High School Media Centers are “Not Your Grandfather’s Library”

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Teacher-Librarians Beth Baryon (Westerville North), Deborah King (Westerville South) and Amy Farris (Westerville Central) have transformed their libraries - and the way they introduce incoming freshmen to the spaces.  

The traditional tour of the library and lecture about rules of use is pretty much out the window.  These educators wanted students to know what a vibrant and exciting place a modern library could be, and the old orientation was totally at odds with that.  So they decided to really mix it up, and the response has been better than imagined.

The group met for several days over the summer to brainstorm and engineer an engaging quest that mixed the best elements of learning:  intellectual challenge, collaboration, inquiry, problem-solving, relevance, physical movement, and fun.  The teacher-librarians also mixed technology elements into their challenge.

Freshmen this year are participating in a “Breakout Box” experience (www.breakoutedu.com) that is based on an “Escape Room” model.  Students race the clock and compete in teams to unlock a series of locks that secure a hasp onto a small wooden crate.  They are up and moving – sometimes racing – to get those locks unlocked as the digital timer displayed on a large wall races down to 00:00.  

Along the way, they learn about the library’s makerspace areas that are filled with electronics, circuitry, coding interactives and art activities.  They also see the new green screen recording and audio/video editing studio at Central; new makerspace areas at North and South; and get a first glimpse at the newly genre-fied fiction sections at both North and South.  They solve puzzles and unlock clues to eventually unlock directional, alphanumeric, key, 3-digit and 4-digit locks.  But first they have to uncover an invisible ink clue, and then find directional clues hidden in seven areas of the library, where they are asked to take group selfies to prove they explored there.  The students also must uncover and view a short video that shows them how to get passes so they can use these resources during their study hall period(s).

Each group is given just one “Hint Card” they can use to ask their teacher-librarian for a hint when they are really stuck.  While most groups did cash in their card in exchange for a little direction, they did so reluctantly.  “This group of freshmen has a quality we love: they persist!” observed Farris.  At Central’s Breakout Orientation, several groups challenged themselves to complete the challenge without employing their “Hint Card.”

Freshmen in Natalie Taylor’s class were the first at Central to participate.  After orientation, they were asking her for library passes all day.  “Now that’s something that has never happened in direct response to orientation,” observed Farris.   “One thing is for sure, this isn’t your grandfather’s library, and it isn’t your grandfather’s library orientation!”