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Gwinnett Media Specialist of the Year named

HOSCHTON - There were no computers in classrooms in 1982 when Louise Doughty started working as a school media specialist. As Internet searches began replacing the Dewey Decimal System, she knew she had to change how she taught students to find and evaluate information.

Her initiative and innovation helped earn Doughty the title of Gwinnett County's Media Specialist of the Year.

She adeptly adjusted to technological changes, focusing on teaching information literacy to students. Though there was a wealth of information online, Doughty knew much of it was unreliable. She wanted to teach students to critically evaluate Web sites to see if they were accurate and updated. They learned to study sites to find when they were updated, who wrote the material and whether they represented interest groups.

"It's a tremendous change," she said. "It's a wealth of information that our students today have access to, where the problem is not finding information - it is being overwhelmed by it. We are information rich, but our students have the challenge of sorting through the information to find what they need."

After 19 years at Creekland and Lawrenceville middle schools, Doughty came to Frank N. Osborne Middle School when it opened in 2004. She had the opportunity to launch several programs with a new staff. Most of all, she wanted to create enthusiasm for reading among students.

"One of my goals is to instill within them the desire to learn and to expand their world. We have the opportunity, as media specialists, to show them the tools and to motivate them," Doughty said.

She created the Reading Council to increase the amount of time kids read at home. Students were to spend at least 20 minutes reading every night in addition to their homework. If they read for the required amount of time, they were entered into a drawing for prizes. The program had close to a 100 percent participation rate, with most students reading more than required.

"I feel that it's important to have every child experience success, and this reading program gives every child the ability to achieve this goal, whether they're a slow reader or a fast one," she said.

Doughty also created "Hawkeye News," a weekly video broadcast produced by students. Every Friday morning, the broadcast airs school news and spotlights faculty members and students.

Doughty also developed a book study of "No Excuses," a book by Kyle Maynard, an athlete and Collins Hill High School graduate. Maynard was born without arms and legs, but he didn't let that stop him from becoming a championship wrestler.

The Osborne girls basketball team used the book study developed by Doughty and the basketball coaches. Afterward, she encouraged players and cheerleaders to create READ posters to display in the halls.

As the system winner, Doughty will compete at the district level for the chance to be Georgia's School Library Media Specialist of the Year.