Monday, November 28, 2005

Blog Interaction about School Library Media Health - Nov. 28 to Dec. 2, 2005

Underwood, A. (Oct. 3, 2005). The Good Heart. Newsweek.

The above article from Newsweek reports on the mounting evidence suggesting that psychological outlook is just as important to health as are diet and exercise.

Now, how might those factors be interpreted in shaping a healthy school library media program? Yes, I know many school media specialists could lose some weight (especially myself) . . . but that is not what I mean.

Think about the health of a school library media center in terms of diet, exercise, and outlook - - the diet of the library (inputs, what is taken in), exercise (activities, what gets done), and outlook (attitudes, climate, and atmosphere). Reflecting on our discussions and the course content of this semester, provide examples that represent a healthy program approach? Share your ideas and how they fit within the healthy school library framework.


  1. The first thing that came to my mind when I read this analogy ('good heart') was that to keep a media center healthy and fit, one absolute necessity is open, honest, tactful communication. I know that this topic was not necessarily a major focus of our class, but I have seen first hand this fall (at a school that shall remain nameless) how poor communication leads to assumptions...assumptions lead to resentment...and resentment builds walls between staff members. And then, of course, who always loses when adults can't work together? The kids!

    Mrs. X, the media specialist, and Mrs. Y., media assistant, have asked that faculty sign up in advance to have media fed through AV central. Yet Mr. Z., a young enthusiastic teacher, hasn't gotten the message. He's a last minute kind of guy...yet he's a creative teacher and the kids love him. Do Mrs. X. and Mrs. Y. attempt to talk with Mr. Z. (who does not even realize that he isn't following 'protocol')? Nope. They just get grumpy every time they see him walk in the door. They assume that he knows the policy (after all, they told everyone at the opening faculty meeting) but arrogantly disregards it. Mr. Z.? He's oblivious...and just thinks those media women aren't very friendly--and avoids them.

    Uh oh. It's later in the year and Mr. Z. needs to show a DVD on the BIG projector screen in the LGI. Guess who has the remote and all the instructions? Yep. Those unfriendly media women. Mr. Z. can't fathom that they would trust him with the remote, so he takes a deep breath and goes to ask them for assistance. He'd actually be happy to run the projector himself--he can read instructions as well as the next guy--but he assumes that 'protocol' is for only the LMS to handle such expensive equipment. Assumption wrong again. This request for help is seen by 'those media women' as imposition, as a teacher trying to dump his responsibilies off on them. And the saga goes on and on and on, with many other teachers, and many missed opportunities to do the best for kids.

    Addressing a difference can be hard, but I'm convinced that 90% of teachers, when they see that you care about them and are willing to bend for their benefit, will respond to open, tactful dialogue. "Wellness" for media centers? Take one capsule of kindness, one capsule of humility, add some tact, and communicate!

  2. Anonymous4:35 PM

    I think good personal health and the health of your media center both require a little bit of chocolate. At lunch today with the fourth grade teachers, we were talking about dieting. One teacher is starting a new diet tomorrow. We had amazing chocolate cake today. My comment was, "what is the use of living without sweets?" I don't smoke anymore and haven't consumed a full alcoholic beverage in years. Chocolate is my only vice! And it keeps me cheerful. It also helps keep my teachers cheerful. I have a drawer by my desk usually (when I haven't lost control) full of chocolate. The teachers come in for their fix. Which is a good time to communicate lesson ideas, ideas, even concerns. So for good health, I say eat and serve more chocolate! You think I am kidding?? No way. We have to, as Susan aluded to, be proactive and reach out to teachers by doing whatever it takes to help them and make their lives a little easier/more enjoyable. Chocolate is my way! I remember getting this idea from the high school media specialist at Bloomington North. I also know Avon's own Robyn Young has a basket full of goodies she takes with her to teacher meetings.

