Ketchikan librarian out on loan

Miller will spend next school year at Library of Congress

Posted: Wednesday, August 13, 2008

KETCHIKAN - When the Library of Congress needed to borrow a specific resource, it decided to call on the Ketchikan High School library for a loan.

It wasn't an obscure book, or a historical document the Library of Congress decided to borrow. Instead, it was the librarian.

David Miller, Kayhi's librarian, will spend the next school year as the teacher in residence at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

"Technically, I guess it's been described that I'm sort of an interlibrary loan from the state government to the federal government," Miller said. "The idea is that I return to the home district next August to kind of bring what I learned there back to Ketchikan."

Miller will begin his residency at the Library of Congress on Aug. 13. He will spend a school year, working as the 12th member of the library's Educational Outreach team.

If the residency works out as designed, the Library of Congress, the Kayhi library and Miller are all beneficiaries of the experience.

"It's a wonderful partnership and a wonderful way for the library to gain the expertise of an outstanding educator," said Elizabeth Ridgway, director of the LOC Educational Outreach team. "It's also a way for that educator to have a wonderful professional development experience for himself.

"Hopefully, (Miller) can spread the word further than even Ketchikan and perhaps be able to disseminate information across Alaska, that would be great for us."

Miller was approved for a one-year leave of absence by the Ketchikan School Board at its April 23 meeting.

The residency position is like a sabbatical and Miller will remain an employee of the school district, but the Library of Congress will reimburse the district his wages and benefits.

Ketchikan School District Superintendent Robert Boyle said it was an honor for Miller to be selected to work at the nation's library for the 2008-09 school year.

"I think it's a real feather in Ketchikan School District's cap to have him win such a national distinguished award. Then when he comes back, we're going to have one of the top librarians in the United States," Boyle said.

The teacher in residence program began in 2000. Only one educator is selected for the position each year. This year was the first time the application process was open to teachers nationwide. Other years the teachers filling the residency were selected from among those who had already served in Library of Congress programs before, Ridgway said.

Miller's selection came from among a "small handful of very strong applicants" who were considered for the position, Ridgway said.

"David's application was clear and away the best," she added. "He truly understood the concept of using primary documents to spark critical thinking skills and inquiry in students."

During the application process, Miller outlined a proposal of what he would accomplish during the residency.

He based his proposal on the Bread Loaf Teacher Network based at Middlebury College in Vermont. The network has existed since 1984 and helps teachers link their classrooms together through technology.

Miller wants to bring the same type of technology, and further advance current connections, in classrooms in Southeast Alaska.

The proposal he submitted as application for the residency included linking the classrooms of Kayhi's Rosie Roppel and Klawock City School's teacher Sabrina Demmert.

The Library of Congress has more than 13 million primary source materials available on it's Web site. Examples of materials available include the original rough draft of the Declaration of Independence, drafts of the Gettysburg Address and some of Thomas Edison's early films.

"It's a variety of different multimedia formats that we have that are very engaging to kids, so that they can see history, but through more visual means," Ridgway said. "We like to see primary sources as something that a student can use to spark questions to further spark their curiosity and the intellectual development. We want to see more of the questions that these sources can help kids create as opposed to the answers. We see them as a place where investigation allows students to construct their own learning."

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