A School Without Its Heart: What I Did When We Didn’t Have a Library

If the library is the heart of a school, then the librarian is its heartbeat. The library at my school has been in the renovation process since we left school at the end of May. If you read my last post, you know about a few of the growing pains throughout this project. As of the second week of November, the space received temporary occupancy, which means that I can have students up in the library to help me unpack. Although, due to this and the unpacking of all the things, I still cannot hold classes in the library, which means I go to the teachers and the classes that need me. 

So, what have I been doing since school started in August since there hasn’t been a space for me to call home? Well, I’ve been doing a lot! 

I started the year off as I typically do – working with the English department. Except for this year, we weren’t able to do any type of book tastings (see my other blog posts about the different ones I’ve done) because the 8,000 some odd books we have were packed in boxes. 

So I went with what I knew best outside of our library – The Westerville Public Library!  I went into every English class and made sure that every student had either a library card or an application for a library card. I then showed them how to access the WPL’s catalog and request for their materials to be delivered to South. (Yes, we are extremely lucky and are able to get the materials requested delivered and returned right at our school). 

I then did what I call a book sprint which is book talking 20 books in 15 minutes, making sure that the books I book talked about were some of the ones I showed students how to request from the library. Let me tell you the joy I felt as kids came into the main office to pick up those same books from the WPL. This meant I had done my job and my heart soared!

So what else? Because getting to the English classes only took about two to two and a half weeks. After that time, some English teachers started research, which is usual for us to work together on, but without a space, I came to them. It was different logistically because we had to schedule and wrangle Chromebook carts for each session I did (our school is not 1:1), but we made it work. 

One of the projects I helped with research on was our Humanities classes Mythology project. Students had to pick one of 13 different mythologies and pick three universal themes to research and write about with that mythology. Students also had to present their findings to their peers as well. 

To help students begin their research, I created a Destiny Collection (a platform for curating resources) that includes everything they need to complete their project. It has their project information, how to cite sources, how to embed quotes, and each mythology has its own Destiny Collection with a page of over hundreds of resources from our Gale Database as well as four other websites about that mythology. 

In two different sessions, I walked students through the collection, provided lessons on how to embed their quotes/sources, how to use the database (saving articles to Google Drive, the highlighting and note-taking tools, etc.), and we also set up our Google Docs in MLA format all together so they would be ready to write and cite once they had their research. With any lesson I teach with any teacher, I offer to grade either the whole project or a piece of it, and the teachers that I worked with on this project took me up on the offer to grade the Works Cited. 

I also teamed up with one of our social studies teachers to do lessons on media literacy and help students with their first project of the year. We prepared by reading articles to discover and identify issues surrounding media literacy and bias. I also worked with another social studies teacher to participate in a Socratic Seminar about new LGBTQ rulings in the state of Ohio, how our community felt about such rulings, and how these rulings applied to our school and community.

One of the biggest areas that I want to get better at is planning with teachers outside of the English department. I happened to mention the idea of an escape room to one of our math teachers and now we are brainstorming together for an escape room next semester. I also did the same with a social studies and science teacher I haven’t worked with before and they seem on board! I’m super excited! 

Of course, during all of this, I was still doing library duties:

  • Running books to students from the WPL to their English classes (we can request books from WPL to be delivered to our schools) 
  • Working on my budget for the year
  • Taking care of all the technology and Chromebooks in the building
  • Writing lesson plans
  • Taking care of the five various clubs I advise
  • Running the student announcements
  • Working with students
  • and so much more! 

Despite all my normal duties as a librarian, I still felt like I wasn’t doing enough (totally my MO at all times if you know me). So when several of my English teacher buddies and I were talking about what they needed to grade, I offered to grade assignments for them even though I hadn’t co-taught the lesson. They jumped at the opportunity! 

Thus far, I have graded Fahrenheit 451 essays, college admission essays, and Works Cited. I am definitely using my English degree and experience teaching high school English for sure! I have even been an extra set of hands in English classrooms to help when students are writing their essays.

And we managed to do an escape room without the library and the boxes! 

Most days, just like when the library is open, I am running around like a chicken with my head cut off. But now, it’s just for some different reasons. Though I miss the library and having kids in the space, I’m not able to leave the library to fix something in real time as it breaks when kids are there. I have been able to do that without a space and I know it’s helped my colleagues. 

I hope that this has shown that librarians are much more than a person who checks in and out books all day and monitors study hall students. We are much much more than that and help to keep the school running. Though a school doesn’t have its heart, it still has its heartbeat – the librarian.

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