Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Blog Interaction with Hella Rumschlag - Thurs. Nov. 2 to Sat. Nov. 4, 2006

Hella Rumschlag is in her first year as the media specialist and technology coordinator at Mohawk Trails Elementary School in Carmel, IN.

You can learn more about Hella's professional background at

You might ask Hella about her experiences in this first year as teacher librarian in charge of her own program. Knowing that she worked as a library assistant for several years, you also have an opportunity to ask about her insights and recomendations for supervising paraprofessional staff member positions.


  1. Hi Hella! I have a couple of big questions...

    While visiting several library media programs this semester, I have realized that there are many ways that the past media specialist can influence your first years as the current library media specialist. What was the library media program like before you and how has that effected your first year as a library media specialist?

    Furthermore, what are the main goals that you have made for yourself and/or program this year?

    I am currently the comptuer technology teacher at my school and I have a strong interest in how technolgoy is used at differnent schools and who is "in charge" of teaching and integrating it. Because you are also in charge of your school's technology program, are you responsible for integrating technology into the classroom? Do you make it a point to integrate technology into lessones when collaborating with teachers?


  2. Nicki Kirchoff6:52 AM

    What kinds of duties and responsibilities do you feel that only the licensed media specialist is qualified to do (as opposed to a paraprofessional)?

    Based on your experiences, what are your thoughts about a paraprofessional vs. a media specialist?

  3. Hi Hella,
    I also have the same questions as Nicki. When you worked as a para in the library was the LMS always there? We have several buildings in my district where the para is there 5/5 days a week and the LMS has to travel to 5 buildings so can only be in a building one day a week.

  4. Hella,
    I am interested in finding out about your experience or policy on inter-library loans? Do you have any relations with the public library? Other schools in your district or area?

    How do you deal with student who have learning disabilities? It is hard to meet the needs and work with a whole classroom of users when some students need individualized instruction, I feel.

  5. Hella,

    What type of additional responsibilities does being technology coordinator entail? I can't imagine taking on the workload of my school's technician as well as keeping up with my own responsibilities in the media center.


  6. Anonymous7:23 PM

    Hi Katie,

    You are absolutely right; teachers have certain expectations after working with another media specialist, especially if she was there for about 12 years. I was a little intimidated at first, because several people told me I had big shoes to fill.

    I am trying to create a program based on my vision on what a school media center should be like, but I am fully aware that change can be difficult for some. There are certain things that I changed immediately: checkout limits went up, I did away with running overdues before each class, students may now place holds, they can come in any time of day to check out, return, or renew, and students can still check out a book if they have overdues. My goal is to have the kids read, read, read -- and if circulation stats are any indication, they are reading more.

    However, when it comes to collaborative units, I am talking to the teachers and offering to continue the same projects they have been doing for years. We have made some minor changes, but most of it is the same. As we are getting into the research now, I am getting ideas for how we can change things for next year. Sometimes it's replacing older software (Hyperstudio) with something new (Pixie). For a third grade project, we changed the format of the research folder to cut down on the amount of paper involved. I think the important thing is that I don't mandate that we have to do it MY way now :-) I want to be a team teacher and make changes only if it works for the classroom teacher also.

    As far as my main goals go... as I mentioned above, I want to make the library more accessible so that kids feel welcome to come in at any time and so they always have something to read. We have a YHBA program for grades 4-5, a Lunch Bunch program for grades 2-3, and a chapter book club for grade 1. The suggestion box I set up has been very popular and I've already purchased several books based on requests and recommendations. I want the kids to feel that they have ownership in their library and that their voice matters. At some point I'd like to set up an advisory board of students and teachers.

    Another main goal is to integrate more technology into the curriculum. I am chairing a new committee this year: the technology integration committee. We recently made a proposal to our wonderful PTO for a mobile lab and they voted to fund over half of it.

    I would like to do more as far as integrating technology for specific lessons or units. I think that will get easier as I become more familiar with the curriculum for each grade.

    Hella Rumschlag

  7. Anonymous7:40 PM

    Hi Nicki,

    Good question. The biggest difference is that I am now a teacher. I am very fortunate in that the teachers in my building recognize me as a teacher also. (It doesn't hurt to display my teaching license in my office...) As a team teacher, I feel that I should know the standards, collaborate in integrating information skills into the curriculum, become familiar with the curriculum, and integrate technology into the curriculum. It's my job to support, enrich, and facilitate. I read an article by Joe Hephy recently where he used the term "servant leader." It sounds like a contradiction, but I think it sums up my role perfectly.

    Some other duties that I did not do as a para are collection development and making budget decisions.

    I hesitate to say that a media specialist will always be better than a paraprofessional, but I think a well educated media specialist has a more comprehensive view of a library media program, with a better understanding of how to integrate daily operations with teaching, than a para without an MLS.

    Hella Rumschlag

  8. Anonymous7:48 PM

    Hi Mary,

    I was very fortunate to work with excellent role models in districts where school libraries are highly valued. All of the media specialists I worked with were in just one building, five days a week.

    They also all had at least one full-time assistant, which was wonderful. Right now, I have a part-time assistant (3 days a week). I know I am still more fortunate than many who don't have any assistants at all, but full-time would definitely be better!

