Library Case Study

The Imperatore Library at Dwight Englewood:

A School Library Media Center Serving Sixth to Twelfth Grade Students

for GSLIS 703

Abstract

Dwight Englewood is a private, liberal arts preparatory school in Englewood, New Jersey.  Over one hundred years old, it has amassed a significant collection of resources which are now housed in the Arthur E. Imperatore Library.   This paper explores how, from a technical services perspective, this school library media center meets the needs of sixth to twelfth grade students.

The Imperatore Library at Dwight Englewood:

A School Library Media Center Serving Sixth to Twelfth Grade Students

Introduction

In 1920, Charles Certain conducted a study of school libraries which was jointly sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA) and the National Education Association (NEA).  Finding school libraries seriously deficient, his committee’s report made four recommendations which later were adopted by both the ALA and the NEA as standards for school libraries: (1) school libraries should support the curriculum; (2) school libraries should be centralized in one space, rather than spread out through various classrooms; (3) library instruction should be provided to every student; and (4) school libraries should play an integral part in students’ daily lives. (Rudin, 2004, p. 282)

In the years since Certain’s report, the school library has changed dramatically.  Now called a School Library Media Center, its role has broadened to include the technologies necessary for keeping pace with the explosion of information.  But remarkably, the four general roles which Certain felt a good school library should perform still ring true.

This paper will focus on the Dwight Englewood School, a private, liberal arts preparatory school for boys and girls, from pre-school through twelfth grade.  Located in Englewood, New Jersey, about ten miles from Manhattan, it has about 940 students and 140 faculty members.  The average class size in 15.  (Upper and Middle School Curriculum, 2005)

This paper will focus on its well funded, state-of-the-art school library media center, the Arthur E. Imperatore Library.   Housed in a separate building, its collection numbers around thirty-five thousand items, the vast majority being books, although the Library Handbook notes that there is a wide-range of “pamphlet files, records, videos, filmstrips, slides, compact discs, and maps.”  (The Library Handbook, 2005)  The library carries around one hundred periodicals in print format.  Around twenty thousand dollars a year is spent just to maintain its subscription databases.  E-books are also available in the reference library and for specific classes.

Of course, school library media centers essentially serve two general user groups: the students and the faculty.  This paper will explore how the Imperatore Library serves the sixth to twelfth grades students, making them into what Rudin calls “life-long learners.” (Rudin, 2004, 393)  Much of what follows is from impressions gained from a single interview of the Head Librarian, Sandy Moore, and from e-mails to and from the Library’s catalog specialist, Carole Sunshine, and from studying the school’s website and online catalog.  APA style will be used throughout this paper.

The Role of the Library

Centrally located on campus, students come to the Imperatore Library for a variety of reasons.  From the sixth grade bird project to the eighth grade poetry recitations to the Senior Focus Projects, the library plays a central role in students’ learning at Dwight Englewood.

Rather than installing computers, the Imperatore library is taking them out to make more open class space.  Gone are the clumsy workstations: students are now required to purchase their own tablet PCs, and they use them in every class.  Wireless connection to the web is available throughout the school, but the library is the only place on campus where the internet is totally unfiltered.  The center has thus become the wireless hub for information.  Classes routinely spend a day a week here, researching projects, learning about how to search the web, and how to distinguish reliable sources from those that are not.  The center is also a social hub – students on breaks come here because they can instant message their friends and surf the web at their leisure.

Ms. Moore, the head librarian, notes that sometimes the library becomes too much of a hang out.  It gets noisy and hectic during the day, when, in general, there are only two librarians and one assistant on duty.  It is often difficult to keep the noise down.  The first floor has cathedral ceilings, and sound ricochets through the surrounding balconies.    Many of the younger students can be a “handful,” but Moore notes that she particularly likes seeing how students mature over the course of their years at Dwight Englewood.

