Spotlights
Celebrating National School Library Month - Meet Pam Cline, library media specialist, Dundalk High School
In honor of National School Library Month, we are featuring profiles of three BCPS library media specialists and the work they do to ensure that school libraries transform learning. This is the third profile. (The first two can be found here and here.)
04/25/2016

Spotlight

Pam Cline has been the library media specialist at Dundalk High School for the past 32 years. She says that people ask her all the time if she has gotten bored being at the same school for so long.

“It isn’t the same school,” Cline answers. “The faculty changes, the administration and superintendent change, even the building changes…I doubt that I have really had the ‘same’ job for more than five or six years at a time.”

And the work has changed, too, Cline says.

“Because of technology, there is access to so much more information in so many different forms,” notes Cline. “Our first computer was an Apple – not connected to the Internet. In 1986 or 87, we got a modem. We could access magazines and print them out on a dot matrix printer. We had the encyclopedia on a CD. Now our library media center is filled with computers. We have at least two class sets of computers.” 

Access to all of this information is especially important at the high school level, Cline says. “The students are doing a lot more research. I am working with them on how to use databases, create good outlines, keep notes, and make bibliographies.”

Often this happens in collaboration with teachers from Dundalk and Sollers Point. The two schools share a building and the school library. Teachers sign up to bring their classes to the library, where often they will coteach with Cline. “Most days as many as eight classes visit the library,” Cline says. The library is large enough to accommodate multiple classes at once.

The most interesting library lessons, Cline says, are the ones that relate to students’ interests and lives. Describing librarians as “guardians of copyright,” Cline describes one lesson she presented focused on the copyright dispute between Marvin Gaye’s family and performers Robin Thicke, Pharrell, and T.I. about the song “Blurred Lines.” Another example she offers is a “speed dating” assignment during which students had to select the books they wanted to read based on YouTube book trailers.

Cline describes the process of connecting the right student to the right book as one of her great joys. “I think the most satisfying thing,” she says, “is when you put a book in a child’s hand, and they come back in a few days and say ‘This is great. I love this.’”

According to Cline, a lot of Dundalk and Sollers Point students are very interested in graphic novels. “They devour them,” she says. “And sometimes check out 10 books at a time.”

For Cline, connecting adults to books is just as satisfying as helping students make that connection. “We have a teacher reading club, and I had to convince one teacher to join. She said that she never read fiction. Now she is always buying another novel for her Kindle. When you reach in and activate that love of reading in someone, that is the best part of the job.”

Cline’s connection to books began early in her childhood. “My father was in the military, and we usually lived overseas, often in countries where we had no access to television. My parents ingrained in me a love of books and gaining knowledge. They knew that I was going to be the first on both sides to go to college. ”

It was in the third grade that Cline decided to be a librarian. After college, she taught social studies first, then earned her master’s degree and began her career at Dundalk High.

In her library media center, Cline is surrounded by her beloved books, but also by students. “I usually have a full house during all lunch periods and before and after school. Students are here doing research and homework.”

To make the library even more attractive, Cline keeps on hand some of the materials that students might need for class projects – glue sticks, paper, clips, etc. – but might not have at home.

Beyond her other duties, Cline serves as the alternate tech liaison for the school, has conducted professional development for staff about Web 2.0, is a former AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) teacher, coordinates student service learning, and writes curriculum every summer. She works closely with broadcasting tech teachers and helps produce two student shows for BCPS-TV. Cline is a member of the school’s Leadership Team and School Improvement Team, is the secretary of the Faculty Council, and the chair of the Social Committee.

Returning to the question of how it is that she has been at Dundalk for 31 years, Cline concludes, “You come to love a community and to make a difference because you know the community so well. As long as you can make a difference, you stay.”

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