Two Reasons to Celebrate: April Is School Library Media Month and April 13-19, 2008 Is the 50th Anniversary of National Library Week.
Librarians and media specialist know library use is up nationwide. Nearly 1.8 billion people are served annually and over 2 billion items were checked out last year. You also know that a well-developed library and educated staff help students hone research and literacy skills. Plus, access to library resources can translate into better performance on high-stakes tests. In a nutshell, you know your library is essential. You know all these things...but what about the students who are using your library?

Most kids think of the library as a place to take out books, conduct research, and log time on the Internet, but the library is more than that. It's a place for information and data sharing: the library is about community. Students can gather, share ideas and opinions, and learn, not just from each other, but from trained information professionals. To reap the benefits of the library, students have to want to be part of it all. In celebration of School Library Media Month and National Library Week, use these tips to encourage students to "Join the Circle of Knowledge" at your library.

1. Make the library a hub
Strive to be a student's first stop in learning. Help students navigate the wealth of available information by steering them to reliable search engines and databases. Enhance their research skills by introducing them to other areas of information including video conferencing and webcasts. Offer group information sessions, classes, and/or tutorials on the latest technology to show students how new media can work for them. Consider extending these offerings to teachers, parents, and community members.

2. Host booktalks
Adaptable for every learning level in any subject that includes reading, booktalks introduce students to books they may never have encountered on their own. Booktalks also enhance reading comprehension and help students become enthusiastic readers. Students and teachers traditionally share books with a class, small group, or one-on-one, but why not explore the possibility of expanded booktalks? Using video, blogs, and podcasts, booktalks can be shared with others in the community, state, and beyond!

3. Invite an author to your library
An exciting way to extend knowledge of a favorite book is by meeting the author. Authors typically discuss how they write, create characters, and express their creativity. This outreaching event is a great way to inspire young writers and encourage reluctant ones.

4. Create a place where writers can hone skills and publish work
Finding a voice and learning how to best express thoughts is a personal process. A Web-based interactive classroom creates a private setting for writing lessons, enabling new writers to work at their own pace. For students who prefer to work in groups, your library can utilize larger screens or projection machines to accommodate a number of writing students at once.

5. Make new technology available, such as podcasts
All you need is a computer and an Internet connection to make learning fun through podcasts. Students can study wild animals, build vocabulary, receive breaking science news, learn a foreign language, watch a video booktalk and more. There's even a podcast that teaches students how to create their own podcast!

6. Create a friendly environment
Eye-catching, informative shelf-talkers silently speak to students roaming in and around the shelves and printable bookmarks offer read-aloud tips, vocabulary boosters, and information on award-winning books. These and other fun extras help students feel excited about reading and at home in the library. Other ways to make students feel comfortable include developing tutoring programs, recruiting volunteer student "Library Guides," and enlisting students' help when you're planning ways to improve the library.

7. Reach out to teachers, parents, and community members of all ages
You have to be a friend to make a friend! Take the first step and invite grown-up patrons to the library. Offer suggestions to teachers on how to incorporate the library into their lesson plans. Invite administrators to hold staff development events in the library. Host a "Back to the Library" night for parents to show them how school libraries have changed with the times. If possible, encourage lifelong learning by letting the library serve as a gathering place for family events like mother-daughter book clubs, children's story times, or teen open-mic poetry night.