Thursday, September 29, 2005

Blog Interaction with Elizabeth Winningham – Thurs. Sept. 29 to Sat. Oct. 1, 2005

Elizabeth Winningham began her school library career opening the media center at Avon Intermediate School (Now designated as East). More recently, she was centrally involved in the planning, development, and opening of the media center for a new school, Avon Intermediate School West (Her new work location).

Learn more about Elizabeth Winningham at

You might start this virtual exchange asking Elizabeth of her unique insights into reading and approaches for helping reluctant readers, collaborative planning, information literacy, or her recent experiences in planning and opening a new school media center. But don't limit disccussion to these; Elizabeth has a wealth of information, ideas, and experience to share.


  1. I give you a what if question.

    You have inheirited a library with an aging collection and not up to date technology. The previous librarian was "cruising" the last two years before she retired.

    You have been given $1000 from the PTA. There are no strings on how you can spend the money. How would you spend it? Would you buy books? Would you buy new technology items?

    Could you outline the thought process you would go through to decide how you would spend the money.

    Thank you.

    Katherine Martinez

  2. Hi Elizabeth,

    Here's a question for tomorrow (I'm writing on Wednesday...) Your bio says you earned a "Media Literacy Grant". What is this grant, who awards them, and how did you get it?

    Susan Drumm

  3. Whoops, re-reading my post, I sounded a little rude. Sorry, it was more curt than I meant to be. I didn't mean to be rude or curt.

    Respectfully hoping to get a response to my posting.


  4. Anonymous8:15 PM

    Hi Elizabeth! Thank you for participating in this forum with us. What a great opportunity for us to ask some questions of "real life" people! Two things I wanted to ask you about. You mention in your bio sketch that you did not like to read as a child. Our Garfield books fly off the shelves (elementary school) and the kids, seems like boys especially, all love to read them. Some of the kids who check them out will read nothing else. How would you try to reach these kids and get them to read some of the great books that are out there? Our collection (I am currently a Media Manager) has no graphic novels. I would think that might be a good place to start if there are some that are appropriate for elementary schools. What do you think? Also, we have been chatting about confidentiality on our "In touch" forum. It seems that although we learn about the rights of students to confidentiality, many schools let parent volunteers check out books, check in books, etc. and most schools send home overdue notices with the name of the book listed on the notice. How do you handle students' rights to privacy - for example if a parent came in and wanted to know what books her child had checked out? Thank you for your time! Sandy H.

  5. Hi Elizabeth,

    I would be interested in hearing how you have found ways to effectively collaborate with the other teachers in the building. Have you found ways to collect meaningful evidence from these experiences as well?


  6. Anonymous7:36 AM

    What was your process for evaluating material for opening a new school media center? Were you bogged down with all the technical needs for the space instead of focusing on book selection?

  7. Hi Elizabeth. I worked briefly last year as a media assistant for IPS and I was amazed at how many restrictions the head of media at IPS imposed on the media specialist. Maybe it seems like a lot to me because I came from teaching and am used to being able to design my space the way I think is best. What do you find are the restrictions placed on a media specialist and how do you work within these expectations?

  8. Anonymous6:04 PM

    Hi Elizabeth!

    I'm in my last semester, earning certification to teach school media, and I hope to be teaching as a specialist next year.
    I work as a media assistant at an IPS elementary school, and I have noticed that the furniture for our library (which is beautiful, by the way) doesn't really match the average height of our kids. For example, the checkout counter is about 3 1/2 feet high, so all I can see of the kindergarteners are the tops of their heads! I usually stand up to check out books anyway. The chairs are adult size, leaving the smaller kids to tuck their dirty little shoes up on the upholstered seats (not their fault).

    My request is that you help me by suggesting ways to effectively design a media center. It could be an elementary school, or another. Which vendors seemed the most knowledgeable about the special needs of a school library? What considerations were most important for you? What did you learn from your experience? In hindsight, would you have done anything differently?

