Thursday, October 11, 2007

Blog Interaction with Chris Somers - Wed. Oct. 11 to Sat. Oct. 13, 2007

Chris Somers is the media specialist at Indian Creek Middle School in Trafalgar, Indiana. This is the second time that she has taken time from her schedule to interact and share her experiences and insights with this class; be sure to visit the discussions with students archived here in November 2005.

Learn more about Chris and her professional interests and expertise at:
Chris Somers

You can also visit her school's and media center websites:
Indian Creek Middle School
Media Center website

She has been very successful in securing grants for her school and collaborating with teachers. She is another Indiana teacher librarian who is integrally involved in classrooms and student learning and who is always looking for new and interesting opportunities.


  1. Anonymous1:56 PM


    I read where you got an afterschool media program funded. Currently, the school where I work does not have any before or after school hours or programs connected with the library.

    Before the program with the Technology funding, had your center had after school hour time?
    Did the program generate more interest and support for the media center?

    Given time and money constraints, would you advise starting with after school program or going for the more collaborative efforts during regular school hours .

    Thank you for sharing insights from your experience--

    Alice M.

  2. Anonymous3:41 PM


    I read that you are very successful in collaboration with teachers, and I truly admire that.

    I was wondering, is collaboration with the teachers mandatory at Indian Creek, or is it optional? Are you given a set time to collaborate, or do you find time with the teachers yourselves.

    I am very curious about the logistics of collaboration. It is such a wonderful idea, and I know so much can be accomplished through collaboration, but I also know how time consuming it is if done thoroughly, and also how many other things you have on your plate.

    Thanks for your insight!

    Jill Schriner

  3. Chris-

    I noticed on your school's media center website that your school offers World Book Online. I think it's great that students have this option. Compared to the print version, do you think that World Book Online is more popular with students? And just out of curosity, are you still purchasing a new set of World Books every year?

    Thanks in advance for your input!

    Mandy Kudmani

  4. Hi Chris!

    What are some of the reasons you used to support the after school program when 'peddling' it to administration? I have always thought that the school library should be a place for students and even parents to go outside of the school day to get schoolwork done. Any suggestions in how to build this program in a school with limited library hours?

    Mindy Worman

  5. Anonymous5:10 AM

    Thanks for your question. The after-school program funding does not come from the media center budget. Five years ago I submitted a grant request to our local community foundation and recieved $2,000 in seed money to fund the program. That grant paid for me to stay and oversee the program and it also paid for printing of materials for the free adult technology classes we offered in the evening.
    The second year of funding was a bit tougher. I presented the program to the school board complete with statistics and they agreed to fund it for another year. The third year, I submitted another grant and we were funded through the Indiana State Library and an LSTA grant. The fourth year it was back to the school board with more data and I managed to fund it again via some left over technology grants that hadn't been totoally spent. This year, I am again being funded by the ccorporation but at a slightly smaller level. So you see, it takes a lot of time and dedication to keep this going. Occasionally I feel like it is just too much work to try to convince people all the time that it is worth it. But I have so many students who value this program that I can't seem to give it up. Funding is HARD!
    To answer your last question, the after-school program does not interfere with my collaborative efforts with staff during the day.
    I would suggest that maybe if you are in a new position, you might want to work with staff first and build partnerships and gain a bit of a reputation for seeing things through and being dependable. But I find that I have energy enough to go after those things that make a difference in a corporation and the community certainly appreciates the after-school program. This sort of thing also helps your administration to see you as a vital partner.
    Hope I have addressed some of your questions.
    Happy Friday,

