By Aiza Shaikh
One year after the library at East Greenwich High School reopened, it is humming with activity, a vibrant space in the middle of the school.
The library was closed during the 2017-18 school year because of a lack of funding. Perhaps absence made the heart grow fonder, with the closure forcing people to consider school life without a library. Turns out, even or perhaps especially in the era of Google and “easy” knowledge, libraries are as important as ever.
EGHS librarian Michelle Steever certainly thinks that’s true, especially when it comes to high school.
“At the high school level, it’s important to teach students how to access and evaluate information,” said Steever. “In this time, when people are bombarded of pictures and images, it’s difficult to sift through what really matters. And that’s what librarians do.”
“We’re teaching information literacy and media literacy and news literacy,” she added. “When you think about how our students receive information on their devices . . . it’s really important to start asking students to think about the sources they’re using; to look for bias, to make sure they find authentic sources.”
Steever spent last year bringing the library back to life, adding books, rearranging the layout. Now, she focused on making it a space where all students feel welcome, whether they are researching a paper, looking for a new book to read, or just need a place to zone out for a while. Students can also meet with friends, study, work on projects, play games, and make podcasts. Yep. Podcasts. Steever applied for grants for media equipment and has created a recording studio after noticing many students needed a space to record videos for class projects. The lab has microphones, cameras, a computer, even a green screen.
The library is also home to a new elective this year called Independent Reading. The class, taught by Steever and reading specialist Joanna Abella, is designed for students to just read. Having noticed that students are no longer reading as much as they used to, Steever and Abella created the class to show students how much they love reading. Students can read any books they want. Steever and Abella are available to help students with finding the perfect book, whether it be by searching the online catalog, or just looking in the right genre. Along with reading, students also spend time discussing the book with others.
“We want to expose students to different reading options,” Steever said. In the course, students are introduced to all the ways to read books (print, online, digital, audio). Some students end up preferring a different style of reading. By being enrolled in this class, they get to try out every style and figure out which they enjoy most.
Steever believes this course improves not only reading, but also vocabulary.
“The more you read, the more vocabulary you will develop, the stronger a reader you’ll become,” she said.
Steever has more plans for the library. She hopes to get LCD screens that students can work collaboratively on projects. She wants more flexible seating available for students. She would also like to put up students’ artwork on display, not only to add more color to the library, but to show off student talent. More than anything, Steever has worked to make the library a safe and welcoming space for everyone.
And, judging by the amount of smiles in the library, it’s safe to say she’s succeeded.
Aiza Shaikh, a junior at EGHS, writes for EG News.
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Michelle Steever is absolutely the right person to bring the EGHS library media center up to par to the high standards for EG schools. I applaud her and the school committee for recognizing quality when they see it.
Michelle is an amazing Librarian and EGHS students and faculty are very lucky to have a newly established, information literacy program and opportunities to re-connect with their love for reading during the school day!
I heartily agree!