    If you feel like it, I'd also love to know how you went about purchasing the library materials as well. I know this is asking a lot, and if you poop out before you get to this part, I'll understand.

    Nell Glover

  9. Anonymous2:51 PM


    I am dyslexic also. I didn;t know that until my junior year at Purdue, though once that was established and explained to me it explained a tot of my problems. In regards to this learn disablity how comfortable are you at writing grants. Personally when anybody wants me to write it is frightening for me. I guess you needed to overcome this feeling too. Do you have any suggestions on writing grants and in the same vein, how do you track your work for others to see. The mere thought of a portfolio, leaves me shaking in my boots. I take any clues on how to get over this.

  10. Hello Elizabeth,

    I am a new media specialist this year and find it difficult to encourage teachers to collaborate. They are willing to use the facility, but so many of them have been teaching a while that they want to continue to do the projects the same way. They know I was a teacher before taking this position, but they still haven't been very receptive.

    Could you please give us advice on how to get teachers to let us help plan? Many times they wait until a day or two before, so everything has already been set.


    Elizabeth Kenyon

  11. Anonymous6:28 PM

    Follow up to Elizabeth Kenyon’s post…

    Also a new media specialist, just beginning my second year, I am encountering many of the same problems trying to convince staff to work with me. The veteran staff is very resistant to change. Despite my attempts to suggest additional resources or tech components for existing units, the conversation frequently ends with “that sounds good, but what I usually do is…” Recently I approached a teacher about bringing his class to the computer lab so that I could teach them how to use one of our online databases when they search for information for an upcoming unit on climates in the Eastern Hemisphere. He assured me that his students have always found what they needed (photos, maps, information about individual countries) by using, but reluctantly agreed to let me pay him a visit during his prep period. I went to his room with books from our collection that cover the unit topic, borrowed his computer to log on to the database and show him how much easier it will be for students to use this rather than a general search engine, and brought out the schedule book for a computer lab. Before he knew what happened, his classes were penciled in for a workshop. While I realize this was pretty much a “forced” collaboration, at this point I will take what I can get. So, I would also really appreciate any advice on reaching these reluctant staff members. I am hoping that if I have a few successful collaborative efforts with key staff members, others will come on board in time.

    Another question…Do you use any kind of reading management/assessment program like Accelerated Reader or Reading Counts?


    Kelly VonGunten

  12. Anonymous7:54 AM


    My thought process on your very challenging question would depend on other budgetary issues. If I only had 1,000 dollars then the techonology would have to wait. A thousand dollars does not even touch it. I would first see what the circculum is for the school, anaylsis the age of the collection and see if weeding was a possibliity and the make a very selective curriculum based book purchase. The collection would have to be developed over a few years if the budget allowed.

  13. Anonymous7:57 AM


    The grant was from the Department of Learning resources (DOE) and I had to apply. My grant allowed me the funding to start a program at my first school that allowed for teacher release time for co-planning, special events and conferences so that my staff would understand what co-planning and an open access media center had to offer. I took the lesson plans, ideas and money to start my program and continued to develop every since. My teachers appreciated it as I was able to show them what the media center could really offer.

  14. Anonymous8:05 AM

    Sandy: REading is reading. LEt the kids read anything and everything you can get in thier hands even if it is only comics. They are starting to write graphic novels for the lower grades but you have to be careful there. I would recommend magazines. They are short articles and sometimes will keep the boys attention. We can not keep our magazines on the shelves. Book talk your Matt Chrispher books as well as the other books listed on the Best Books for Boys list. Sometimes they just need someone to recommend titles. We also use books on tape and CD for students that need some extra motivation.

    Student rights:

    It is my understanding that parents have the right to see what their student is reading unless your student is over 18. You might not want to have volunteers run overdues if you think there is a confidentality issue. We do that ourselves. Students are not allowed to pass them out. We mail the overdue bills home so that they will not be seen on the school bus. I hope that helps.

