The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, December 5, 2008

CCHS library use grows by 94%

Robin Cicchetti, in her second year as Concord-Carlisle Regional High School (CCHS) Library chairperson, has already achieved success in incorporating new technologies and increasing student use. On December 1, she hosted the CCHS Parent Coffee in the library and gave an overview on how that institution is changing with the times. “There’s a lot of new technology coming through,” she noted, and a big part of the librarian’s job now is exploring new tools and methods and making sure teachers and students can use them.

Cicchetti says that one of her goals is to increase student reading. She has added popular graphic novels and Japanese manga to the library’s offerings, and even Shakespeare can be had in graphic form. Students today “grow up looking at screens and are more visual,” says Ciccheti, noting that when students come in for the graphic novels, they often leave with other materials. As a result, fiction check-outs are up 74% and overall use of the library is up 94%.

One School One Book

Another reading initiative is “One School One Book.” This year, students are reading A Long Way Gone, by Ishmael Beah, the story of a boy soldier in Sierra Leone. A variety of discussions and activities have been planned around this. Students have expressed a desire to help regions in need, and on December 18, the Oxfam U.S. Coordinator and a representative from the Congo will talk in the library on this topic.

More than books

Students are more engaged when they can access material in different formats, says Cicchetti. Audiobooks are available, often through interlibrary loan, and CCHS is a heavy user of this system. Ebooks can be downloaded to a home computer, and at the end of the check-out period, will disappear. Cicchetti passed around a video camera the size of a cell phone she found at Costco. The camera costs only $100, and is easy to use. Students now borrow these cameras and incorporate video into their projects, an example of how a small technology purchase can enhance engagement.

Cicchetti provided an overview of some of the tools students can access from the library website. The Gale Database provides multi-faceted learning and a starting point for research. The database is organized by topics, with pro and con arguments and links to more reading. Audio readers, MP3 downloads, dictionary definitions, and translations are available. Cicchetti notes many students understand better when they listen while reading, and in this way, Gale Database makes difficult information more accessible.

Noodle Tools

Noodle Tools is another research support. ‘Kids don’t know how to take notes,” says Cicchetti, and Noodle Tools steps them through the process. It allows students to set up notecards which can be edited and sorted online. The program tracks the sources of each piece of material, and helps students avoid accidental plagiarism. It will also analyze sources for range, dates, and other factors, so a student can decide if more research is needed. It will construct a bibliography. At any point a teacher can track completed work and determine if a student needs help.

In response to a parent question, Cicchetti said she is meeting with Concord and Carlisle middle schools to coordinate technology use. She said that students from Fenn and Nashoba Brooks have been using Noodle Tools for years. Not all CCHS teachers are as interested in technology, and some students may not be aware these supports exist. The entire library staff has been trained and can help students get started.

620 students per day

The library is “a really busy place,” said Cicchetti, with 620 students using it each day. If more than 120 are using it at a time, “we have to close the doors. It’s stuffed.” As a result, students often complain that they are unable to access the library during lunch periods.

Principal Peter Badalament noted parents had asked to volunteer so the library could be kept open after school. “We would love to stay open later,” responded Cicchetti. “I’m a real proponent of using parent volunteers.” However, if no staff member were available to supervise, “The tricky thing is potential discipline issues and privacy.” With all the librarians scheduled for busy lunch hours, it was not clear how staffing could be stretched, “but I believe smart people can come up with a reasonable solution,” she concluded.

Cicchetti thanked the Parents Association for providing library chairs and the Concord Education Foundation for supply carts with materials, as well as chess boards, Scrabble, and other games to occupy students after school.

The next Parent Coffee will be on Monday, January 5. ∆

© 2008 The Carlisle Mosquito