Posted on behalf of Susan Hess, school librarian
Originally published in Spring 2005 to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of School Library Media Month. Italics added Spring 2013.
“You change lives for the better.” With these words, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan addressed school library media specialists and inaugurated the first national School Library Media Day on April 1, 1985. Moynihan continued, “I want to thank you for what you do. I hope you know how important your work is.” (www.ala.org/aasl/slm)
For 17 years, the Juan Morel Campos Secondary School (JMCSS) Library Media Center has been making a difference in the lives of NYC students through its annual School Library Media Day celebrations. JMCSS is located in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. The community is home to many ethnic groups, including the Satmar sect of Hasidic Jews, Hispanics from South, Central and Latin America, Italians, Asians and African Americans. The mission of the library program is to provide our students, sixty-five percent of whom read below grade level, with resources and learning activities to ensure that they become discriminating users of ideas and information.
At our 17th Annual School Library Media Day, JMCSS students will demonstrate exactly how they use ideas and information. The theme for this year’s event is “Wired to the World: The Circle of Life.” Student projects will examine the interdependence and interrelationships among all living things. Judging from the attendance and feedback from previous events, and the vast array of planned projects, this year’s celebration should be our best ever. For our students and staff, Media Day is a school-wide “Show and Tell,” the day when students become the teachers, explaining their projects to peers, parents, Department of Education officials and other invited guests.
Because Media Day is a highly anticipated annual event, preparations for it begin the first day back to school in September. I speak to teachers at grade and department meetings, telling them about the wonderful collection of resources that are available for their use with students and showing them how to incorporate the latest developments in educational technology into the curriculum. Most teachers are eager to participate when they see how using technology, along with the library’s traditional print resources, motivates and enhances student literacy. Of course, students are always eager to participate in school-wide events, especially in Media Day. I think it’s because we give out such great T-Shirts. Our theme each year, “Wired to the World,” is based on the idea that in the library, students can make connections with people and places around the world. Someday soon, I think we might have to change our theme to “Wireless to the World.” During the months of April and May, students work hard to complete their projects, some in the library others in their classroom and at home. The last few days before Media Day are extremely hectic but once the first guests arrive, we know that we are on the way to another successful event.
The Juan Morel Campos Secondary School Media Day is a local example of a national program, started by a local school library leader, Lucille Thomas. The first New York School Library Media Day was held in 1974, initiated by Dr. Lucille C. Thomas, then President of the School Library Media Section of the New York Library Association. Beginning with Governor Malcolm Wilson, the governor of the State of New York has issued a proclamation each year honoring School Library Media Day. In 1983, the president of the American Association of School Librarians appointed Dr. Thomas to chair a committee whose charge was to “establish the rationale, objectives and design for a nationwide program for the first observance of School Library Media Month in 1985.” Thomas convinced Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York and then Representative Olympia Snowe of Maine (she is a senator now) to present similar resolutions authorizing the President of the United States to issue a proclamation declaring April as National School Library Media Month, calling upon people to celebrate with fitting programs, activities and ceremonies. Gathering ideas and suggestions from prior state and local library celebrations, the School Library Media Month Committee compiled a 52-page guidebook for the first national celebration. The theme of the first School Library Media Day was “Where Learning Never Ends: The School Library Media Center.”
Media Day at Juan Morel Campos Secondary School brings that theme of continuous learning to life. This spring you will again see kids empowered by their learning – excited chatter, but very professional presentations to teachers, parents and guests who join in the discovery about a variety of topics – from the Holocaust to the rooftop weather station! Collaboration among students is evident in the shared work, the shared learning and the shared presentations. Students take pride in being the experts, and even the shyest student has time to shine.
*The theme for this year’s School Library Month, the 28th annual celebration, is “Communities matter at your library.” If you think of community as a place where people with diverse backgrounds come together to share similar ideas, interests and common goals, what better place to build new and lasting relationships and create experiences that lead to lifelong learning than at your school library
To learn more about School Library Media Month, visit the Website of the American Association of School Librarians: www.ala.org/aasl/slm