  6. Anonymous6:02 AM

    I have been in my current position for 11 years. From the beginning I tried to get staff interested in collaboration. I tried to treat everyone equally and I tried to be incredibly dependable. You ask for something, you get it, on time, with a smile. We all have staff members that we gel with simply as a matter of personality and respect for their professionalism. I try to work with those staff members when I can and when they feel I can help them with a project. I also think up projects and suggest them to staff members whom I feel might be receptive. Some years, I will collaborate more than others. It is awfully difficult to find the time to do true extensive collaboration. Teachers are busy and if collaborating means they have to sit down with you after school and spend a lot of time talking about the lessons, the assessment, and evaluating how the lesson went, you probably won't get many takers.
    Sometimes a teacher will come to me and tell me that she wants to do something and would I help teach the information technology skills that go along with the lesson. We talk over the copier or perhaps at lunch and work out the details. Occasionally, I get to help evaluate the students as well.
    Although I have favorite staff members who seem to be kindred spirits, I also encourage all staff to let me help them whenever possible.
    Unfortunately, this is not mandated by the administration. I wish there were more of that, but I haven't pushed it either. We have had several new administrtors and generally new administrators are just feeling their way into the position and mandating collaboration would not necessarily make them or me very popular. Better to be available, friendly, dependable and try to lead by example.
    One more thought. I have had the best luck collaborating with staff when I have written a grant that includes several staff members. If you write professional development time into the grant, or meeting time, you have a better chance of doing some real indepth planning together. Funding from the grant can pay for subs to come in while you plan with staff members. This has worked wonderfully several times for me. Staff appreciate being treated as professionals and paying someone for their time says that "You are respected and you are valued as a professional." We all like to be acknowledged for the jobs we do.
    Hope this helps answer some of your questions.

  7. Anonymous6:40 AM

    We do use Worldbookonline frequently. Students much prefer the online encyclopedia and the print set certainly doesn't get as much use as it used to. Sometimes teachers will ask to have a set of encyclopedias in the classroom for a project and we have a cart that holds a complete set that can be wheeled into their room.
    I try to purchase a new set of print encyclopedias every five years. The last set I purchased was in 2005. They are quite expensive and on a small budget, you really can't afford to purchase then more often than that.
    Thanks for your question.

  8. Anonymous7:19 AM

    Good question!
    The idea of an after-school program in the media center started a few years before we were able to establish it. We were renovating the middle school and I asked to have the library moved from the "hub of the school" to near the front entrance. Since we are a small middle school (about 485 studetns) this didn't really impact the ability of classes to access us easily, but it did mean that in the future, the pubic would be able to access the library after school without opening up the entire building to a possible security risk. My principal went along with me and understood what we were trying to do.
    Once the renovation was complete, I began to work on the first grant that would allow the media center to stay open until 6 pm. on Wednesdays. Students were invited to use computers (we have a teaching lab in the media center), get homework help, read magazines, check out books, work on projects, etc. The first year, I also organized a Chess club that met for the first hour of the same time.
    The second year, when I didn't have a grant, I was able to show the school board the statistics of attendance. What ages attended, what grades, what sex. These figures continued to rise during the first year. I also had parents and students write a letter telling the board how the program impacted them and what they liked about it. These letters were very effective when I presented copies of them to each of the board members. I also used the reasoning that opening up the building was in effect giving something back to the community that they had helped pay for. We did free technology workshops ( 6-8 pm) for adults the first year as well. These were very popular and we were able to help raise the technology skills of some adults in our community. This will enable them to help others, and so on and on. The free workshops continued for the first three years of the program but money from the corporation has been tighter recently and grants that allow you to pay a stipend for a salary are few and far between, so this year we have not been able to fund the help necessary to make this happen. We are now open from 3:30 to 5:30. As the budget shrinks, so does our time window.
    Funding an after-school program takes money from grants, corporations, or perhaps community or PTO organizations. Not a lot of money, but enough to treat those who staff it like professionals. I find that educators are often asked to do more and more for free. As a professional, I believe I ought to be reimbursed for my hard work at an acceptable rate. I also volunteer my time at school for other programs but for this, you need someone else to value what you do to keep it running and it make it work or you will begin to feel underappreciated.
    I have considered the idea of having students pay a dollar to stay. This would pay for my time and keep the doors open if all else fails, but I have not discussed this with administrators and the board. I think this would be a last ditch effort and may even have a few problems in terms of school funding issues. Not sure.
    Hope this helps. Sorry to be so long-winded, but you asked:)

  9. Anonymous12:42 PM


    Thank you for the information. To put up with the frustration of getting the program funded underscores to me how valuable you see the after school programing.