Middle school students are required to have at least one book checked out from the library at all times and to read it during weekly reading sessions spent in the first floor library study room.  (Books that are appropriate for middle school students are marked with a blue dot on their spines, but middle school students are encouraged to read any material they find interesting in the library.)  E-book use is proliferating at Dwight Englewood.  Many class textbooks are in e-book format and the Library Department and the Computer Department collaborate to ensure the best e-materials are purchased to support the curriculum.  The reference library is gradually replacing its bulky collection with e-books.  Ms. Moore notes that it just makes reference so much more convenient for the students. She notes that the Dictionary of American History can be used directly on each of the students tablet PCs.

Seniors have the option to do a “Senior Research Seminar/Senior Focus Project” — essentially an independent study — and librarians work closely with each student to help clearly define his or her subject, find the best sources, and aid with citations.  The program begins in the first semester of the senior year, with students conducting research and writing a traditional research paper on a topic that interests them. During the optional second semester, students electing to continue the course turn their research papers into field-work experience, finding mentors outside the school, designing research methodology, and presenting their findings during an oral presentation to a panel comprised of faculty, students, and experts in their chosen field.” (The Upper and Middle School Curriculum, 2005)

Each year the library has a “Banned Books” month in which books formerly censored are on display.  There are special collections of works by alumnae.   The library has a huge poetry and literature collection.  Every eighth grade student is required to memorize a poem and recite it on the steps leading up to the second floor in the library.

The population of the students at Dwight Englewood is generally upper middle class.  There are black, Asian, and Hispanic students, but the majority is white.  In terms of educational levels, students are for most part a product of the school – most attend from sixth grade and many come from the lower school.

Clearly the role of the center is to educate.  Rudin notes that today’s school library media center also performs many “secondary” functions:  “It stimulates the imagination of young people, it promotes critical thinking, it exposes young people to diverse points of view on important topics, it provides exposure to the cultural differences that exist in the world, and it provides some entertaining diversions as well.” (Rudin, 2004, 392).  Certainly the Imperatore Library does all of this.

Conversely, this paper must note that students here are mostly from a privileged stratum of society, and that another role of such excellent, but exclusive libraries is to preserve a class structure in society, by providing a head start to the affluent child.  Hopefully the advantages students enjoy here will not contribute to the further stratification of society.

The Library Staff and Workflow

Only four people currently work in the library.  Sandy Moore and her colleague, Sandra Latzner both hold MLS degrees and conduct library seminars.  Carol Sunshine is a paraprofessional – she has no MLS degree, although she does have a master’s degree in sociology.  She works part time and does all the cataloging.  She is self-taught, and according to Ms. Moore, is extraordinary at what she does.  Kay Montanero works full time as a Library assistant and has no college degree.  The library is open from 8:00 AM to 7:00 PM whenever the school is open.

An important resource not directly associated with the library is Carol Roth, the head of the computer department.  Roth works closely with Ms. Moore and Latzner to develop the library’s website.  Additionally, volunteers (mostly parents) do preservation tasks such as replacing plastic covers on books.  Ms. Moore notes that not much is done with books in truly poor shape, as it is hard to get students to read a book in less than pristine condition.

Acquisitions

The library staff uses Baker and Tayor as their vendor.  They pay an additional six hundred dollars a year for an add-on to the system called “Title Source 3,” which provides copy cataloging functionality.  The library typically spends around eighteen thousand dollars a year on new items.  Baker and Taylor allows Ms. Moore to organize her budget into “carts,” each of which may be given descriptive titles, such as English Department requests, or the Alumnae endowment for the Humanities or the Jane Doe Grant for the Sciences.  Additionally, she keeps an excel spreadsheet to track her spending, and makes it a point to put out a yearly spending report, “whether people read it or not.”

Each department is encouraged to request new books, both for their classes in the upcoming semesters, and for general reference within their discipline.  Students may also request books be added to the collection, although if a student wants a specific book, it is much faster for the library staff to find it through the inter-library lending program in which it participates.  The Imperatore library is over a hundred years old, and considerable staff hours are spent weeding out older books, and finding newer replacements.  Ms. Moore spends a considerable amount of her work day searching for books to fill holes in the library’s collection, and trying to keep it current and relevant.

Books arrive from Baker and Taylor with plastic covers and spine tags with suggested call numbers, but these tags are not attached, as they are often changed according to local library policy.  Additionally, the library is typically given a large amount of books every year and the staff spends a considerable amount of time going through these donations to decide which to keep and which to pass on to other libraries in the area, and which to merely discard.

