Friday, April 18, 2008
At CCHS, a busy library looks ahead
Daily visits to the Concord-Carlisle Regional High School (CCHS) library have grown to over 500 students a day, Librarian Robin Cicchetti told the Concord-Carlisle Regional School Committee (RSC) on March 25. “That’s kids with books open, on tables, using the computers,” she said. For comparison, the total number of students at CCHS is about 1260.
Class visits have grown as well, she explained, with up to 174 class visits so far this academic year. Cicchetti said the majority of visitors have been working on social studies and English subjects, but students also use the library for math and science, particularly for accessing problem sets on the computers. Health and fitness classes are also heavy library users, she added.
Cicchetti has a staff of three assistant librarians, and all are focused on services to students. “When a kid comes through the door you go through a triage,” she explained. A student who is starting a research project can be overwhelmed, she said, but the staff is ready to steer kids to resources they need.
Over the last several years, budget limitations have forced CCHS to scale back library hours and staffing, and the library now closes at 3:30 p.m. “If we had funding, I would love to see the library open and providing services to students until 5 p.m. each night, with the possibility of extended hours during exam weeks,” Cicchetti explained.
Between now and October the library will prepare a five-year plan for submission to the state agency that oversees public libraries Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC). Cicchetti said, “Once the plan is submitted and accepted it will give us opportunities to apply for grants.” The committee drafting the plan includes the librarian, CCHS Principal Peter Badalament, Director of Technology Gene Warfel, teachers, students and liaisons with the RSC and Concord Library.
Grants targeting technology are available from the MBLC. Only a few school libraries have submitted five-year plans so far. One of them was the Bourne Middle School, which received a grant of $7,500 for its Media Center.
Cicchetti said a goal is to update the library’s “technology grid” and modify the physical layout of the library. For instance, she would like to see a technology circulation area, where students can check-out technology such as laptops. This would give all students access to current software. “Some kids don’t have computers that can support software” that is used by class projects, she said. “I want to reduce barriers.”
Seeks community grants
Cicchetti is also applying for community grants. Recently the library received a $5,300 grant from the CCHS Parent Association, which was used to purchase ten colorful upholstered chairs. “The student reaction was immediate and enthusiastic” to the chairs, she said.
The budget was frozen in October after the library received the summer book order, some basic supplies, and toner. “Grant organizations don’t like to fund things that are covered by the budget,” she said, but prefer to support innovative materials and programs. She applied to the Concord Cultural Committee for $500 in multi-cultural books, but the request was denied.
Cicchetti has a pending application submitted to the same group for $1,800 for a “library makeover” to fund new signs, and to stock the student supply carts with note cards, tape, staplers, and foreign language dictionaries,. “We really, really need new dictionaries”, she said. She also hopes to find a grant to expand their sources in specialized areas, such as ancient Rome and the Renaissance. She noted, “If there is anyone out there that wants to help in writing grants I’d love some help.”
The CCHS library belongs to the Minuteman Library Network (MLN), which is a consortium of area libraries. The Concord Public Library is also a Minuteman member, while Carlisle’s Gleason Public Library belongs to the neighboring Merrimack Valley Library Consortium.
CCHS benefits from being a consortium member not only by having access to materials but also by focusing their purchases on what the public libraries do not have. “It prevents us from recreating the wheel” by avoiding material that is used infrequently and is available in the public library, she said.
The school borrows at least 30 books each week through the consortium. “An example is last week, when a student was looking for material on a research project on the impact of ticket brokers, like StubHub, on local businesses and communities,” Cicchetti explained. “We helped him find database resources, but the regional system provided recent books on the topic.”
Also the consortium, the CCHS library can provide students with free online access to databases such as the World Book Online Encyclopedias. Professional development opportunities are also available through the library network.
Connections with town libraries
CCHS has a good relationship with the town libraries, Cicchetti explained. She contacts the Concord and Carlisle libraries when students have a specific project, such as Moot Court. “It’s a heads up so they are ready for kids that come in” for research, she said.
“Angela Mollet has been a wonderful partner with CCHS, including us in some of their grant requests, communicating program events, and planning for collaborative staff training opportunities,” Cicchetti said.
Materials from the CCHS library are not normally loaned out to the public. However, “if a public librarian called me” about a specific need, explained Cicchetti, “we would certainly be welcoming.” ∆
© 2008 The