HILL 'N DALE — There hadn't been a media specialist at Eastside Elementary School for three years before this school year. Someone checked out books, but not a specialist.
"To run a library is a full-time job," said Mary Dysart, the school's new media specialist.
Dysart began her job at the beginning of the current school year. She came from a similar position at Nature Coast Technical High School.
Working at an elementary school is quite different than dealing with high school students, she said.
"The kids are so interested in everything," she said. "These younger kids, they love to read. They're curious — full of questions. They love pictures. They're so excited in everything."
But the Eastside Elementary book collection is very old, she said. And things went missing when there wasn't a media specialist to look after the library. So Dysart wrote and won a grant for $19,400 from the Hernando County Education Foundation to help replenish the facility.
She has been researching the needs of her school's teachers and students. She wants to build on the children's interests, reading skills, comprehension, vocabulary and fluency. She reviews what is new.
"Librarians call it collection development," she said.
"Students' access to quality reading material is the biggest factor in improving their reading skills," she said. "We're a Title I school, so they really need access at school."
Dysart wrote in her grant: "The library will be open two Saturdays in the spring and one day a week over the summer to prevent 'summer slide' and give parents an opportunity to spend quality reading time with their children."
She hopes to have 1,000 new books when school opens for the 2014-15 year in August. She also intends to add a larger storytime rug and four book trucks for book reshelving.
"It was hard to leave high school," Dysart said, "but to be part of building something is very exciting."