The (NOS) Media Center, Research Paper Example
Words: 2547Research Paper
The overarching purpose of this paper is to provide an overview of the functions of school media centers, the frameworks in which they operate, their significance and relevance for the academic achievement of students, and the necessity of ensuring that media centers are adequately funded, stocked, and maintained. The information contained herein has specific relevance to me in the context of my academic and professional background and my association with (Name of School). I am studying and working in the broader field of library science, and am currently serving as a volunteer at (NOS). Upon my introduction to the library and media center facilities at (NOS) I immediately became aware that these facilities are poorly stocked and in a state of organizational disarray. From the available evidence it appears that the local education system does not place great enough emphasis on the development and maintenance of the media center at (NOS), and the funding for the media center facilities is woefully inadequate. It is my hope that the information provided in the following paper will serve to underpin a greater understanding of the critical importance of media center facilities in a 21st century educational environment.
Background and Overview: Why Media Centers are More Important Than Ever
The (NOS) is a Montessori school; as such it has its own unique set of educational polices and frameworks that do not always align with the approaches to education taken at general education public schools. With that in mind, the information in this paper will at times be contextualized specifically in terms of its relevance to Montessori schools; at other times it will be more broadly applicable to public schools in general. In the main, however, the discussion of the value and significance of school media centers will be viewed through the lens of my experiences at (NOS) but should be considered relevant to most types of schools in the State of Maryland.
In 1987 the Maryland State Board of Education established a set of standards, missions, and goals for School Library Media Programs. According to the Board of Education, Maryland public schools should provide “an instructional program that is integrated with curriculum” and “diverse collections of information resources that support curricula and encourage students and staff to pursue personal interests” (MSBOE, 1987). The underlying purpose of these and other missions is to ensure that schools provide a broad and diverse array of media that are well-coordinated to supplement and enhance the core curricula while also providing the means by which students can purpose independently-directed areas of inquiry. Put more simply, media centers should give students opportunities to build on the information provided in classrooms by having access to a diverse collection of media.
It should come as no surprise to learn that many media centers in schools throughout the state are not living up to the standards set forth by the Board of Education (MSDE, 2014). While the standards first established in the 1980s provided a solid conceptual foundation for the role of media centers, the authors of those standards could hardly have foreseen the technological revolution of the Internet and the profound effects that revolution would inspire. The very term “media” has undergone a paradigm shift as everything from books to magazines to academic journals to audio and video recordings and beyond have all migrated to the Internet, and can now be accessed through tablets, cell phones, and laptop computers. It may appear at first glance that this revolution makes access to media easier and more streamlined, and therefore makes standard media centers somewhat old-fashioned, if not entirely obsolete.
It could be easily understood why such a view could lead some to conclude that the role of media centers in the 21st is less significant in an age when access to media of all types is available at the click of a mouse. The truth is, however, that it is more important than ever that today’s students be provided with access to a well-stocked and properly-curated media center. In an age where so many forms of media are so readily available and easily accessed, it is of paramount concern to educators that students be provided with appropriate and thorough instruction about media (Lance, 1994). An enriching media center provides an environment wherein students can learn about what types of media are available, and can develop the skills needed to make discerning, well-informed decisions about how to make use of such media (sepc.setda.org, 2014). In short, not all media are created equal, though the platform of the Internet makes virtually any and all types of media equally available. Students must learn how to discern between the information provided in, for example, peer-reviewed academic journals and self-published websites which promote conspiracy theories. The technology itself makes no value judgments; it is therefore incumbent upon educators to guide students as they learn to make these judgments for themselves.
School media centers also provide opportunities for students to have access to media in all its various physical and digital forms (sepc.setda.org, 2014). Young students today are growing up in a world where the Internet has always existed, and where physical forms of media –from newspapers to periodicals to video recordings- may seem like mere relics. There is no question that with each passing year more and more information is being digitized and migrated to the web, but this is still a matter of evolution as much as it is a revolution. There is now, and there will continue to be, types of media that are more readily available (or are only available) in physical forms. Teaching students how to work with all forms of media offers more than just a history lesson; it also encourages students not to rely too heavily, or entirely, on Google searches and websites as their sole sources of information.
