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One library, built from scratch

ISD 192 hired a company to organize the books for its new media center at Riverview Elementary School, but unpacking some 15,000 books last week was still a big job.

Brook Berg knows the decisions she's made this summer will have a pretty huge impact on hundreds -- even thousands -- of lives. The Riverview Elementary School media specialist has made more than 15,000 decisions so far this summer, and chances are, there are more to come.

Over the summer, Berg has carefully selected the best of the best reading materials for elementary school kids. As media for a brand new school, she has had to fill an entire room with books that will capture attention, ignite imaginations and, hopefully, entice kids to become enthusiastic readers.

"At the elementary is when we capture readers for life," Berg said. "It's far easier to get a kid to love books at an early age than later in life. And we have a better chance of doing that if we have things they will enjoy reading."

And so, Berg, who is new to School District 192 this year, has spent the past couple of months selecting more than 15,000 books for the media center in Farmington's newest elementary school.

The books arrived last Wednesday, and were being placed on the shelves the following day. The books were stored in 388 cases, all organized in the order they would be placed on the shelves, with identification markers and barcodes already attached.

A school library service by the name of Mackin, based out of Burnsville, was hired to do the sorting and placing of the books. It was a huge time-saver for Berg, but she was still anxious to help unload the books Thursday morning.

"I'm excited to see this. To see these books on the shelves is just wonderful," she said.

Rhyme and reason

For those trying to adjust to the new schools in Farmington this year, Riverview is the newest elementary in District 192. It is in the building that was Farmington Middle School East last year.

Though the building doesn't look much different from the outside, everything inside has been scaled to fit the size and needs of elementary-aged children, instead of budding middle-schoolers.

Along with that conversion came the revamping of the media center. All the books and free-standing bookcases, computers, tables and chairs -- just about everything that could be moved -- were taken over to Boeckman Middle School. That left Riverview Elementary with one big, open room with lots of possibilities.

Berg has been in the media specialist field for more than a decade. She's taught media education to all levels of students, from kindergartners through high school seniors. She's written three books for elementary-aged children -- a fourth is on the way -- about how to use library materials. When she came to Farmington earlier this summer, she found herself with the opportunity to build an entire library from beginning to end.

There is a particular methodology to how books are placed throughout the room. She put the books she calls "everybody books" on the first four bookcases inside the doorway. Those books, she said, are the ones likely to be the most popular. The everybody books are often illustrated books, but that does not mean they are only for beginning-level readers -- often, those books are the ones that are read to younger children, and that older kids with a fourth- or fifth-grade reading level will check out because they can read them.

There is a general transition from section to section, so kids can feel like they have progressed in their reading abilities, the farther they go into the library.

On the other side of the room are the nonfiction books. The books there are arranged by subject, but in a manner than gently nudges readers along from one subject to the next.

Boys are usually more interested than girls in nonfiction, Berg said, because many nonfiction books are about things like sports and famous athletes, war, cars and so on. She admits, though, that sometimes, getting students interested in a nonfiction subject can lead their interest to other genres of books, too. For instance, a student might be interested in reading about hockey or his favorite hockey player. The media specialist might then introduce a fiction book about a group of kids about the same age as the student who play hockey and have all kinds of adventures.

"We like to use nonfiction not only for reference materials, but to entice kids to read," Berg said.

The media classroom

Berg knows she can't turn every kid into a bookworm, so there are lots of other media tools available there, too. One, of course, is the Internet. Kids don't necessarily get a lesson on how to surf the 'net -- instead, Berg teaches them to question what they find online.

With so many resources and accounts of facts and historical events literally at one's fingertips on the Internet, Berg teaches students to research the validity of the information they come across. She also talks to them about what she calls the "authority" of books versus the information found online.

And, too, there will simply be some students who enjoy reading, but have no interest in picking up books. For those students, Berg also has a database of subscription books available.

"There are kids who will never love books as much as reading online," she said. "As long as they're reading, there's a place for it all, I think."