March 2014



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Zebra Staff Note:
The Teacher Feature highlights the positive impact or innovative work of a South Dakota teacher each month. If you have a suggestion for a Teacher Feature, contact Ruth Raveling at (605) 773-2593 or

Jeff Cosier is the information media specialist at Horace Mann Elementary in Rapid City, but he worked hard for his master’s in library science, so he doesn’t mind if you still call him the librarian.

The new title is important, though. Elementary schools in Rapid City have developed a new library curriculum, focused on teaching students information literacy. The new curriculum provides consistency districtwide and better aligns with classroom instruction.

As Cosier explains, just finding information used to be difficult. Now it’s so easy to find, students need to know how to evaluate the information overload.

Information literacy teaches students to focus their research by asking questions. Once they’ve asked a question, they need to locate and access the information they need. Then they must ask themselves: Is this good information? How do I tell? Once they have good information, they need to know how to use it ethically, through paraphrasing, summarizing and proper citing; not plagiarizing.

Information and technology have become so intertwined, it’s hard to navigate a modern library without knowing how to use computers, e-readers and other devices. Because of this, the library curriculum now also covers skills that at one time would have been taught in a separate computer class.

The Horace Mann library is home to laptops, a Smart Board, a catalog of 500 e-books and downloadable audiobooks, and more. Students complete library assignments on Edmodo.

The South Dakota State Library has recognized Horace Mann as an Exemplary 21st Century School Library. The recognition program evaluates libraries’ performance in three areas: place, which refers to the learning environment (both physical and online), programming and professionalism.

Cosier credits the Exemplary Library recognition to not only the library’s, but the whole school’s, dedication to literacy. “It’s not just me, it’s the whole building,” he says. “This whole building really pushes literacy.”

Last summer, the library hosted a book club and the school’s literacy department organized a book exchange through which students could get new books every week of vacation.

Cosier says Horace Mann has a high population of economically disadvantaged students, so he strives to give them year-round, 24-hour access to the library. He gives them cards with the information they need to access electronic resources from home. “I know the kids here need it more than kids in other places. There’s a high need among our students,” he says. “If I wasn’t giving them the access to the technology, it wouldn’t be there for them.”

Once a week, after school, the library hosts a group of students who work on robotics with Lego NXT. Cosier is also working to get software that would help students learn about programming and video production.

In the end, though, it comes back to books. Cosier says, “I like turning kids into readers. I’m proud that I’ve turned non-readers into readers. My love of books has been infectious.”