As the significance and importance of maintaining adequate media centers in our schools becomes clear, it also becomes clear that the development, implementation, and ongoing maintenance of media centers requires they be staffed by specialists with the appropriate educational and professional backgrounds (marylandpublicschools.org, 2014). Creating a media center is not simply a matter of compiling a collection of materials and placing these materials on shelves. It is the responsibility of the media center specialist to curate a collection of materials that meets the standards set by the school board; as such, media centers must be designed to meet the needs of individual schools according to their curricula and their student populations. There is no one-size-fits-all media center, and it is the role of media center specialists to help shape the development of their facilities to match the educational environment of their schools (marylandpublicschools.org, 2014). Moreover, media center specialists must be versed in the fundamentals of library science to ensure that materials are properly curated, that students and staff can access needed or requested materials, that materials are updated or replaced as needed, and that appropriate records are kept of all transactions and acquisitions.
The (NOS) Media Center
The media center at (NOS) is, sadly, not adequate to meet the needs of students or to live up to the standards set forth by the Maryland State Board of Education. It should be noted at the outset that the inadequacies of the school media center are not the fault of the school librarian, but instead simply reflect a larger, systemic lack of emphasis on the significance of media centers by the local school system. The media center at (NOS) is, in effect, little more than a small warehouse of materials. The media collection contained in the media center is poorly organized, with many materials stacked haphazardly, sitting on shelves unlabeled or stored in boxes, and not appropriately separated by type. The available technology, such as computer terminals, is largely outdated or entirely obsolete, and there is no established system for students or staff to request technical assistance when it is needed. At the core of the problems associated with the (NOS) media center is a woefully small budget; according to one source, the budget is approximately $4.00 per student annually, or a total of $2000. This budget is hardly sufficient to cover the cost of sorting through and organizing the current collection of materials, let alone acquiring new and updated materials on a regular basis and incorporating them into an existing system. Sadly, the numbers speak for themselves, and the minuscule budget allocated to the (NOS) media center signals that it is not receiving the attention and focus it both deserves and requires.It should be noted that (NOS) is not the only school that has an inadequate media center, nor is the issue confined to Montessori schools. It must also be acknowledged, however, that Montessori schools have earned a reputation for having inadequate library and media center services. Whether this reputation is entirely fair, or whether it is applicable to all Montessori schools, is a matter for a different discussion. To some extent the very nature of the Montessori approach has a bearing on how libraries and media collections are built and maintained at individual schools. According to Duffy (2005) many Montessori schools do not have libraries; instead, instructors maintain individualized classroom collections of self-selected materials. While some Montessori schools do have libraries and even media centers, it is not uncommon for them to be stocked with materials that are haphazardly acquired and curated (Duffy, 2005).
The approach of providing an environment wherein students can engage in self-directed or individualized learning makes such classroom collections an appropriate part of the classroom environment, but does not obviate the need for a more complete and well-organized collection of library and media materials. The principles of availability and accessibility underpin any adequate library collection in schools, and this is as true for Montessori schools as it is for any other type of educational institution (Duffy, 2005). While there is arguably significant educational value in allowing students to engage in self-directed learning, such learning will be inherently hamstrung if students do not have access to a wide range of materials. In many instances it is the teachers themselves at Montessori schools who pay for their classroom books and media materials (Duffy, 2005); with this in mind, it is understandable why these teachers would prefer to have these materials remain in their classrooms rather than be made available to the entire student population.
The underlying factors which have earned Montessori schools the reputation for having inadequate libraries and media centers may not be entirely applicable in the context of (NOS); at the very least, this school does have a standalone library. Unfortunately it has a media center in name only, and if it is to meet the standards established by the state –and, more importantly, the educational needs of students- it will be necessary to bring about a new attitude towards the role of the media center both at (NOS) and among the decision makers in the school system. There are two fundamental objectives for bringing the media center up to 21st century standards: the first is to do the hard work of organizing the current collection; the second is to increase funding to whatever degree is possible to allow the school to acquire new materials and upgrade the available technology.
