Walk into Park View High School’s library and you might mistake it for the kind found on a college campus.
Students have computers free to use during or after school hours for work and there are tables set aside for students to talk and work on group projects.
“We like to be the learning commons,” said librarian Jennifer Fisher. “We’re a gathering place and a place to come and meet people. We’re not shushing librarians.”
It’s this philosophy that makes them the only high school to win the National Medal for Museum and Library Service.
The award honors libraries and museums nationwide that make exceptional contributions to the communities they serve and is given out by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).
“Museums and libraries serve as community gathering places and centers for lifelong learning, and we are very proud to name Park View High School Library Media Center one of this year’s National Medal for Museum and Library Service winners,” IMLS director Susan Hildreth said in a press release.
Park View High School Principal Virginia Minchew, school library media specialists Candice Rush and Jennifer Fisher and Student Council Association President Pablo Rivera accepted the medal at a ceremony at the Old Executive Building at the White House Wednesday.
The library, which has a heavy technical focus with 11 research databases, is open from 7:45 a.m. to 5 p.m. for students to meet and study.
Rush said the technological focus was important because even though technology is perceived to be everywhere, students didn’t necessarily have access to the proper technology for homework.
“Everyone thinks that kids have computers and the Internet at home,” Rush said. “That’s not always the case.”
The library hosts the November Notes guitar concert series, which has student musicians, including the high school’s Multicultural Ensemble, which plays songs on Thursday mornings.
“All those different cultures are really the strength of Park View,” Rush said. “We really like to highlight that.”
They also help teachers with special lessons in the classes and assist students with navigating the school’s databases.
“Librarians at heart are teachers,” Fisher said. “They might be working one-on-one with someone at a computer, it might be a whole class that you do with a teacher.”
The library also has a partnership with the Loudoun Farm Bureau, which built a barn-shaped bookshelf that houses books for pre-schoolers. There’s a class at Park View where high school students teach preschool.
They were nominated by Park View English teacher Megan O’Meara at the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C.
O’Meara is a first year teacher with the high school, and nominated the library after attending the new teacher orientation program.
She said it was impressive that students had access to computer programs like iMovie, web 2.0 tools, Prezi and Blogster through the computers.
“They define what it means to be librarians,” O’Meara said. “They’re really committed to service and community.”
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