Library Haven – Personal Thoughts
Posted by glmaguest
With so much coverage of bullying/cyberbullying in the news media over the past couple of years, I’ve been looking at articles on the topic out of personal interest. I’ve discovered a myriad of articles on the topic, with some focusing on how the media specialist can help with such devastating behaviors on the part of some students.
A couple of excellent resources are The Role of the School Library Media Center Program in the Education and Prevention of Cyberbullying, by Shanahan and Farmer, and Mean Girls (and Boys): Cyberbullying and What Can Be Done about It, by Fredrick. These resources present a well developed discussion on how the library media specialist can provide resources and inservice training that explain bullying and ways to help build self-esteem in students. In her article, Fredrick states, “They [media specialists] can work with teachers to instruct students about cyberbullying and how to combat it. Since students are reluctant to tell when they are bullied online, it is important to let them know there are ways to combat the problem. Working with students on this topic is a natural extension of instruction related to Web evaluation and using online resources. Students can develop strategies to share with other students, produce anti- cyberbullying materials, and talk with others about how to combat cyberbullying.”
A second suggestion, on a personal note, is that the media center can become a place where students come to find sanctuary and support. I am amazed at how students develop a pecking order so early in life. I’ve seen so many kids who seem to follow a fatal pattern of first feeling ostracized, then alienated, then sometimes bullied because, for whatever reason, they were at the bottom of that pecking order. I can recall some students who fell in that category frequenting my media center. Maybe every day at lunch they needed a place to escape, or at break they needed a place to hide, or after school a place to feel safe. My main goal of providing information to users at the point of need was most important to me, but as I look back on my 30 year career in P-12 schools, nothing even comes close to the importance of the relationships I developed with the kids I called “mine” who just needed to be accepted and validated.
Amidst the constant hustle and bustle of my media center, there was always an inviting atmosphere. Even though sometimes there was a bit of a “roar” going on, students continued to seek the safety and acceptance they found within those neutral library walls. Over the past 23 years, I have taught university students how to catalog, design instruction, manage technology, automate a media center, select materials, evaluate reference tools, administer a media program, and the list goes on. But, the big question is: am I teaching my students that the library media center is so much more than a place to locate and access information. Do my students really understand that the refuge of a friendly environment with safe lodging can mean all the difference to a child? Do they comprehend that the media center may be the one place in the school where there is true equality, and fear is not allowed? I hope so, for the sake of the kids.
Phyllis R. Snipes,
University of West Georgia