Okaloosa County School District has its books in line with new law

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log

In light of the recent law requiring all school districts to catalog every book on their shelves and put a formal review process in place, Okaloosa County School District is ahead of the curve. 

In 2000, the district established a review process and procedures for handling criticism of library books or educational material. In September of 2021, the district made a few revisions. 

“Upon written request, the school district will provide access to any book or material that is used in the classroom, maintained in a school library or included on a reading list,” according to the district procedure. 

Working through the law:Sarasota Schools freezes library book donations, purchases

Fact check:Florida law causes Sarasota schools to halt book purchases, book fairs proceed

The Okaloosa District has put in place the following to ensure it is meeting the requirements of the new law. 

  • Hired a certified media specialist for the district 
  • Vet novels for instructional use 
  • Reviewing new library materials before purchase 
  • Provided briefing to principals and department chairs regarding new state statutes and district procedures 
  • Established a district parent permission form for instructional novels and videos 
  • District media specialist presented at Secondary English Language Arts professional development and department meetings 
  • Presented professional learning to Certified Media Specialists and Media Assistants covering the required Florida Department of Education Library Media Training, Okaloosa Board Policies, and District Media Center Procedures  
  • Training will be held before school starts regarding new district procedures for classroom teachers’ libraries as a result of state statutes.  

“The district is following best practices regarding cataloging books and educational materials maintained by media specialists or assistants," according to Catherine Card, public information officer for the district.  

Meg Fette, media assistant at Destin Elementary School, said she has inventoried and cataloged every book in the Destin Media Center.

“Our policies coincide with Florida State Statute to ensure curriculum transparency and trust that our teachers and staff value the integrity of our libraries to offer educational material that is appropriate for every grade level,” Card said. 

Each book in the media center has a bar code to show that it has been cataloged and is in the system.

Destin Elementary School, the largest elementary in Okaloosa County with 1,005 students, K-through fourth grade, has cataloged all its books, according to Principal Amy Meyer. 

Meyer said all the books are cataloged into the Destiny System. 

“Parents have access to that system to be able to look up any books we have in the library,” Meyer said. 

She explained, each individual teacher has cataloged all of their classroom library books, on the website under the teacher's name. 

“Parents can look it up and see what’s available to their children in the classroom,” Meyer said. 

If it is an assigned book, like they are reading it out loud in the class or it is an assigned book they have to read, then “it goes through the book review process … that’s what the county has in place,” Meyer said. 

The book would then go to the media specialist at the county, who reads it and sends it back, approved or not. 

Teachers also have to send home a letter to parents saying this is what we’re going to read, for parents to sign off on. 

“If they do not want their child to listen or hear that book … there has to be an alternate assignment given,” Meyer said. 

Destin Elementary School media center houses 10,000 books.

Meyer said at the beginning of the year, “it was very cumbersome to get everything cataloged.” 

She had help from parent volunteers to assist. 

As for the media center at Destin Elementary, media assistant Meg Fette rescanned and cataloged every book. 

“It’s all in the system … it took a while,” she said, noting there are 10,000 books in the library. 

“It was a labor of love,” Meyer said of Fette’s work in the media center. 

Destin Elementary School still has the old card catalog on display, but it is not in use anymore.

“It’s the heart of the school. Books in hand … just the smell of books, it’s so important to me,” said Fette, who is a retired 40-year educator. 

Working in the media center is “like my hobby and my job,” said Fette, who is also a certified media specialist. 

“It’s the best job I’ve ever had. 

“I like the interaction with the kids, it’s the most important thing and I’m an organizer by personality,” Fette said. 

“I like hard work … I like to stay busy,” she said. 

Destin media center has about 300 books to put back on the shelf each day.