The New (NOS) Media Center
As a relative newcomer to (NOS) I am able to bring what I hope is an objective viewpoint to some of the issues plaguing the media center. Moreover, my background in library science makes it possible for me to see several practical ways in which the media center could be improved. I recommend that the school undertake a campaign to generate interest and enthusiasm in the media center among students, teachers, and parents. Students could be encouraged to participate in organizing and arranging the selected materials, cleaning up computer terminals, and engaging in other tasks related to a general “spring cleaning” of the materials. Outdated materials could be indentified, and students –and their parents- could be encouraged to come up with ideas and suggestions for new materials to be added to the media center collection. Such a campaign could be uniquely suited to the Montessori environment, and the project of revamping the media center could serve as an educational opportunity for all involved.
There are a variety of ways that funding might be raised for the media center. Organizations such as the Maryland Small Grants Program and similar organizations offer, among other things, grants to schools for the purpose of developing libraries and media centers (hjweinbergfoundation.org, 2014; scholastic.com, 2014). The effort to obtain grant money could also serve as a project in which students, teachers, and parents could become engaged and invested in the process of improving the (NOS) media center. Students could also work to develop ideas for fundraising projects for the media center: this idea not only allows students to become invested in the media center; it also offers opportunities for students to learn a broader set of lesson about fundraising, budgets, and the difficult decisions that must be made when determining how to allocate funds for any given project. The value of engaging students in improving the media center goes far beyond merely adding to a collection of materials or repairing computers; students can learn important lessons that will enrich their personal lives and will be applicable in their later academic and professional careers.
In the age of the Internet it is more important than ever that students be taught the skills needed to engage in research, to understand how to find and explore the wide diversity of media materials available to them, and to critically assess these materials in order to discern the value and validity of the information they contain. Even (or perhaps especially) in educational environments that place emphasis on self-directed learning, students must be afforded access to a wide array of available media and library materials in order to ensure that the scope of their education is as broad and rich as possible. In order to ensure that the collection of media materials is adequately tailored to the individual school, it is imperative that the media center be curated and maintained by an appropriate media specialist. Finally, it is of paramount importance that students, educators, and school officials understand the value of the media center and become engaged and invested in the process of acquiring and maintaining a vibrant collection of materials and technology within it. By encouraging stakeholders at all levels to become involved in the process , it is my hope that (NOS) can build a media center that engages students and staff and provides a vibrant collection of materials that will serve their needs for years to come.
Designing School Library Media Centers. (2014). Retrieved 13 September 2014, from http://www.marylandpublicschools.org/NR/rdonlyres/EC67FB12-FE6B-464A-A2AD-D0C6307773E3/24438/Designing_School_Libraries_Resource_List.pdf
Duffy, M. (2005). Montessori and School Libraries. Montessori Life: A Publication Of The American Montessori Society, 17(2), 14–17.
Hjweinbergfoundation.org,. (2014). Maryland Small Grants Program – Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, Inc.. Retrieved 13 September 2014, from http://hjweinbergfoundation.org/program-areas/maryland-small-grants-program/
Lance, K. (1994). The Impact of School Library Media Centers on Academic Achievement. School Library Media Quarterly, 22(3), 167.
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Sepc.setda.org,. (2014). Maryland: Library/Media Services. Retrieved 13 September 2014, from http://sepc.setda.org/state/MD/instructional-materials/librarymedia-services/
Standards for School Library Media Programs In Maryland,. (2014). Maryland State Board of Education. Retrieved 13 September 2014, from http://marylandpublicschools.org/NR/rdonlyres/092A7763-3A8E-47D6-B57D-32FBDC668D0A/13091/SLMStandards1.pdf
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