As protesters in Egypt began filling the streets of Cairo some 19 days ago, students at were watching in the library’s Global News Center. A social studies class visiting the library to research Middle East history was able to watch a historical moment beginning to unfold in Tahrir Square. Cable news was showing Egyptian youth, communicating via Twitter and Facebook, taking to the streets to call for the end of an authoritarian, dysfunctional regime and the establishment of democracy.
The Global News Center forms the backdrop of the library reference area. A widescreen TV with cable and Internet access hangs next to a large world map, and, using laptops, students and teachers can access all types of media as well as newspapers, magazines, and other print reference materials.
WHS Librarian Karen Miller got the idea for the GNC when the earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010. Two students from Haiti were anxious to find out what was happening in their country and to their relatives and friends there.
“When students come into the school they are cut off from the outside world,” she says. “Libraries are about access to information, in all forms, and in this century there ought to be a way for high school students to access news and blogs, world news and breaking news. Not only to be informed but to learn how to evaluate it. They are going to be bombarded with so much information in their lives; they’ve got to learn how to process it all.”
Mrs. Miller applied for funding grants from the and the high school Parent Faculty Association to buy the widescreen TV, laptops, and furniture for the GNC. Everything was ordered and installed over the summer, and then in the first months of the school year library staff worked with teachers to integrate this new resource. French teachers can have students watch French-language channels. Art classes can view on a large screen paintings in museums on the other side of the world. Of course, the journalism courses can reach beyond print-based journalism skills.
Today, Mrs. Miller reported that over 150 students were witnessing the jubilation in Egypt as news came out that Mubarak had resigned. They had come to the GNC during the first lunch period.