    Hella Rumschlag

  9. Anonymous8:04 PM

    Hi Lindsay,

    We do quite a lot of interlibrary loans among the eleven elementary schools in the district. It's a great way to provide the teacher with enough copies of one title so that the students can all read the same book with partners.

    Our public library hosts a little party at the beginning of the year where media specialists can browse new titles and pick up lists of recommendations. They send us promotional materials for Library Card Sign-up month and for the summer reading club. They were happy to send me the library card application, so I could send copies home with a letter for our kindergarten parents. They also ask media specialists to provide printed lists of Accelerated Reader titles to keep in the library. I know they would also loan us books, but I haven't had a need to use that service yet. They have been very helpful.

    As far as working with students with disabilities, I know I have a lot to learn. I see two Early Childhood and one Lifeskills class each week. I truly enjoy reading to and doing activities with these kids. I am fortunate in that media is NOT a prep time for the teachers, so they come with their students. It really helps to have the teachers explain any special needs. My feeling is that the teachers know their students better than anyone else in the building and I know the books; together we can find just the right book with regard to interest and ability. I haven't had any serious behavior issues, but if I did, the teachers would be there to help.

    Hella Rumschlag

  10. Anonymous8:30 PM

    Hi KPiz,

    First let me say that we do have a technician who has a degree in computer science. He also works in one other building and sometimes still others if there's a particular need, so at most he is in our building half days. If he's not in the building when something goes haywire, I just do my best. I am very grateful for his expertise.

    As technology coordinator, I chair the tech committee as well as the tech integration committee. We discuss hardware and software problems and make decisions on technology purchases.

    One of my main goals is to integrate technology into the curriculum, so I am involved in training teachers and providing resources (both print and electronic) to make that happen. I do a lot of troubleshooting (preferably not with 25 kids waiting impatiently to see if I can actually fix it:-), I help in the computer lab, run the media retrieval system, provide print cartridges, replace overhead light bulbs, change the rolls on the laminator, supply remote control batteries, video camera, extension cords, network cables, etc. I also created and maintain the media center web page as well as help upload information to the school's other pages. I'm still figuring out the exact scope of this job, but I'm enjoying the challenge and am learning a lot very quickly!

    Hella Rumschlag

  11. Hella,
    Thanks for your comments. I did not know exactly how public libraries interacted with School Media Specialists. Besides putting materials together for them if needed.

    Team teaching seems like a great way to help special needs students or any type of student. The more teachers there are the more likely it is that someone will pick up on students characteristics and can only help improve education. You are lucky that you have a classroom teacher there because many schools lack the funding today.

  12. Heidi3:09 AM

    Hi Hella,

    Your situation is somewhat similar to my school in that we have a full-time LMS and a separate technology staff who is split between two buildings. Sometimes when he is at the other building, a teacher in our building may have a "technology crisis" and will call on the LMS to try and fix it. She is always willing but the problem is that this takes her out of the library, sometimes for hours at a time.

    Do your teachers expect this from you also? Do you find it difficult to balance your library duties with tech support?


  13. Anonymous7:49 PM

    Hi Heidi,

    The teachers understand that my responsibility to scheduled classes comes first. If they have a technology need while I am teaching, I tell them I will stop by as soon as I can. Fortunately, there haven't been any huge crises yet...

    The teachers help each other a lot and we have some instructional assistants who are very knowledgable about various technologies. I don't feel like I'm the only one who can help if there's a problem. Sometimes someone else can get it done better and faster than I could. Teachers have also been flexible; if it doesn't work today, we'll figure it out for tomorrow. They are very kind and understand that I am still learning how things work in the building.

    I should also mention that we have great tech support at the district level. I can always pick up the phone and have someone at our district office walk me through the steps to troubleshoot a hardware or software problem.

    To answer your question about balance, my role as tech coordinator is supplementary. In some schools in our district, a classroom teacher, not the media specialist, is the tech coordinator. I view my responsibilities the same way as a classroom teacher would: my primary focus is still on teaching.

    Hella Rumschlag

  14. Hella,

    It sounds like you've made some really good changes. One thing I really like is letting students check out what they want when they want. It just makes sense.

    Were you overwhelmed at the aspect of being in charge of the media center? I was a children's librarian for twelve years and worked in a media center for a semester, but the idea of having my own media center or public library is very overwhelming.

    How do you get past the jitters and onto setting goals and making plans?

  15. Anonymous6:03 PM

    Good question Cathie!

    I think my years as an assistant for an exemplary media specialist and my student teaching experience prepared me very well. I had a vision of what I thought a media center should be like and was actually very eager to start working toward that goal.

    At times I do feel overwhelmed, however. I make a lot of lists and do my best to accomplish tasks promptly, but sometimes I still feel scattered. I hope that will improve with time.

    I don't have to write formal goals during my first year, but when I asked my principal about her goals for the library program, she talked about technology integration. With new equipment and new training opportunities, we are already doing a lot toward that goal.

    You also asked about planning. Three grade levels gave me calendars with broad curriculum topics and I use those a lot when I plan lessons. For the other grade levels, I talk to the teachers when I can to find out how I can support their classroom lessons in the media center. Sometimes teachers in the same grade level are on the same topic at the same time, sometimes they aren't. Our building is teaching the Six Traits of Writing for the first time this year, so that is always something I can tie into. I am keeping records on what I do this year, so hopefully it will be easier next year.

    Hella Rumschlag