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Media specialists create instructional hubs
Technology changing school libraries into high-tech learning centers
A Flowery Branch High School student reads an assignment on a Nook E-reader. The device is one of the electronic media devices available in the school’s media center. - photo by Tom Reed

A new breed of library warrants a new breed of librarian.

Correction — media specialist.

“This isn’t your mother’s library,” said Will Schofield, Hall County Schools superintendent.

Even five years ago, school libraries were just that: a place to check out books. Now schools boast media centers, making them the technological and informational hubs of the school

And running those media centers are the new age librarians: the media specialists.

Hall County staffs a media specialist at each school throughout the district, charged with not only running the media center, but acting as a facilitator to incorporate new technology into the classroom.

“We are not givers of information anymore,” said Kristi Crumpton, the media specialist at Mount Vernon Elementary School. “These kids can find it in a second. I see us as a facilitator of learning and helping kids dig through all this information out there.”

Crumpton says over the past three years there has been a very noticeable transition from library to information hub, and leading that charge have been the media specialists.

Even their roles have changed along with the technology.

One of the priorities for today’s media specialists is to help teachers and students (and the occasional parent) use the technology available effectively in the classroom.

“It’s very important that you not only know how to use the tool, but what to use it for and that’s where you really get the value out of it,” said Jennifer Parker, the media specialist at Chestatee High School. “And that’s what we’re really striving to do.”

During a presentation to the board of education Monday night on the changing climate of media centers and their staffs, Crumpton and Parker proposed a media specialist growth rubric, used to evaluate the effectiveness of the school’s media specialist. The rubric puts emphasis on a variety of skills, including blended learning, instructional support, technology integration and resource management.

“It’s not an overstatement to say that (media specialists) will be the instruction hub of our schools,” said Schofield.

Right now, Hall media centers are filled with a variety of technological tools, including eBooks, tablets, laptops, video cameras and more.

The specialist’s job is to help students and teachers use those tools to the fullest extent.

“I think the media center is a place where kids can come and feel excited about learning and they’re not necessarily being tied to a grade,” said Parker.

Media specialists say their positions will become more critical as technology continues to improve, especially with Georgia moving to the Common Core performance standards, which put more emphasis on long-term performance.

“I think we’re going to play an integral part in that,” said Crumpton. “It’s different than being in the classroom because I build relationships with the kids over years.”

Both Crumpton and Parker were classroom teachers before becoming media specialists.

But keeping up with the changing technological landscape can sometimes be challenging and specialists are expected to be at the front end of those transitions.

“What I’m seeing right now is that it’s increasing so much faster because technology is coming at us so quickly right now and it changes so quickly,” said Crumpton. “It’s something you have to constantly stay on top of.”

Specialists are constantly taking training courses, reading blogs and even learning from the students, who, they say, sometimes have a more prominent finger on the pulse of new technology.

The specialists have to. Their job is to have answers and solutions.

That, they say, is essential to today’s schools.

“You can come and find whatever you need in the media center,” said Parker. “I think if you take that away, then you’re taking away the students’ ability to have a place that they can create and learn and find what they need.”