Geri Ellner Knows Her Grants and a Whole Lot More

Geri Ellner’s list of awarded grants is impressive and her school library website is well-organized with some of the best links we’ve seen.  Read her interview below. 

Name, School, and State:

Geri Ellner, Brooklyn Collegiate: A College Board School, NY

 What makes a good website for school libraries?

A good website is easy to use by the entire school community (students, staff, parents, administration, and alums) and grows with the school. It should also foresee change and contain the links for new courses before they are offered so the website can be used as a resource for the teacher. It should not only contain links that are accessible at school.  Some great links are blocked by filtering system.  Since a good website makes a school library a 24/7 operation, those links are still offered so that people can access them from outside of the school setting.

 Your site has one of the most organized list of links we’ve seen.  Do you choose the links? What’s your criteria?

Thank you. My website started as a teaching tool.  I use it to show other people how to build a webpage.  You will notice that it offers different styles of listing links because of this. I select my own links.  I try to offer links that have little or no advertising.   I am not always successful as a link my start off free of advertising and then start including advertising. Basically, the links must be educational or informative in nature. Also, links should provide authoritative, accurate and current information.

Any thoughts on blogging, facebook, and twitter (social media) when it comes to kids and libraries?

Social media gets kids thinking and writing. The three examples you give are powerful communication vehicles. Libraries can use them to connect with their patrons.  Libraries, especially school libraries, should have a social media policy that can help establish clear guidelines for employees posting on behalf of the library, as well as, for library patrons. Kids need to know how to share their opinion in an appropriate manner. This is why I am against schools blocking such sites.

Our team was blown away with the grants you have been awarded over the years. Can you give librarians a few tips on successful grant writing?

These are tips you will not usually find. First, you must really love your students.  I believe I have received a number of grants because I am able to express that love and their needs between the lines. Next, you must have a good working relationship with your fellow teachers.  I received at least two grants because of my work with a collaborating classroom teacher. Finally, you should document all that you do.  I took over three different libraries that had programs in various stages of decline.  My favorite library was on the Far Rockaway Educational Campus.  I weeded thousands of books. One book last circulated two months before I was born. I took pictures of all stages of the clean up.  Those pictures helped me be selected for the Giant Step Award. 

How do you see school libraries evolving in the next decade?

Some school libraries might not get the chance to evolve because there are those in power who don’t see a need for a library in a school. A number of schools don’t have libraries because the building leaders have eliminated the position of their librarians.

For those libraries given the opportunity to evolve, I see them keeping up with changes made by schools. Schools will be offering more blended and on-line courses.  The school library will keep pace with this by offering students a place to take and prepare for their courses. They will offer equipment for students to use, such as digital and flip cameras, and the training needed to use them, so that students can complete their assignments. There will be more use of such things as Skype to bring authors, college advisors, and the like into schools. Also, I still see books on the shelves. Books and magazines in all formats (ebooks, audio, tangible print) are important to have because everyone learns differently.  The jury is still out as to whether all people can benefit from digital books. 

What draws the most attention in you library (currently)?

Our graphic works get a great deal of use.  We have been lucky to have a donor of current graphics these last three years because we could never afford to keep pace with the demand. I will be interested to see if the graphics keep pace with our Playaways.  We recently got a grant to purchase them. There seems to be a growing interest. 

What is on your wish list?

Other than world peace, a library security system and a technology upgrade would be nice for our students, their parents, and our staff. If I were really pushy, I would add a circulation desk and new furniture. We have lost a large number of books due to the lack of a security system.  I have also not been able to work on a number of projects because of a lack of current technology. This always bothers me because in order for our students to be prepared to meet the challenges of tomorrow, they have to be prepared for today. I often have to explain things to people using the Internet to show what other people are doing.  QR codes are all over and students are not allowed cell phones in school.  I still explain what they are and how to use them to people. The furniture upgrade would allow us to change the configuration of the room more readily. Sadly, we have no donor for any of this at the moment.

 Favorite quote or saying.

What a school thinks about its library is a measure of what it thinks about education.
 –Harold Howe, former US Commissioner of Education

The one thing you can’t live without in your library.

Destiny. I am referring to the library automation software.  I can circulate books and get reports without much delay, I can spend more time helping my patrons and working on other library tasks.

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