O'Fallon Progress

Mission of school library has not changed — promote reading. But it has many more tools available.

Darcy Benway
Darcy Benway

I remember when I was in high school and the school library was a place to check out books and do research papers. Times have changed.

Today’s high school library, the Instructional Media Center (IMC), is a vibrant and vital component in the overall educational experience for OTHS students. In the OTHS IMCs, students gather to learn, be inspired, create, gather information, check-out equipment, and critically challenge their elementary methods of searching for answers.

What are some of the supports available to students in the IMC in addition to the vast collection of books? Students can check-out laptops, digital cameras, graphing calculators, Kindles and flash drives to support their academic efforts.

Understanding the use of technology is an important aspect of a high school education and many projects require the use of technology for the completion of projects. OTHS teacher-librarians and support staff in the IMC are welcoming and available to assist students with the use of technology and will guide students as they evaluate “quality” versus “non-quality” sources of information. As we know, students today are bombarded with snippets of information via social media. One of the goals of the IMC educators is to raise awareness about misinformation, such as “fake news,” and to encourage students to seek out reliable sources of information.

In addition, the OTHS IMCs have a wealth of academic resources to support a student’s educational journey. Though our IMCs, students can access DESTINY, an online public access catalog that has books, DVDs, streamed video, e-books, audiobooks and much more. Students can also use EBSCOhost, a powerful online reference system that offers a variety of proprietary full text databases from leading information providers. GALE PowerSearch grants students access to a collection of authoritative periodicals, scholarly journal, newspapers and reference content. Quality information is at the fingertips of OTHS students through the IMC.

Today’s learners require access to information in a variety of formats to aid in their academic development. OTHS is preparing students for a rapidly changing world, especially with regard to the use of technology. Today’s learners must adapt and evolve with those changes. It is increasingly important that educators provide our students with the skills and foundational knowledge to acquire information on ever-changing platforms, and then to be discriminating users of that information. The IMCs on both OTHS campuses are designed to meet those needs.

The IMC has undertaken many new initiatives for the 2017-2018 school year. As a main priority, curriculum collaborations have increased at all grade levels. For example, IMC teacher-librarians worked with the junior-level English teachers revising the Expository Writing I curriculum to include lessons in information literacy throughout the course. Information literacy embedded in the curriculum requires that students develop the skills and awareness to recognize when information is needed, and then to have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively that information. Information literacy is critical to student success in a 21st century world. IMC teacher-librarians have also worked with special education instructors at OTHS to create a fundamental math applications online guide to enhance instruction. In other words, the IMC and its teacher-librarians are an integral part of the academic program at OTHS and support student learning throughout the OTHS experience.

As educators, we all know that reading enhances a student’s mind, body, and spirit. It is no surprise that another goal of IMC teacher-librarians is to promote a culture of reading across our campuses. Reading provides mental stimulation, reduces stress, increases knowledge, expands vocabulary, increases analytical thinking skills, improves writing skills, and opens the door of the imagination. The IMC has been a partner with the OTHS English department in the development of the OTHS summer reading program and the reading-across-the-curriculum initiative. The IMC hosts four student book clubs and recently added an “idea” room to support student creativity. Better readers become better students.

This Thursday night, Jan. 18, OTHS teacher-librarians will be presenting to the Board of Education on the many resources and learning opportunities available at the OTHS IMC. Please join us at 7 p.m. in the Smiley Campus IMC for their presentation.