As RCDS Director of Library, Research & Media Learning, Lisa Fallon interacts with every student from Nursery to Grade 8 in a multi-faceted role that impacts student learning, literacy, and the fostering of 21st Century skills. From cultivating a love of reading to iLib, Mrs. Fallon is on a mission to make the Library, the heart of RCDS.
What is the role of the Library at RCDS?
It’s a large, multi-faceted role. We’re not the library of long ago. I’m here to support the delivery of our academic instruction, which involves supporting teachers in delivering lessons or materials they need to carry out learning in the classroom. For my students, one of my roles is to encourage the love of reading, starting from Early Childhood through Upper School. Also, at this point in our very technological world, I’m helping students locate, evaluate, and use information efficiently, and to ensure that they’re finding resources online that are credible, accurate, and supported. And finally, I would say by collaborating with Technology Teacher Dana Feldman to deliver maker and design thinking lessons, our role is to help students learn to become creative, collaborative, and critical thinkers.
That’s quite a few roles! People don’t often see librarians as makerspace facilitators. How did that come about?
I took on this new role in 2019 right before the pandemic hit. What we now call iLib — dedicated, back-to-back periods of Library and Technology rolled into one — grew out of necessity. When we were all learning remotely in the spring of 2020, Ms. Feldman and I were both trying to figure out how to keep the students engaged. We began brainstorming ways that I could share books connected to a technology or maker project from Ms. Feldman’s class.
When we returned to on-campus learning in the fall of 2021, we decided to combine our efforts. We’ve continued to morph iLib by combining both of our talents in terms of our love of reading, and all the tools we know that kids need to support their everyday learning. We’re now using the Library space, and our collective strengths, to better tap into what our students need.
Which grades participate in iLib and what kinds of projects are they doing?
Currently, Beginners (Kindergarten) through fourth grade participate in iLib. We start with the basics in September when we roll out proper keyboarding skills, Google Suite, and other tools to prepare students for using the technologies in their classrooms. Then we bring in digital citizenship lessons on how we are going to navigate this world safely. We also look for ways to tie our projects into classroom learning. For example, the fourth grade studies the American Revolution. In iLib, we introduced robots — how to use and program them. We had this idea, ‘Oh robots could be used to recreate one of the battles from the revolution that students are studying.’
We’re also always looking for opportunities to connect books to maker and design thinking lessons. I read The Most Magnificent Thing, a book by Ashley Spires with my Lower School students. It’s a book about perseverance and the fact that the creative process may take five, six or seven tries before you get to, “the most magnificent thing.” Then we connected that idea of perseverance to March Madness and asked the students to use four materials to make baskets, hoops, and catapults. They had to use their collaborative and critical thinking skills to complete the task.
Going back to one of the primary roles you mentioned, fostering a love of reading. How do you encourage reading for pure enjoyment?
Fostering that love of reading starts young. I’m working with Early Childhood students to get them excited about books early on. And my Beginners class comes down every single morning, to get into the process of learning how to read. They may not know how to read all the books they checked out yet, but they’re looking for things interesting to them that they can read along with an adult. They’re talking about books with me. It’s an exciting part of their morning.
I also want to get all of my students excited about the delivery of new books. That’s how “Star Books” came about. It’s a spinoff of Starbucks. When new sets of books come in, kids browse through the new titles that are set out on tables by genre. We have hot chocolate, get a fire going on the Smartboard while students rotate through the different tables. If there’s something in the new selections that interest them, they can write it down on a bookmark to refer back to as their reading wish list. Anything to steer the kids to try a new genre or get out of their reading comfort zone.
Many school libraries are on a downward trend. The Library here is gaining relevance. What does that say about RCDS?
What I hear now from kids and teachers is, ‘What are we going to do next?’ The Library has become one of their favorite places at RCDS. They are enthusiastically looking for the next thing that I’m going to bring their way. That level of excitement is what’s lending the importance to our community.
Studies have shown that if you have a library at the heart of your campus, it boosts not only test scores but student engagement. There’s an excitement when our kids come in here that I think can’t be replicated. The opportunity to improve our Library Program through our “Turn the Page” Library Fund will ensure that the library becomes the heart of campus - whether it’s a place for an Early Childhood student to choose their next great read, or where Lower School students learn how to navigate online literacy or a quiet place for Upper School students to get help with a research project - it sets our students up for success.
I loved being a classroom teacher and knew this was going to be a big switch, but I have found over the last few years that the Library has become a cornerstone of conversation and support.
Lisa Fallon was a Lower School classroom teacher at RCDS for five years before becoming the RCDS Director of Library, Research & Media in 2019. Mrs. Fallon is a certified teacher of elementary education through eighth grade, and special education through eighth grade. She is also certified in school library media and educational technology.