GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - School libraries, at least award-winning libraries, are no longer the hush-hush places of decades past.
The Colorado Department of Education has named East Middle School's library in Grand Junction as one of the top 14 "highly effective" school libraries in the state. Like other successful school libraries, East's library is a hub of activity where school librarian Becky Johnson and school teachers collaborate in developing students' skills to learn subjects in new ways.
In designating the "highly effective school libraries," the state department of education cited East Middle School's library for showing "strong evidence of integrating 21st century skills within many curriculum areas," said Becky Russell, Colorado Department of Education school library and information literacy instructional specialist.
The East Middle School library was also noted for its "appealing and interactive web page."
"We do a lot of promoting of digital citizenship," Johnson said.
For example, sixth-graders recently completed a unit using Google Docs to study energy resources such as wind, solar and petroleum, and students posted their findings to the web site they built.
"After spring break we will start a blogging unit," exploring controversial issues such as cell-phone use in the classroom and Internet censorship, Johnson said.
"Their argumentative writing will be posted to the blog," Johnson said.
Students are learning how to use various computer applications so that they can publish on the web in creative ways, Johnson said.
Johnson's ability to collaborate with teachers in promoting an enjoyable learning environment was also a factor in designating East as a highly effective school library, Russell said.
"She is a leader within the school community and state," Russell said.
It's not the first time Johnson has won state recognition. In 2011, she was named Colorado Librarian of the Year.
Johnson has served on several School District 51 committees for developing curriculum integrating 21st century skills and research skills. She worked on the Colorado state standards revision team that helped write Colorado state standards for science, and she is past-president of the Colorado Association of School Librarians.
Johnson taught math and science for 17 years in the district before becoming East Middle School's librarian eight years ago.
This is the second year the state department of education has sought to recognize high-performing school libraries.
"We want to advocate for schools to maintain a strong school library - it helps with student achievement," Russell said.