    It is not so much that I am new at my job, but it is that the more I am on the job, the more I see I should be doing and as with so many there really are not enough hours in a day.

    Is there an average amount of time it takes to apply for grants or funding?

    Is there a particular time of the year when you focus on getting the funding?

    Again, thank you for the feed back,

    Alice M.

  10. Anonymous12:52 PM


    The school where I work is planning a new facility and wanting to put the media center at the front of the building.. I had resisted this idea so, thanks for pointing out a positive to a front location.

    Sorry to ask another question, but what were some of the other "must haves" when your media center was relocated?

    Alice M.

  11. Anonymous4:12 PM


    Thank you so much for your answers to my questions. I would have never thought of adding professional development time to a is such a wonderful idea! It sounds like you do a wonderful job of collaborating to fit your environment, I can imagine how hard it would be!

    Would you be willing to shareone collaboration project that stuck out as going extremely well, with a great end product?

    Jill Schriner

  12. Anonymous7:24 PM


    I am also interested in the technology side of school libraries. I am in charge of the website, the video/DVD collection and all of the video/DVD players, digital projectors, OHPs, TVs, CD players, etc.

    This is only my second month on the job and I'm trying to learn as much as I can about technology and it uses in the school library.

    One of the things teachers ask me to do is to copy cassette tapes, videos and DVDs. All of the original videos are locked away and only copies are loaned out. A teacher last week lent me his World War I DVD series and suggested I copy it for the school's collection. The other week, I had to copy two cassettes for Japanese lessons. Videos only last about 250 plays. It has been suggested that I copy all of the videos to DVD format. These are the kind of issues I face.

    I have just finished reading Complete Copyright - An Everyday Guide For Librarians by Carrie Russell (2004). It might be out of date. I am now familiar with the idea of "fair use (section 107)" and making reproductions of copyrighted material (section 108).

    However, it is not that clear to me. Our school has no policy on this and I think that we need one. My school is in Japan and so I'm not even sure if the contents of the above above book apply here i.e. are sections 107 & 108 international copyright laws?

    Do you have any guidelines in regards to these two copyright sections? The book makes it very clear that guidelines are not part of the copyright law and do not protect us from liability. However, a set of guidelines will keep us on the right track.

    Thank you.


  13. Anonymous11:18 AM

    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for sharing so much information with us.

    I have no experience with grants, but from conversations with a library media specialist, I learned that it may consume a lot of my efforts and time if I become a media specialist myself.

    I have a few questions regarding grants. When writing or applying for grants, do you write what the funds will be used for, or is the use of the money determined by the source? I imagine it depends on the grant, but either way, is there an evaluation or assessment to see if you are using the money the way you said you would?

    For the next question, I’ll describe my limited experience with funding. I formerly worked as a Title I teacher. At budget time, the teachers and department heads would meet to decide what the most appropriate use of the money would be. Okay… that’s making it sound professional. Actually, the budget would be due the next week, and we would meet then to decide what to do with this astronomical amount of money. It would often go like this: “We have 60,000 dollars to use by next week… what should we do with it.. if we don’t spend it, we lose it.” So we’d start coming up with all sorts of ideas (hire another teacher, buy computers, buy food and gifts to bribe the parents to come to school to take part in their child’s education, give ourselves a raise –if that was possible-, buy books.. etc.) Then we check the rules to see what was possible. The person writing the grant would make the decision. The meeting was over.

    We obviously didn’t do any research as to what would be best for the education of the students. We just discussed what we felt would be the best.

    My question is this: When applying for grants, what research do you do to make sure the money will be used for something effective? Or with the limited resources, do you just try and get all the money that is available (I wasn’t sure if you had time to apply for every grant you came in contact with, or if you had to choose which ones to spend your time with)?