  15. Anonymous8:08 AM


    I talk with my teachers on a daily basis- I have learned what thier curriculum is and what they are teaching. I offer support materials daily and offer help whenever I see them. Always eat lunch in the staff lounge. Alot of projects are discussed in the halls or at lunch. We have the teachers fill out a curriculum calender at the beginning of the year and then I go and ask have this unit or that unit is going and what can I do to help. It is an ongoing daily activity.


  16. Anonymous8:22 AM

    To all those who have asked how I built the media center for the new school...

    It was a year long process and I was very lucky that I had the collection from my old media center to use as a foundation. I worked closely with Follet..but don't let them take over...I went through every recommended title and based the decisions on copyright dates as well as curriculum for non fiction, curriculum, budget and award winners and teachers needs.

    I had a say in the furniture but still ended up with elementary school chairs in a school for 5th and 6th graders. The chairs would fit 1st graders. I made sure that our circulation desk was handicap accessable. I was responsible for finding all equipment that would be used in the media center and the rest of the schools. The art, music and pe selected their own. I asked for as much technology as I thought I could get away with and nothing was turned down. We now have a mobile smart board and a multi media mini lab and camera studio. It was a very overwhelming job and one that required many extra hours that I was not paid for. I worked all summer unpacking and getting the media center open for school. All as a volunteer. I made the books a priority. My principal wanted the equipment lists about three months before he needed my collection selections so I was able to schedule my work based on his time line.

  17. Anonymous8:26 AM


    Vendors to use:
    Brodart, Demco, Follett were the main vendors that we used. All our materials were placed out to low bid and I ended up working with other companies. I do not even know thier names. We have one case of everything was planned out using Brodart and another company got the bid. When they delivered the furniture is was not quite right but no body was there so it was accepted by a janitor and my old school was stuck with the new circulation desk that was not the way it had been designed. As we were building the new school they were also re-decorating the old school. I was involved in both.


  18. Anonymous8:30 AM

    dyslexic unite:

    My husband proofed every thing I did in grad school. I have collegues read my handouts and anything that goes where anyone can see it. I use spell check extensively and I have finally learnt to believe in my abilities. Touch typing was a great help. Helping my own children with thier homework has been humbling but they work with me with it. Friends and good collegues are great.


  19. Anonymous8:39 AM


    There are some teachers you will never reach. Forced collaboration is the beginning of a crack in thier amour. You need to continue to make thier job easier. We are not always right. They might use that one site because it is easy to grade. I have found that word of mouth makes it easier. I help so and so and she tells her team mate and suddenly it's easier for all of them.

    Our corporation uses Accelerated Reader in all our buildings except the high school. I find that when the students get to the intermedate school they are burnt out on the program because it is required in the elementary schools. It is up to our teachers if they use it. I do run a store for AR points and I tell the kids that it is easy candy. We do have all our students take the STAR Reading test that goes with Accelerated reader to get thier reading level and then test them two more times during the year to monitor progress. I personally feel that the reading levels in AR do not take content into consideration and students should read to read. I have gotten teachers to move from students having so many points a grading period to reading a certain number of AR books. We dont worry about points.


  20. Anonymous8:43 AM

    Elizabeth K:

    Flexiability, if you can only get to them a day or two before go for small changes at first. You have been a teacher- youknow what it is like to have everything changed on you. Comfort zones- I don't expect major miracles. Choice one teacher and work with them this year, next year add another but make sure you go back to your first teacher and say alright when are you going to do... What can I do to help again this year? Show off the kids work in the media center. If a teacher sees a neat project, they will come and ask for help as well. It is not an easy process and it can be slow. Go to as many department, subject area meetings, grade level meetings as you can and listen...


  21. Anonymous5:58 AM

    Thank you, Elizabeth. I appreciate your feedback. You are right about the magazines - our BMX and SI for kids are especially popular. It's nice to hear someone say that "Reading is reading!" Sometimes I think it is easy to get caught up in the Reading Counts mentality when you are in a school that uses it. We have teachers who require students to read "at their lexile" etc. Their lexile often eliminates books that are Newbery winners, YHBA's.... A real problem. Thanks again for your input!