What's new at the Dartmouth Middle School library?

By Douglas McCulloch | Aug 31, 2016
Photo by: Douglas McCulloch Dartmouth Middle School Librarian Laura Gardner prepares the library for a new school year.

After lying dormant for most of the summer, Dartmouth Middle School’s library has sprung to life. Staff inventory books and move furniture in preparation for the new school year.

DMS Librarian Laura Gardner is scrambling to complete a long checklist of last-minute preparations before the September 1 start date.

“I have more books to process, handouts to make, and new students to add to the system so kids can come and get books right away,” Gardner said.

She’s spent the summer curating a new selection of books, deciding what books students will like and reading potential additions.

“I always select books I know will be popular with students,” Gardner said. “I spend a lot of time reading as many books as I can so I can make recommendations.”

Her favorite new book is “When Friendship Followed Me Home” by Paul Griffin, which tells the story of a foster kid named Ben who finds friendship in a stray dog.

“It’s amazing. It’s a real sad fiction book that students and I really enjoy,” Gardner said.

Alongside perfecting the book selections, Gardner works to increase students’ access to technology. Currently, the library includes 3D printers, a makerspace, video production software and a green screen, and she will host a coding camp in December. This year, the library added a second 3D printer, new robotics equipment, and more hands-on electronics.

Transforming the library into a destination for students is a huge passion for Gardner. She was recently honored as a finalist in the School Librarian of the Year Award, which focuses on technology integration and student engagement.

“The most exceptional part of it is it gives me a chance to talk about how school libraries can help students achieve their potential, and how important having a library in every school is,” Gardner said.

Gardner credited DMS’s administration with supporting her ideas. She said their consent helped her turn the library into the “place to be.”

“They wanted the library to be a place where kids wanted to be, and gave me free reign when I started,” Gardner said.

This year, the library will also feature a new staff member. The new teaching assistant will help run the day-to-day tasks, freeing Gardner to concentrate on improvements.

“I think [the new teaching assistant] is going to help me take the library to the next level. I now have more time to spend on instruction,” Gardner said. She added that she hopes to spend more time learning how teachers and students could better use the library by attending teachers' planning meetings.

Gardner is also assisted by a group of 60 student and parent volunteers.

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