The SAU School of Graduate Studies’ Library Media and Information Specialist students volunteered in two South Arkansas schools during July 2014. Del Duke, a LMIS instructor, worked with the librarians at Oscar Hamilton Elementary School in Foreman and Arkansas High School in Texarkana to bring SAU’s LMIS students to assist in the two library makeovers.
“These two school library makeover projects were excellent opportunities for our LMIS students to have real world experiences in many leadership, management, and evaluation roles of elementary and high school librarians. Not only did the schools benefit by having free help for their libraries, our LMIS students were thrilled with the knowledge they were gaining and eager to get back to their own libraries to implement what they were learning,” Duke said.
Kristie Smith, the Oscar Hamilton Elementary School librarian, is a current SAU LMIS graduate student.
“When I became the librarian at my school, I immediately recognized that the library did not have an automated catalog or check out system, making it nearly impossible for the students or even me to find a library item on the shelf,” she said. “Most of the items on the shelves were 25 or more years old. The library’s layout was not user-friendly, and its wall color and well-worn carpet made the space feel small and unappealing to our students. I was fortunate to have a very supportive principal, Pat Tankersley, who arranged to have the library repainted and new flooring installed, and to purchase an automated system. However, it could have taken years for me to manually catalog, label and arrange the books on the shelves without the help of SAU’s students. Mr. Duke arrived with a 15 passenger van full of LMIS students who immediately went to work evaluating, cataloging, labeling, and arranging thousands of books on our library’s shelves.”
Teresa Bennett, the Texarkana Arkansas High School librarian is an SAU LMIS graduate.
“The transformations made in our school’s library took place over many months. The first phase was raising funds, and with the help of the Arkansas Women for Education, the Texarkana Arkansas Education Foundation, Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, and our very supportive principal, Eva Nadeau, we raised nearly $24,000 in starter funds to update our technology, shelving, and furnishings,” she said. “The school board was so inspired by the donations from around the community, they added nearly $30,000 in funding to complete the project. The funding for the redesign was critical since the previous configuration and furnishings left students feeling that spaces were dark and uninviting. The second phase required developing a new look for the library that would entice students to visit and use the library; we even rebranded the library as “The Pig Spot,” a homage to our mascot, the Razorback. The third phase occurred after the physical renovations took place. The LMIS students came to the library just as our new shelving was being installed. The LMIS students were instrumental in helping with the evaluation and sorting of thousands of books. Next, they helped me organize, genrefy, and arrange the books on the shelves so that our high school students could easily locate items. All the renovations have led to a phenomenal increase in books being checked out and read by our students.”
Dr. Kim Bloss, dean of SAU’s School of Graduate Studies, tsaid the library makeover projects make the degree program one of the best in the state.
“The makeovers are a win-win for everyone. The LMIS students learn first-hand practical knowledge about managing a school library and the schools gain the help needed to update the libraries,” she said. “The program has partnered with many libraries around the state.”
The LMIS program looks for underserved schools in Arkansas and has taken students to have hands-on learning activities in many areas across Arkansas. SAU graduate students have served libraries at Crossett Public School, Camden-Fairview Schools, and the Arkansas School for the Blind and Visually impaired, which led to the LMIS program winning the Distinguished Advocate Award from Arkansas Chapter Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired.
“Our students work hard during these projects and are happy to have the learning experiences as well as to give back to the community,” Duke said.