The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, April 2, 2010

Use grows as CCHS library transformed

Stacks of books have been removed, space has been created for collaboration, technology has been added and now teachers come for professional development and students receive media-intensive classes at the Concord-Carlisle Regional High School (CCHS) library. At the Regional School Committee (RSC) meeting on March 23, CCHS Librarian Robin Cicchetti gave an overview of how the library has been transformed into a “learning commons” over the last three years.

Cicchetti explained that this is not the library we grew up with. A library has been an archive; it held things. People were supposed to be quiet. “A learning commons flips that model.” Spaces have been opened up for presentation. Grants have been used for many upgrades, including technology. The furniture has changed and the lighting has greatly improved.

Cicchetti has the proof that the transformation has been a success. Visitation, (students are counted each block of the day) has risen from 25,000 visits in 2003-2004 to over 100,000 in 2008-2009. Class visits have jumped from roughly 340 per year in 2007-2008 to well over 450 this year. Classes make use of laptops. “There has been a huge increase in technology requests, presentation lessons and advanced information skills. We have the technology to bring them in and we’re seeing repeat visits.” Circulation has gone way up, from 3,200 books in 2006-2007 to 5,300 in the 2008-2009 school year.

Students are learning new library skills. The card catalogs are gone and searches are now done online. Cicchetti said she spends a lot of time teaching students about a variety of search engines and how to do advanced, more precise searches on foreign servers across the globe. Google’s Wonder Wheel allows for a more graphical method for results to be displayed. “Global tools are actively being used.”

Teachers receive professional development in the library on “wikis,” which are websites that allow for easy creation and editing of any number of interlinked web pages via a web browser. Wikis are typically used to create collaborative websites, community websites. Cicchetti sited statistics showing teachers using what they’ve learned. There has been a 106% increase in teachers creating wikis and a 308% increase in volume of course-related communication using wikis between September 2009 and January 2010.

Databases, authoritative information sources, are very important at the library. Last year, the library took a deep cut in funding and had to reduce the number of databases. Surrounding high schools have a range of nine to 23 subscription databases available. Cicchetti said, “We are down to six. That is concerning, except that these are absolutely the best we could get.” Cicchetti marvels at the accommodations built into these databases that include translation and text-to-speech functionality, all useful for differential teaching, especially for special education students. Teachers can export articles to a URL. Students then get a digital reading packet. It’s an alternative book source. Cicchetti wants to be sure teachers realize the potential for this. If Cicchetti had an additional $10,000 in her budget, she would add four more databases. But Cicchetti did not dwell on the cuts to her department. She emphasized the power of the “Gale” databases to which the high school does subscribe.

“Reading is now in different formats,” Cicchetti said. Students can check out ebooks when libraries are closed. “Platforms are constantly changing.”

“Students don’t access reference [materials] during the day. Students are accessing reference between 9 p.m. and 1 a.m.” So Cicchetti thinks students need fewer reference books in the library and more ways to access these items online.

For the future, Cicchetti expects to see fewer laptops and more personal mobile devices that students will use to organize their lives. She suggests there will be curatorial needs to archive the best work done by students. It will need to be searchable and organized. Web publishing will be very important. Students will be building “digital footprints” via blogs and wikis.

Currently, the high school library closes at 3:30 p.m. The RSC asked Deputy Superintendent John Flaherty to see what it would take to change and extend hours.

Cicchetti says the library is a place about skills and “transliteracy.” She defines transliteracy as the ability to communicate in a range of ways, including speech, sign-language, reading and writing through handwriting, print, radio, TV, film and digital media. Superintendent Diana Rigby thanked Cicchetti for her efforts and said, “We are on the cutting edge.” ∆

© 2010 The Carlisle Mosquito