Kay Koepsel-Benning is Director of Library Services at Elmbrook Schools in Brookfield, Wisconsin, and current member of BadgerLink Advisory Group. Located west of Milwaukee, Brookfield is a community that greatly values education, making for a district with strong parent and community partnerships, including the Kids’ Choice and Intergenerational Book Club collaborations with Bridges, the regional public library system. The district is consistently ranked one of the top five in the state based on standardized achievement data.
Elmbrook Schools serve a student population of 7500 and includes ten, PreK-12 schools: two high schools, two middle schools, five elementary schools and one school devoted to students with special needs. For the 2020-21 school year, students were provided with a choice of attending fully virtually or fully in-person. Currently, about a quarter of students are fully virtual, while the rest are participating in in-person learning.
How has education (or library profession, or libraries) changed since you were a kid?
“In general, the library world is a microcosm of education. There are more opportunities and choices available to students now than ever before. We are fortunate to provide our learners with many ways to individualize their instruction. Being in a resource-rich age, there are a greater breadth of opportunities. When looking at library resources alone, students can read a print book or a digital one, listen to the audio of a book being read to them, or even have a book read to them while pages are turned. BadgerLink resources can show you how to fix your car! With everything available, the new challenge is navigating all the choices we have.”
What’s a typical day like? How has that changed during pandemic?
“There really isn’t a typical day, which makes the work exciting and refreshing. This was the case even before the pandemic. We do a lot of collaborating as a team, making for a very strong library department. We’ve had to create new processes to safely meet the needs of our learners in this moment. Given the Elmbrook library family’s propensity to be flexible, creative, and collaborative problem solvers, we have been able to continue to provide quality services.”
For example, library staff members now have a Google number so they can be reached for resource and tech support whether working inside or outside the library. Schools are also using Google forms and library leads are meeting requests placed throughout the district. Resources are delivered to students. This collaborative, virtual communication allows for a safer environment for all. In addition, staff members more versed in the digital book platform Sora, fulfill Sora needs, while staff members with BadgerLink expertise serve as the BadgerLink go-to. The team approach to district needs allows for capitalizing on expertise. “A silver lining in the pandemic has been the urgency to be effective and efficient in fulfilling needs in new ways. Our team and services are stronger because of it. “
“We meet as a team weekly, to communicate what is going on and prioritize the needs across all cohorts and buildings. These more frequent check-ins and opportunities for collaboration were seen as valuable after this spring’s abrupt transition to virtual learning. With the start of this school year, prioritizing the work is so important, knowing that we can’t do everything in the same way.”
How has your online resource use changed in the last 6 months?
The library department works in tandem with the technology department, with school libraries serving as technology hubs. Facilitating distribution of devices, login instructions, and access to online resources has been a primary function. At this time, library space is also used as a lunchroom for cohorts (to provide more social distancing), staff workspace, and is a class workspace, depending on the day and time. Also, students’ opportunity to browse the stacks for materials is slowly coming back, with 4th and 5th graders checking out books in the library, five students at a time. “Maintaining safe conditions with hand sanitizer, social distancing, and masks is now a priority,” along with having the titles and materials students are searching for. Online resources are obviously our safest option right now.
With regards to supporting virtual learning, “it feels like BadgerLink resources have our back,” providing safe, online resource environment for students when often social media platforms offer more collaboration, but less privacy. Educators looking for a book recommendation resource don’t have to promote something open on the web where students have to create an account and aren’t sure where the reviews are coming from. “We were able to steer them to the BadgerLink resource, NoveList, and quality, published book reviews from library journals and read alikes recommended by fellow school librarians. That kind of solution can’t be found anywhere else. You just never know what kind of tricks we will need, and it is critical for people to be well versed in these online resources.”
How long have you known about BadgerLink, and (if this is a different timeframe) been a user of BadgerLink resources?
“I’ve been using BadgerLink since becoming a school librarian. I see BadgerLink as the core online library resources.”
What do you wish Wisconsinites knew about BadgerLink that you don’t think they do? Tell us the benefits you’ve found to statewide availability of an online resources library like BadgerLink.
“I wish Wisconsinites knew not just one thing about BadgerLink, but everything it has to offer. I wish they knew everything about it. When you speak with people from other states, they know about BadgerLink and are actively working to emulate that easy access to so many resources.”
“You can say to anyone you talk to you in Wisconsin—you have access. You can share a resource like LearningExpress Library for test preparation - regardless of school district or specific community, that resource is available to you.”
Which BadgerLink resources do you use in your professional development?
Access to EBSCO resources has been a godsend while working on UW Madison coursework. BadgerLink provides everything I need to conduct professional research.
Which BadgerLink resources do you use in your library/classroom?
All levels of Explora and Britannica for classrooms working on research process. Educators appreciate the Lexile level search feature, being able to choose complexity level (Elementary level vs. Middle & High), and accessibility.
Searching EBSCO resources for scholarly peer-reviewed journal articles.
We use TeachingBooks for giving students background on authors in preparation for our virtual author visits. We also use it for creating specific, unique lists for English Language Arts, and WEMTA Battle of the Books.
Filtering by Social Studies subject on the BadgerLink website to share resources with Elementary curriculum director for Social Studies curriculum.
Which BadgerLink resources do you use outside of your professional life?
U.S. Newsstream, for reading The New York Times, especially when hitting a paywall.
Thank you for sharing your BadgerLink story with us, Kay!
Share your story with us at https://badgerlink.dpi.wi.gov/get-word-out/share-your-story.