    Catherine Trinkle

  3. Anonymous4:39 PM

    I found the closing statements of this article to be the most meaningful. "Someday that may be the model for treating heart patients: an approach that integrates lifestyle changes with a new outlook on life. It will involve a collaboration among cardiologist, nutritionist, psychologist, the patient and his family, bound together by the realization that the heart does not beat in isolation, nor does the mind brood alone." The most important word in this paragraph is collaboration, and based on our class readings and discussions, I would say that collaboration is also the most important word for a media specialist. A healthy media program does not happen on its own by having a good media specialist. It takes the collaboration of the administrators, teachers, parents, volunteers, and the media specialist to develop a healthy program. Just like the heart can not work in isolation, neither can the media specialist. Another part of the analogy that I thought about is the fact that getting your heart and mind healthy are a process that takes time and dedication to change, which is also true of the media center. You cannot expect to turn your media program into a healthy, functioning, and effective program overnight. It is a process that we will all work on throughout our entire careers.

    Julie Mansfield North

  4. Anonymous6:48 AM

    I love a good analogy and Dr. Johnson has certainly provided one.
    If we think of the media center as the heart of a school, then perhaps the students become the life blood running through the heart and picking up nourishing oxygen in the form of excellent materials and dropping off old tired notions, ideas, and prejudice.
    I believe our most important job as (the guiding force of the heart) media specialists is to serve students, staff, and curriculum by selecting excellent materials, knowing the curriculum, understanding student needs, and creating a pulsating, enriching, information environment.
    We know the heart is not an independent organ. It needs to be kept in shape by outside influences. The heart needs exercise to be dynamic (good programming); the heart also needs good nutrition to function at its best (a generous budget); the heart needs a good solid framework and support to carry it along (administration); and lastly, the heart needs partners (teachers) that work in collaboration with the heart to keep the whole system going. Health is a communal affair and I think this analogy helps us to understand exactly how dependent we all are. It is possible for one person to make a difference. However, a group of people working together can create an enduring, dynamic system.
    I leave you with two quotes from Ralph Waldo Emerson that relate to this discussion.

    Write it on your heart that every day is the best day of the year.

    Great hearts steadily send forth the secret forces that incessantly draw great events.

    Have a terrific holiday season,
    Chris Somers

  5. The opening paragraph of this article is what jumped out to me right away. I was struck by the correlation of heart attacks right after a tramatic event. It seems to me that this really correlates to what our profession spends a great deal of time doing. We go into "scared to death" mode after budget cuts or after program eliminations. We whine and complain after the fact. Instead, if before we are faced with problems, we would just focused our energy and time towards positive things -- impacting student achievement; co-planning, co-teaching, and co-assessing with teachers; providing staff development; promoting reading; integrating technology, etc. -- we could avoid some of the pain. Because just as having a postive attitude and a positive outlook helped those avoid heart attacks, it could help us avoid budget cuts and program eliminations. The positive experiences we create for students, teachers, and administratives is going to make good health for our library media programs.

    The other connection I made was that someone took time to actually write an article to share with others. We need to make sure we're communicating our message and our program to others -- students, parents, administrators, teachers, and the community. Beyond that, we should be reaching out and sharing our good ideas with the entire library media community. I know the issue of time always pops up, but the question is....if we don't do it, who will? We need to share those positive experiences, those positive strategies that worked, so that others can use them, too.

    That is what will help our profession healthy and survive...making so many positive experiences, that the biggest negative impact any group could experience would be to be without us.

  6. Anonymous3:58 PM

    I really like analogies, they make me think. Let's look at the article - the physical heart is as greatly affected by your mental attitude as it is by the physical things like diet and exercise. If the Library is the "heart" of the school, is it as much affected by attitudes as it is by physical things, like the budget and physical space? I think so, a positive attitude draws people in. If you are always glad to see whoever shows up at your door, more people show up at your door. If you act like you are glad to see everyone you find yourself actually being glad to see them. If you are constantly saying "look how great a job we are doing" Everyone tends to see you doing a great job. If you are always excited about what's going on in the library everyone seems to think the library is exciting. Can mental attitude become reality? I think that to a great extent mental attitude is reality. Everything bad keeps happening to pessimists and good things constantly happen to optimists. I don't want to sound like Pollyanna but I do think that if you are grouchy and pessimistic your library program will not be as successful as it would be if you were positive and optimistic. Attitude is not everything but it is a very big part of a successful program.
    Susan Robinson

  7. Anonymous11:03 AM

    Nancy McGriff
    South Central

    Doesn't this just say it all? Absolutely psychological health in the media center is crucial. Being positive, inspiring trust, having high expectations, being fair, flexible, approachable, and a team player. To me those are the attributes of a psychologically healthy media center.

