Celebrating Librarians During National Library Week

National Library Week
Shawnee Mission School District

Please take a moment to thank your school’s library media specialist in honor of National Library Week. District librarians have been hard at work supporting teachers, students, and families throughout the move to Continuous Learning. They also curated helpful library and research resources for the creation of Continuous Learning Choice Boards.

Prior to school closures and stay-at-home orders, elementary school librarians were connecting and collaborating with each other and participating in Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) to ensure learning could go on. Connecting in this way was familiar territory.

“We really began to change our culture and connect with our library colleagues two and half years ago,” Gary Strout, Broken Arrow librarian explained.

To provide grade-level resources for Continuous Learning the librarians came together as a team to collaborate, divide up topic areas and upload information onto the website in a short time.  With all elementary librarians participating, they were able to focus on areas of interest and bring their best abilities to the work. 

Some librarians focused on curriculum devoted to younger elementary grades and others focused on older elementary grades, so they were able to provide a wide range of robust resources. 

“I had done a lot of research about online story times, so I focused more in that area,” Abby Kepka, Brookridge librarian said. “There is also an area for virtual field trips and later we decided to add information on internet safety because it is a topic essential to the library curriculum.”

“Our goal is always to find safe, accessible resources for our students and teachers,” Emily Mihelic, Brookwood librarian noted. “Technology has always been a resource in our toolbox, but we also focus on non-tech resources to provide access for everyone.”

Flipgrid, a popular platform for home recording and sharing is used by librarians and students.  

Kepka uses Flipgrid to read aloud to different grade levels in ten-minute segments. “That’s usually enough for one chapter and some key questions,” Kepka noted. She recently shared the book “Love” by Matt de la Pena.

Kacey Reynolds, Indian Woods Middle School librarian, works closely with English Language Arts (ELA) teachers to encourage reading. Much of her focus is assisting with research in science and social studies and the research process. She likes to use errors as teaching moments, not “gotcha” moments.

“If a student is cutting and pasting and not paraphrasing, I think I must have not taught the concept correctly and I try to engage students in the correct research methods,” Reynolds shared. Her webpage is a portal to variety of resources that include free audio and e-books.

And once students are back in the school libraries, Reynolds noted she thinks we will have found different ways to do learning outside of the classroom. “We have also learned there are more facets to our students and teachers, and I am looking forward to tapping into those talents when we return.”

The high school librarians collaborate regularly and are the central source for research, databases, technology, and literature in their school communities. At SM South, Julie Fales has started the Masked Reader program where disguised guest readers read literature and poems. Another popular program is Spine Poetry that started in Writer’s Workshop but has migrated to home libraries.

Bales noted that many of the resources available from the library had been introduced to students during the first semester. Most of the students know where to find what they need, and Fales is available to assist with anything from AP Seminar to technology issues.

She wants to remind students that audio and e-books are available online, not just from SMSD, but also the Johnson County Library. Her hope is that students and teachers are taking 30 minutes each day to read.

National Library week is a time to celebrate the contributions of our SMSD librarians.