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Library Media Students Champion Digital Literacy

October 6, 2016

As a “teacher on assignment” with the Rochester City School District, Janet Bird found herself serving as the librarian for Helen Barrett Montgomery School No. 50. Her passion for literacy and love of connecting students with books made her well-suited for the position, but she found life in the library a bit different than life in the classroom.

Education major reads to students

“I am performing all the duties of a librarian and learning as I go along,” said Bird, who holds a master’s degree and board certification in early childhood education.

To supplement the on-the-job training she’s receiving, Bird enrolled in the newly revived Master of Science in Library Media program through the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. School of Education. 

One of 10 students in the fall cohort, Bird is sharpening her knowledge of how to personalize her library program to meet the needs of her students, and how to be a vital source of support to teachers and staff in the school.

Those are the types of skills that Program Director Belinda O’Brien hopes the students are learning. Beyond being champions of literacy, today’s school-based librarians are also the education technology specialist in the building, coaching classroom teachers on the technology that can enhance their lessons, said O’Brien.

This is particularly true with the Common Core curriculum, where librarians can serve as experts on the standards initiative. For example, for portions of the curriculum focused on informational nonfiction text, O’Brien explained, librarians can assist teachers in finding the books and resources available to them.

“Librarians also are leaders in building. They sit on committees and work with all the important stakeholders in a school, integrating resources and working to maximize them,” she said.

To accommodate students’ full-time work schedules, the 30-credit-hour program has adopted a hybrid format. Students meet in class on campus once a week, and complete the rest of their course requirements online through Blackboard. In addition, every student will complete 100 hours of fieldwork aligned with their courses, and will spend 20 days in both an elementary and secondary school working with a certified school library specialist.

Field experience is exactly what attracted cohort member Brandie Rice ’14 to the program. As an undergraduate at Fisher, she visited a local school and watched the librarians interact with students as they selected books to read.

“From that moment I knew I wanted to become a librarian in order to inspire students to love reading,” she said.

Rice currently serves as a sixth grade special education teacher at the Wayne Finger Lakes BOCES Red Jacket Education Center, and one day hopes to transition to a teacher librarian. She’s confident the program will prepare her for either career.

“I know that the resources will be help me create a literature-rich environment for my students,” she said.