    We could argue cart and horse - do you become negative because you don't have a good budget, staff, resources, respect of your peers or do you not have them because you are negative. I agree with Carl, be proactive and prove that the students are learning and could achieve more with better resources, more staff, more collaboration.

  8. It always knew that a library media center must be an open, inviting place. I didn't think of calling it healthy though. It make perfect sense. If teachers and students are afraid to go to the library because of rules or strict guidelines, they will not have a good experience or success. There can be a library media center with great collections, like a healthy heat, but if students feel anxious or unwelcome, they will not utilize it to its fullest extent. The media specialist at my school not only creates great programs, but she celebrates children. She displays their art, talks with them about personal issues, and makes them feel a part of the library. Students who normally might not visit the media center often, are flocking there. She gets to know the students so she can easily suggest materials that tney need and want. I have seen both sides. We have had an "unhealthy" atmosphere in the past where students were constantly lectured on no gum in the library, or being quiet, or make sure you check out a certain kind of book. Now students can visit the library more often. They are involved in service projects, creating videos, and can even come in during their lunch hours to play chess or checkers. The entire school community needs to make sure that it is a healthy place for kids.

  9. Hi everyone,

    The diet of the media center should strive to strike a balance like our real-life diets: well-rounded without too much "fat", i.e. maintain a well-rounded collection of print and electronic sources that are not stale but rather are fresh and healthy. (current and full of relevant info presented in an interesting way.) A lot of empty calories would equate as unused materials or those that do not serve the content needs of the school and therefore sit unused on the shelf. I do agree with Catherine, that a few sweets along the way make for happy campers (teachers) and can go a long way in developing positive relationships for collaboration and professional interaction. Our media center has a kitchen area with a sink, microwave, coffee maker, candy basket and counter for goodies anyone can bring and share--and we draw themm in all day. It is amazing the discussions and ideas that start to flow over a piece of banana bread and cup of coffee. I also can see that a combo fixed/flex schedule can provide the essential, daily requirements (regular "fixed" visits for book checkout, library fimiliarity, relationship building with the s.m.s. and then lots of "flex" variety in foods eaten for good collaboration and student-centered instruction.) The healthy lifestyle must also include a variety of exercise (i.e. services) to students and staff: professional development, reading promotion, technology training, curriculum support and on and on. Ways to monitor the activity are also important. ZMS students were all issued pedometers in October to use throughout the year as a part of a grant to promote healthy lifestyle and habits. Our "pedometers" take the form of data collection and evalation which will allow us to see who we support well and where we need to concentrate future efforts. The outlook of the media center needs to be one of welcome, warmth and assistance. This includes the atmosphere of the media center with good lighting, comfy chairs, and good work areas all the way to the looks on our faces and demeanors when we interact with the staff and students. The image of the dour librarian does not serve us well as an attitude for life, and is definitely not the image we want to impart of a professional, proactive media specialist. Media specialists also do not want their outlooks to stagnate...a healthy outlook on life will mean a constant assessment of the program that evolves as the SIP changes through the years of a school, curriculums modify, new technology is introduced, and district goals are acted upon by all buildings and staff. We almost be ready to embrace change, even when it is difficult, if it will lead toward improved service in our programs.

    This is a great concept to apply to media programs, especially as we draw near to the time of resolutions and plans for a new year. A great time to reflect on personal and professional habits and build new energies for a fresh beginningin 2006. Happy holidays to everyone--


  10. Anonymous7:08 PM

    I especially liked Chris's interpretation of the analogy. She stated if the media center is the heart then the students "become the life blood running through the heart". So true! Isn't that why we do our jobs, at least it should be. The article also talked about maintaining the heart. I see the media center this way too. If left neglected, it isn't going to serve the "body"(school) like it should.

    I also agree with Catherine and her philosophy that chocolate is required. I have a stash hidden in my drawer and one that is out for teachers to get their fix. Glad to know I am not the only one!

    Kelly Bordner