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THE NEW MEDIA CENTER: Ten Titles for Your Professional Growth and Collection

By Mary Alice Anderson - Posted May 1, 2014
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Professional collections benefit media specialists and teachers. It’s tempting to ignore collection development when funds are limited and much is online, but a carefully selected, up-to-date collection is helpful for media specialists who present information to administrators and school boards or collaborate with teachers. Several of these titles will also appeal to teachers and staff. We’ll take a look at 10 titles for today’s media specialist.

The Common Core Companion: The Standards Decoded, Grades 6–8

Media specialists want to help teachers implement the Common Core State Standards but are often overwhelmed and don’t know how to get started. I have thought about how this is not that different from what we’ve long been doing: collaborating with teachers to integrate and infuse information literacy throughout the curriculum.

But, what is familiar is not the same. The CCS are more complex and far-reaching. Testing and the emphasis on accountability in the classroom and media center place a greater importance on successful and meaningful collaboration and integration. The Companion aligns CCS across English-language arts, history/social studies, science, and technical subjects. Standards and strands are clearly defined along with notes about “what the teacher does” and “what the students do.” Many activities specify using technology. Easy-to-read bulleted text, generous note-taking spaces, and the spiral binding are a plus.

I shared the book with a social studies teacher/future media specialist. She instant-ly saw its potential as a planning tool and her role as a PLC leader. Three further series titles decode elementary and high school standards.


Thinking Through Project-Based Learning

My first thought was, “Not another PBL book,” but this new and very practical title really spoke to me. The authors emphasize real research, real thinking, and real inquiry, learning characteristics that are too often frustratingly absent in so many projects. Real classroom projects for language arts, social studies, science, and math are described. Technology enhancements are suggested throughout the book. One chapter explains spiraling projects upward to increase the level of thinking and inquiry. Inquiry is explained in a nonthreatening, teacher-friendly approach. Discussion guides can be used for planning or in staff development sessions.


Collaborative Models for Librarian and Teacher Partnerships

I would keep this one close by as a reference to use with administrators and curriculum directors. A heavy research base is combined with experienced-based essays by both higher education staff and K–12 practitioners.

The tone is upbeat; content areas beyond the core such as music, math, and special education are addressed. An array of current technology applications and Web 2.0 tools are discussed. The importance of working with pre-service teachers is stressed and will be of special interest to media specialists who have opportunities to work with college of education professors and students. Collaborative Models is pricey, but individual chapters can be purchased in PDF format. Several chapters would be useful as staff development and advocacy resources.


Protecting Intellectual Freedom and Privacy in Your School Library

I turn to journal articles by Helen Adams when I am looking for readings for my graduate students. She has been writing about intellectual freedom for many years, bringing her experiences as a school media specialist and AASL president to her writing.

Her previous Intellectual Freedom and Privacy Matters columns are topically included with new material. Readers are encouraged to consider a broader, contemporary view of intellectual freedom and think beyond the traditional and narrower concerns of selection policies and censorship. Topics addressed include laws, leveling books, automation systems and privacy, technology accessibility and equity, and biometrics. The section “Serving Students With Special Needs” addresses students with disabilities, immigrants, and homeless children.

There is a lot to think about. Intellectual freedom and privacy issues can sneak up on us; it’s good to have a current reference quickly accessible.


Read It Forward

This little book is about as practical as it gets and full of ideas for using technology both to encourage reading and to manage a school-wide reading program. The emphasis is on getting books into the hands of kids by providing many copies of one title for students to discover, read, and share. It’s not about increasing circulation and keeping track of resources!

Exciting programming activities encourage reading, discussion, and building community. The authors share their successes and failures, specific directions for activities, and suggested reading lists. Many doable ideas for using Web 2.0 tools such as wikis, Animoto, Skype, and Google Docs are provided. It’s a perfect book for a media specialist who wants to foster both technology and reading. Read It Forward is an energetic program that requires commitment, but it is replicable to whatever degree you wish! I want to do this!


Caring Hearts & Critical Minds: Literature, Inquiry and Social Responsibility

Here’s a book that will be useful for media specialists and teachers who want to kick reading a novel up a notch, foster critical thinking, and encourage lively, engaged discussion. The units described are actual units taught in middle schools. Topics are contemporary and historical issues such as poverty, immigration, the environment, bullying, and technology that kids get excited about. There are lengthy lists of suggested fiction and nonfiction titles, ideas for incorporating technology, and teacher planning tools. Not all teachers are readers, and not all are comfortable teaching inquiry or discussing social issues; Caring Hearts explains how.


Interacting With History: Teaching With Primary Sources

In 2004, Susan Veccia, former Internet @Schools editor (back in the day when it was called Multimedia Schools) and Library of Congress educational outreach specialist, introduced teachers to the new but growing American Memory Collections from the Library of Congress. Now, in this entirely new book, teachers and media specialists delve into LC’s comprehensive digital collections, the expanded American Memory collections, thousands of Teachers Pages and classroom materials, online professional development materials, lesson plans by practitioners, and my chapter about local history resources in LC and in your own backyard.

Enhancements and technology upgrades to LC and collections of millions of primary resources are explained. There are many illustrations, sidebars, tables and “how-to” navigational guides to finding primary sources for your curriculum. Many of these primary resources have been digitized since the 1990s, yet many teachers are either unfamiliar with them or intimidated by LC. This is another practical book that makes sense of an extensive free resource.


Planning for Technology

Experienced media specialists often know that hardware is the easy part of technology. Successful planning, implementation, and dealing with the human system are more challenging. This book clearly explains that the most important technology planning considerations are people, leadership, relationships, and student learning. The authors explain how the culture of technology is changing and is, in turn, changing education. They make a strong case for examining how technology is beneficial and loosening up on past “rules” that have frustrated educators. Good attention is given to public relations and staff development.

Numerous reproducible and thorough planning guidelines and checklists are incorporated. For a book about technology, it is not technical, with only limited attention given to “the stuff.” I was disappointed that only passing mention is paid to the role of media specialists and that is in a tech-support role. Yet, this is still a beneficial book for media specialists who are or want to be involved in technology planning and decision-making.


Designing and Implementing Effective Professional Learning

Staff development is an important role and one media specialists are often well-qualified for. The author argues that professional learning has to change if student learning is going to improve, but much staff development is inadequate. He offers several ideas for improvement, including many that put teachers in charge of their own professional growth. How to do this is explained in descriptions of activities such as school rounds, peer mentoring and coaching, and action research. Media specialists will find this and ideas for using technology to enhance professional development helpful. It’s the type of book that encourages a media specialist to assume a leadership role and be part of the big picture.


The Indispensable Librarian: Surviving and Thriving in School Libraries in the Information Age

This is an updated second edition of a title first published in 1997. Fifteen chapters are broken into very readable sections. Some topics (facilities, staff development, and budget) are updated. More, such as advocacy, ethics, Creative Commons, managing digital resources, digital intellectual freedom, and assessment, are new or given greater emphasis. There are many practical tips and bulleted lists that are helpful for the seasoned or new media specialist. An indispensable part is the management guide, with a touch of humor, irreverence, and, “Ya, this is what it’s really like.”

Many anecdotes accurately describe the daily situations a media specialist faces. It belongs in every professional collection and in the hands of future media specialists or anyone who thinks the job is just about books and reading.

Try some of these books. You’ll like them! Most of the titles are in paperback and ebook format.

Remember, you—and your program—are what you read!


Contact Mary Alice at

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