In August, I will be retooling to begin a job in public k-5 education. I have been working in private 8-12 education. Both schools are in Alabama, but one is highly privileged, mostly white, suburban, and college prep, while the other is set in an urban location that is socioeconomically less advantaged, entirely African-American, and its students are behind in reading. It will be a big shift, but I’m looking forward to it. Because public education is unionized, I will be paid better and receive better benefits. The library is clearly important to my new school, where it was chronically undervalued at my old school, despite the massive overhaul of materials we achieved over the past 6 years. My new colleagues and boss seem happy with their work environment, organized, and determined. When I interviewed, I didn’t get a chance to see the library, and I feared that it wouldn’t be as nice as the beautiful building I attended at my last school, but when I saw it for the first time I was breathless: The main room would make any public children’s section envious, and there is a reading room called the “Tower of Dreams” with colored windows, a 2-story ceiling, and stadium seating. When the sunlight comes through the windows, it has the awesome feeling that a church does. As with my old library, the library is in the center of the school– the “Tower of Dreams” is the architectural middle of the school.
Special thanks to my former intern, Beth Dobson (MLIS UA), who spent a weekend of her life prepping me for elementary librarianship, and to my references for helping me land this great new opportunity.
I guest blogged at “Letters to a Young Librarian“! Thanks to Jessica Olin for the opportunity.
When I arrived at my current place of employment, I inherited a high school library of 20,000 physical volumes that had not been weeded in institutional memory. That’s not quite true: the librarian who worked there right before me, for about a year and a half, had weeded a lot, especially in the fiction section, including, rumor had it, all the “for boys” books (early YA literature).
The collection was still astonishingly outdated. The budget for the past decade or more had covered databases, a few hundred dollars’ worth of book purchases, and a handful of magazines. It seemed like every donation was kept. The average age of the library was 1977. All of the age-sensitive materials were woefully outdated: history books discussed the Cold War, chemistry books’ periodic tables were incomplete, social sciences questioned the motives of the fledgling Civil Rights Movement.
One of my major goals at my library has been to bring the age of the collection into the 21st century. When I arrived at my library, the collection was very large, outdated, and irrelevant to the students’ current needs and interests. The previous librarian (who worked there 1.5 years) had weeded over 2,000 books, mostly from the fiction section, and my colleagues were surprised that the library needed more weeding. I have kept up his pace, weeding 1500-2500 books per year, focusing on nonfiction sections that see a lot of use. As I weed, I also acquire new materials, especially in highly weeded/high use sections. For our school, those are biology, Shakespeare criticism and literary non-fiction, drama, modern Middle East history, environmental policy, and social issues. (Why we weed.) (more…)