    Thanks for your time,

    Heath Allen Dearing

  14. Anonymous6:45 PM

    There really is not a particular amount of time that I spend working on grants. This year, I haven't really found any that apply to what I want to do. Usually, it just is something I hear about through someone or maybe a state grant that comes to me in the mail or via a connection. Wish it were easier but it seems to be more like serendipity.
    There are never enough hours in the day. I suggest you do the best you can at what you are presented with. We are expected to do much more than we can actually do. Find what it is that you love about the job and try to excel at that. Occasionally, new things will come your way and you can try your hand at that. Sometimes, I feel very inept at instilling a love of literature in students and so there is always something we can get better at. Our job description is huge. Find your passion and then once you are successful there, try to branch out into the areas where you know you need to grow.
    Best of luck,

  15. Anonymous6:54 PM

    I really wanted a teaching lab. We have two other labs right next to the media center so I support all three. But the media center lab is my baby. The lab is arranged on two levels. The second level is about two steps higher than the first level. This means that I can see all the computer screens at one time. I also have something called Vision software installed in this lab. It allows me to control all the computer screens at one time. I can turn all computers on or off or freeze them when I need the attention of all students. I love it. I also have a presenter and screen hooked up to a computer in this lab. I have comfy chairs and we use this lab which is open to the main library for teacher training and other after-school meetings. From the main desk I can see everything that happens in the lab and can step in if a teacher needs help.
    My office is just off this lab with a big window that also allows me to monitor the lab use. I am very pleased with the arrangement. If you would like to visit, I'd be very happy to show you around.
    Hope this helps.

  16. Anonymous7:12 PM

    As far as I know, you can be a media specialist for years and never write a grant. I think it is the exception rather than the rule. If you have an idea for a special project, a grant is nice because you may not have the money otherwise. I work a lot with my technology coordinator. He is wonderful and always seems to support my ideas. Grants love collaborations. You have a much better chance of getting a grant if you are collaborating with other people or organizations. Every grant I have ever written has had other people involved in it. Networking can be very important here. Involve another media specialist in another school or a university or a community organization. One good idea can also be good for more than one grant if it expands over the years.
    Usually grants are offered at a certain monetary level. If I need 10,000 for my project and the offer is 20,000, I would apply for 10,000 and make it apparent that this is what I need and exactly what I need it for. I don't pad the grant. I think that a well thought out grant will be apparent and a padded one will also.
    Many times there is a final evaluation that is asked for at the end. I want to be sure that what I said I needed and what I spend my money on do not conflict in the end. I may have to go back to the same well later. Also if you have successfully gotten grants this is something you can put in a grant application and it proves that you can manage a project. Success breeds success.
    I hope I addressed your concerns.

  17. Anonymous7:30 PM

    I generally purchase videos or DVD's for staff from my
    AV budget line. I do not as rule copy DVD's or Videos from staff. If they want to do that on their own I have no control and will turn a blind eye, so to speak. In your case, I might try to come up with a policy regarding this based on fair-use law. It is not often that the school will be dragged into court over this issue but it is for us a matter of professional integrity. I can't imagine in my school that any one tape or DVD would ever get played 250 times. But you may be dealing with a completely different situation. I think it is fair to tell staff that copying something that goes againt fair-use is not something you are willing to do and that it goes against your professional ethics. I actually have done this. If I know a teacher is using a DVD from home, I will offer to purchase a school copy. It is more expensive but it goes in the collection and others can use it as well.
    I think when we do this, we encourage others to follow legal
    guidelines and we show that we respect the rights of ownership. We try to show our students that using other's material is not acceptable... sometimes teachers need the same lesson. We live in a society where the Internet makes property rights very tenuous. Do your best and try to maintain a high standand. It will serve you in the end. I wish I could help you with international copyright law but I admit I haven't got a clue.
    Best regards, Great question.

  18. Anonymous7:35 PM

    Thanks for the great questions. Sorry I was so late in responding today. My brother and I have been painting my house all day. I was about to head up to bed and suddenly remembered I had one more day in the limelight. I hope I got to everyone. Thanks for your efforts and for listening. Feel feel to contact me outside the class. I'm always willing to talk and share our mutual stories.
    Most sincerely,