2018-05-11 / Community

School library association salutes area principal

By Grant McPherson
Staff Writer

Wentworth School Principal Kelli Crosby received recognition for her part in supporting the school’s library, which was built with a new methodology in mind four years ago along with the rest of the new intermediate school.

Wentworth School Librarian Barbara Merritt nominated Crosby for the Maine Association of School Libraries Administrator of the Year Award for her support of school library programs.

Crosby was chosen out of school administrators from across the state. Merritt, who is retiring at the end of this year and has been a librarian at Wentworth since 2002, also received a lifetime membership in the Maine Association of School Libraries for her dedication to library work.

Merritt said Crosby was integral in developing the Learning Commons at Wentworth, a departure from traditional library structures. While books are still available, Learning Commons incorporates small classroom and group study areas to encourage students to explore interests on their own.

“The space itself is extremely flexible,” Crosby said. “Everything can move. The bookcases are on wheels. They can be moved so we can host up to eight classrooms at a time in the space for guest speakers. Students can bring their laptops into the Learning Commons and we have a maker’s space for messier projects. It’s really open and creative. It’s whatever interest brings a child to the Learning Commons that the space can support. It’s an open, flexible and vibrant learning area.”

Crosby met with Merritt and David Loertscher, one of the developers of the Learning Commons model, in her first year at the new Wentworth School to better understand how the space could be utilized. Crosby said that in the past, teachers scheduled a time to visit the library once a week to drop of their students whereas the Learning Commons allows teachers and students to come and go more freely in an open schedule.

“Our fear was the space wouldn’t be used,” Crosby said. “If we don’t schedule people to go there, how can we ensure students have equitable access since everyone is so busy? But the space has seen an increase in usage with a more flexible schedule. It’s been an exciting transition. We eased into it and scaled back one trimester at a time. Credit to the teachers for recognizing the incredible resource we have at the heart of the school. They are accessing it with students and encouraging students. It speaks volumes for them.”

Merritt said she’s seen a positive reaction from staff as well. Most recently, she said six classes formed a mock government together and sold products in the Learning Commons to help them understand systems of money and how they interact. Merritt said the Learning Commons has also held a story telling contest and author presentation.

“We were one of, if not, the first elementary Learning Commons in the country,” Merritt said. “Education is changing and as time passes the curriculum and technology has to respond to the changes. We wanted to have a flexible space where things can happen. To me, a Learning Commons makes so much more sense than the place staying the same.”

Crosby said the library has also made a big push toward online databases in order to have the most up to date information as well as a way to save money. She said Merritt has been proactive in understanding new technology and helping students understand it as well.

“(Merritt) is right on the cutting edge of what is current in library science,” Crosby said. “She’s not afraid of technology.

She pushes us to continue to stay moving forward with a partnership between the library and technology. The integration has been really harmonious. It’s not about just using laptops but how to access information ethically. It’s not about the dewy decimal system and stacks of books but the use of information.”

While Merritt said understanding the changes in online access can be a challenge, the support of administrator’s like Crosby make all the difference.

“I’m so appreciative of what (Crosby) has done,” Merritt said. “She’s been supportive of all of this when any other person could have said no. She’s enabled us to get to where we are and we couldn’t do it without the support of administration helping us with the schedule and ideas.”

Crosby said she was proud of and humbled by the recognition of administrator of the year and appreciated Merritt’s nomination.

“She’s been wonderful to collaborate with throughout the process of moving to the learning commons model from a traditional library model and I share this recognition with her,” Crosby said. “I feel like this recognition really belongs to the entire Wentworth School community and the community at large. We had such an awesome opportunity moving into this building with a blank canvas.”

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