Florence  Sawyer Library Transformed

Published September 19, 2014 | The Bolton Independent

During his first four years as Florence Sawyer School librarian, Mike Caligiuri has not only incorporated technology into his library classes, he has transformed the FSS Library into a modern-day facility for students and staff.  In a recent conversation, he shared highlights of the transformation, the work that has gone into this effort and what it looks like for the kids during library time.

Before holding the position of school librarian, Caligiuri spent 20 years teaching English / language arts to FSS seventh-graders.  Caligiuri commented, “I had been here… and I saw what the library could be.”

During the library’s transformation, Caligiuri’s first priority was to weed the book collection.  He explained, “We got rid of any books that were taking up space or any material that wasn’t moving… We reclaimed it as instructional space… so you can use it for multiple purposes.”

Caligiuri increased the multi-purpose area by about half in his first year.  He stressed that ongoing book weeds are important.  “If [a book] is not being used, it’s taking up space for a book that we need to get in its place.”  Old books are donated through an organization called Book Worm Angel that redistributes used books to area schools that need them.

Caligiuri shared that he had a passion for books and said, “I love to select books for the library – that’s big.”  The primary resources he uses in the ordering process are professional journals, recommendations from kids and a professional seminar he may go to once a year.

An initiative during the 2013-2014 school year was to make the library more digitalized in terms of book catalogs, audio books and ebooks, all of which can be accessed through any online device.  The result of last year’s efforts can be seen on the library website that students can access with a password, from school and home at https://sites.google.com/a/nrsd.net/library-media-center/ .

Chrome books have been in place for a couple of years, but were signed out very quickly by students and teachers, leaving no devices available for library classes.  This year the problem was resolved by stocking Chrome books in classrooms, grades three through eight, and designating an additional set of 20 to the library.

A big part of the “library special” period in grades one through five is for students to listen to a great piece of literature and select books to take home.  One of the goals of this time is “information fluency” – for students to apply learned skills in order to get the information they need.  For the younger kids, it’s how to find basic resources and understand that books are arranged in a certain way on the shelves.  By third grade, students are accessing the electronic catalog with Chrome books in order to make selections.

“By the time they get into fourth and fifth [grade], they start to evaluate a website for authenticity, they learn how to do a search, other than Google, for information… and how to access digital material [while] being an informed surfer,” said Caligiuri.

Middle school students can sign up for time with Caligiuri during the school week.  Caligiuri explained that he does a variety of things during this time.  “Sometimes a teacher will say, ‘We’re doing a unit on mysteries. What kind of books do you have?’ So I’ll put together a PowerPoint presentation on about 20 or 30 new mystery books, who’s writing good mysteries… I’ll give them a book talk… Other times it’s to research things.”

Caligiuri stressed that this transformation could not have happened without Library Assistant Amy Ricciuti.  “We work as partners.  This job would be way too difficult if it was just me,” he said.

Ricciuti commented, “I feel very lucky to work with Mike, and Mr. Bates is so supportive of our library.  In essence, I would say, for me, there is nothing better than putting that perfect book in the hands of a student and watching their excited reaction.”  Riccuiti also works at the Leominster Public Library and her mother was also a librarian.  Caligiuri described Riccuiti as “just a wealth of information.”

So what do the kids think of Caligiuri?  Fourth-grader Aurora Becker said, “He’s got a really good sense of humor and he recommends amazing books.”  Fifth-grader Katie Acierno said, “I love Mr. Caliugiri.  He helps us with what we need help with, he shares things on the library website and TV, he lets us use Chrome books and lay down on our stomachs while he reads.  He’s just always really nice to us.”

Other kids commented on technology in the library.  Fifth-grader Sean Downey said, “I like how Mr. Cal explains things to us.  He taught us how to look up books we want to read on Chrome books, how to rate them and how to leave comments about them.”

Fifth-grader Chloe D’Eon said, “Mr. Caligiuri makes library fun.  We don’t just read books, we get to use Chrome books too.”

Fourth-grader Maddie Webb explained that she was impressed when Caligiuri knew where all the hidden dogs were on Chris Van Allsburg’s website.

Principal Joel Bates said, “Mike Caligiuri has transformed our library media center with a techie’s brain and an English teacher’s heart into a revolutionary hub of creativity where the world comes to our students.”

Caligiuri recognizes the administration and the community for their support during his four years as librarian.  “So I’ve got it pretty good, I really do, and I don’t take that for granted, I know that.  I remind myself of that every day.”