News, 4 Feb. 2015. Web. 12 Nov. 2015.
Check out some of the ways our spaces have evolved over the years: Evolution of the Durham Media Center.