School library makeovers a win-win

Teresa Bennett describes to SAU LMIS students the needs of her Texarkana Arkansas High School library before they start with the makeover.

Teresa Bennett describes to SAU LMIS students the needs of her Texarkana Arkansas High School library before they start with the makeover.

Two South Arkansas schools got help with library makeovers during the 2014 summer thanks to student volunteer projects as a part of SAU’s Library Media and Information Specialist graduate program.

Del Duke, SAU LMIS instructor, worked with the librarians at Oscar Hamilton Elementary School in Foreman and Arkansas High School in Texarkana to bring SAU’s LMIS students to assist in their library makeovers.

“These two school library makeover projects were excellent opportunities for our LMIS students to have real-world experiences in many leadership, management and evaluation roles of elementary and high school librarians. Not only did the schools benefit by having free help for their libraries, our LMIS students were thrilled with the knowledge they were gaining and eager to get back to their own libraries to implement what they were learning,” said Duke.

Kristie Smith is the Oscar Hamilton Elementary School librarian and a current SAU LMIS graduate student. When she became librarian, she recognized the need for an update because the layout was not user-friendly and the wall color and well-worn carpet make the space feel small and unappealing to her students.

“I was fortunate to have a very supportive principal, Pat Tankersley, who arranged to have the library repainted and new flooring installed, and to purchase an automated system. However, it could have taken years for me to manually catalog, label and arrange the books on the shelves without the help of SAU’s students,” said Smith. “Mr. Duke arrived with a 15-passenger van full of LMIS students who immediately went to work evaluating, cataloging, labeling, and arranging thousands of books on our library’s shelves.”

For Teresa Bennett, the Texarkana Arkansas High School librarian and an SAU LMIS graduate, the process of renovating her library started with fundraising. With the help of the Arkansas Women for Education, the Texarkana Arkansas Education Foundation, Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, and her principal, Eva Nadeau, nearly $24,000 was raised in starter funds to update technology, shelving and furnishings.

She said her school board was so inspired by the donations from around the community, they added nearly $30,000 in funding to complete the project. The funding for the redesign was critical since the previous configuration and furnishings left students feeling that spaces were dark and uninviting.

The second phase required developing a new look for the library that would entice students to visit and use the library.

“We even rebranded the library as ‘The Pig Spot,’ an homage to our mascot, the razorback,” said Bennett.

The third phase occurred after the physical renovations took place.

“The LMIS students were instrumental in helping with the evaluation and sorting of thousands of books. They helped me organize, genrefy and arrange the books on the shelves so that our high school students could easily locate items. All the renovations have led to a phenomenal increase in books being checked out and read by our students.”

Dr. Kim Bloss, Dean of SAU’s School of Graduate Studies, describes the importance of experiential learning like the library makeover projects.

“The library makeover project is one of the things that makes SAU’s LMIS program one of the best in the state,” said Bloss. “The makeovers are a win-win for everyone. The LMIS students learn first-hand practical knowledge about managing a school library and the schools gain the help needed to update the libraries.”

According to Duke, the SAU LMIS program looks for underserved schools in Arkansas. SAU LMIS has taken students to have hands-on learning activities in many areas across Arkansas, including libraries at Crossett Public School and Camden-Fairview Schools. Work they did at the Arkansas School for the Blind and Visually impaired led to the LMIS program winning the Distinguished Advocate Award from Arkansas Chapter Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired.

“Our students work hard during these projects and are happy to have the learning experiences as well as to give back to the community,” said Duke.

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