Advocacy, Innovation


Starting from Scratch. One of the most exciting things I have learned this semester is the viability of starting a new library from scratch at my adult school.  With a little bit of encouragement from my supervising fieldwork TL, Mr. Completo, and the exploration I did through the Vision Project, it doesn’t seem like such a farfetched notion.  In fact, it is encouraging to note that schools all over the country have had to do this at some point in their history, what was their process?  Who did they have to convince?  Who gave the final say and where did most of their start-up funding come from? What kept them going in the face of challenges and setbacks?  Whose idea was it in the first place and which came first, the library or the librarian?  I imagine that getting support from my school district’s library services department would give leverage to my proposal to my administrators.  Or should I approach the central office administrators to start this library program as a pilot?  Should I be open to pursuing this at another larger adult school that can accommodate the space needed and perhaps has the budget for it?  How can I promote this library as an important program to implement while also promoting myself as the best fit for staffing it?  I am flooded with questions and concerns probably because this is uncharted territory and for the sake of my students, I want to succeed.      Jess deCoursy Hinds who rebuilt the library at Bard HIgh School Early College Queens says persevere and believe in what you’re doing for your students.  Embrace that what you’re trying to do, building something from nothing, is important work and requires a team effort.  She interviews several other self-starters who designed and constructed their programs from the ground up – these women are inspiring and secured grant funds and support from city officials to make their ideas come to life.  “Assembling a balanced library can be a puzzle, a great challenge, and a leap of faith.”  There will be many challenges, but honestly, it sounds invigorating.  I can’t wait to get started.


Own Your Expertise.

Curriculum guru?  One aspect of Teacher Librarianship that I don’t think I completely understood until recently is the idea that TLs while supporting the work that happens in the classroom must become an expert in content standards at all levels or particularly for the levels that exist in the classrooms on the campus where her or his library is.  I don’t know exactly what I think about this…part of me thinks that content standards should be the realm of the teachers and the TL should be there to focus on the enjoyment and personal fulfillment that comes from reading.  I know now that this is naive, that a major part of keeping the library open and running on campus is to support and collaborate with teachers – making yourself visible and useful to the people you share the campus with is vital and can be incredibly rewarding.  But, curriculum guru I am not.  I am good at researching and finding the standards when I need them but, will my lack of broad-ranged curriculum knowledge inhibit my ability to help my fellow instructors?  Inside Higher Ed blogger, Joshua Kim, argues that since teaching has “increasingly become a team sport”, including librarians on the team just makes sense.  He lists experience, direct contact with students, and  the ability to compile high quality content, as the three top reasons to include librarians when designing courses and fine-tuning curriculum.  However, in higher education librarian input is sometimes perceived as too threatening to the old habits of a die-hard lecturer.  Perhaps elementary and secondary teachers feel a little bit differently (I hope).  Take Colby Sharp, a third grade teacher and blogger, who admits he is jealous of all the amazing things that librarians are doing throughout the country.  He wants to be a part of it, but his school does not have a full time certificated librarian.  He knows the positive impact a librarian could have on the curriculum at his elementary school and his cry for a full time TL speaks to his admiration and respect of our efforts and approach.  So maybe there is hope yet for me, that I can rely on all the other skills that I have been fortified with in library school: creativity, problem-solving, inclusive team-work, risk-taking, research and student-focus.



Even though fellow SJSU library student Nicole Ogden expresses some concerns about her busy and chaotic library, I can’t help but feel consumed with envy of her glorious space –  where students can find a workshop of sorts, to do research, use computers, work on projects or study all under one roof and with open access at anytime throughout the school day.  Rereading this – it is the definition of a 21st century library.  I would love to have this type of space for students on my campus!  As it stands now, there are few places, other than the cafeteria and the outdoor tables in front of the school, for students to congregate to study, or to connect with their fellow students in between classes.  Students make requests all the time, “Isn’t there a place on campus where I can go to study?” as if our school has something missing.  Students want a space to get away from their everyday life where they can all at once focus on the their studies, bounce ideas off of their peers, access technology and resources, while surrounded by others.  Learning and studying is not a solitary activity in the kind of library Nicole describes. And that probably is the best way for the library to serve the campus.

Advocacy, Innovation

Forge new ground.

Adult Ed. Libraries – Do they exist?

I am a counselor at a public adult skills center in East Los Angeles.  We cater to the academic needs of a local community with a 40% high school dropout rate of predominantly English Language learners in a lower middle class/working class neighborhood.  Approximately 30% are undocumented immigrants and have more than one barrier to access higher education.  These numbers tell a story, but it is not the whole story.

It would be fair to say that many of the students I work with experience a lot of social, emotional, academic and institutional barriers to educational success.  For this reason, I believe a school library would positively impact the lives of the students I work with.  In Los Angeles, this idea is unheard of.  My adult school is one of 11 major campuses in LA and not one serves students through a school library.  Do adult school libraries exist in other parts of the state and/or country?  Don’t public adult school students have the same rights to library materials and resources that other public school students do?  For example, the students of Los Angeles USD, have access to a personalized email account and a Google accounts provided by the district.  Through these accounts, students are given permission to utilize and access Google tools, as well as the district’s digital library of databases, managed by the district, and the catalog for their particular school site, managed by the library staff at that particular school site.  While my adult school does not own any printed materials at this time, do the students enrolled at my campus have the right to access the digital library?  If my school site provided an open computer lab for students could we provide students with local and remote access to the databases and other content managed by the district for student use?  If so, what would the practical next step be to gain access for my students?   



Be Innovative.

Bookless Libraries – no joke.

A trending topic of late that has gained popularity within university library systems, who want to be more innovative and responsive to the needs of today’s college students, are the idea of bookless libraries.  It’s really a misnomer when we say bookless  because ultimately they are chock full of books and information: ebooks, digitally born books, digital literary works, web materials.  Many bookless libraries while most have replaced their stacks with computer labs and comfortable seating still own a print collection that is simply stored at a repository off-site.  When you mention this idea to anyone over 35, they look at you with horror reminiscent of their school days spent perusing the shelves of worn and weathered resources.   Lack of physical space, changing patron usage, innovation, and fear of obsolescence are all reasons why libraries, particularly at the university level, are more seriously considering this (think Stanford, Florida Polytechnic, and University of Michigan Medical School).  Frankly, I can see why – even though I am a few classes away from earning an MLIS I have not once set foot in the SJSU library for research purposes.  Now, granted I live in LA…I did go once just for fun, but the truth is I don’t use any of the sister university libraries in southern California either, and  I rarely (once every few years) set foot in the Los Angeles public library, even though I read regularly from their collection.  Many of my peers say the same.  

That said, you’d probably be surprised to know that I have several public library cards that I use regularly to check out audiobooks.  Overdrive has been a godsend to me since I enrolled in graduate school, as I can take a break from academic reading while traveling to and from my job listening to a new audiobook I’ve downloaded.

I dream of starting a school library at the adult skills center where I work, and I have considered a bookless one for several reasons.  First, we have empty classroom space, but we do not have a large enough room that could accommodate more than 50 people at a time other than the auditorium.  In other words, space is limited.  Second, our students access a tremendous amount of academic material from their smart phones and improving the reach of digital material, ebooks and audiobooks for this purpose would only enhance their school experience.  90% of our student population has access to a smart phone, but less than 50% have access to a computer with internet.  Creating a space on campus for this purpose would benefit our students in so many ways.  A retired academic librarian writes on the Passive Voice, that learning is only enhanced by the use of digital materials, as it engages a reader/learner in conversation, collaboration and instant feedback that a physical book cannot.