Cataloging and circulation control

The Imperatore Library uses Library of Congress subject headings and the Dewey Decimal System.  Follet is used to create and maintain the library’s catalog, and perform circulation control.  All books are bar-coded.  Follet can look for a book; find who has it, circulation control. The library spends around eight hundred dollars a year on the Follet software package.  It also pays extra for the copy-cataloging component.

In a typical year, the library will add 1200 items to its catalog (this includes donations).  Of these, around 300 will require original cataloging.  Unfortunately, the Follet software installed at the library does not allow the user to see the full MARC records from its on-line catalog.  It was necessary to have Ms. Sunshine print out copies of her work.

MARC Example Records

Example 1 –

This example shows how the Marc catalog record comes from Baker and Taylor, and how it has been enhanced before loading into the Imperatore Library’s catalog.   Note the addition of the 504, 520, 650, and 900 records, as well as refinement of 245, 260, and 300  records.

Example 2 –

This is an example of a Library of Congress Marc Record after being modified for the Imperatore catalog.  According to Ms. Sunshine, changes include the local call number in the 900 tag and two 659 tags which display local headings denoting curriculum objectives and appropriate books for the Slavery project and primary source material which students are often asked to work from.

Example 3 –

This is an example of a “brief record” provided by Baker and Taylor.  It contains very sketchy information, no subject head, poor author information, poor punctuation, and no physical description.  According to Ms. Sunshine, a record like this one is normally enhanced by the staff, but this is an example of one that got away.

Example 4 –

This is an example of original cataloging done at the Imperatore Library.  See tag 590 which notes that this is a book written by an alumna of the school.

Example 5 –

This is another example of a “before and after” set of MARC records.   The first shows the record as it was downloaded from Baker and Taylor.  The second shows how Ms. Sunshine revised the record, adding tags 520, 651, and of course the local call number in tag 900.

Conclusion

This paper has explored how one school library media center, the Arthur E. Imperatore Library, serves the needs of one user group, the sixth to twelfth grade students at Dwight Englewood School.  It has described how the library plays an integral role on campus, by both supporting the curriculum and by creating an atmosphere for independent learning.  Truly an informational hub, the library clearly meets its goal of making students lifetime learners.  Focusing in particular on the technical services aspects of the library, this paper has shown how materials are acquired (either from donations or from Baker and Taylor), and how these materials get classified and end up in the library’s catalog and on its shelves.  Weeding and preservation practices have been briefly described, as has circulation control.

The library’s strengths by far over-shadow its weaknesses.  It is a well-funded, well-run information center that is popular with students.  It is perhaps noisy, like any hub, and is susceptible to some typical adolescent misbehavior.  More staff could be hired for busy times of the day, as the acoustics of the room, with its cathedral ceiling and over-hanging balconies, make even small amounts of noise troublesome.

The library’s website links to the Follet-based on-line catalog, but provides no way to get back to the website and thus makes navigation a bit annoying.  It is unclear if this is an issue with Follet, or with how the library has integrated the catalog with its website.  The Follet catalog does not make MARC records available, but this is probably not an issue for anyone but library science students.  (Staff can see MARC records from their own Follet-based tools.)

Relatively little original cataloging is done at the library, but when necessary, it is done professionally, by a staff member who understands the importance of accuracy, punctuation and completeness.  More often, copy cataloging is used and the MARC records are tweaked to meet the needs of the curriculum and to fit local policy.

References

Dwight Englewood School: The Library Handbook. (2005).  Retrieved April 22, 2006, from http://www.d-e.org/dwightenglewood3.aspx?pgID=1064

Dwight Englewood School: Upper and Middle School Curriculum. (2005).  Retrieved April 22, 2006, from http://www.d-e.org/dwightenglewood3.aspx?pgID=973

Dwight Englewood School: MS/US Catalog. (2006).  Retrieved April 22, 2006, from http://pigeon.d-e.org/us

Rudin, R. (2004). Foundations of library and information science. New York, N.Y.: Neal Schuman Publishers, Inc.