Community Building and Learning through Curation

Curate is one of my favorite Shared Foundations. According to the AASL Standards school librarians should have a key commitment to “make meaning for oneself and others by collecting, organizing, and sharing resources of personal relevance.” Oftentimes, when we think of curation, we envision articles, books, artifacts, and memorabilia from decades ago. The resources school librarians gather assist teachers who are assigning special projects to students. Curating involves building background knowledge for students and can include historical, political, or business events or persons who may or may not have any connection to us on a school level. However, I have learned that curation can be accomplished in a very simple and practical way to gain greater insights and knowledge about those who we and the students engage daily. It is simply another opportunity to Think, Learn, Share, and Grow.

We all have something to offer

In the school library I have the privilege of talking with a wide variety of school staff members. We speak about our families, professional goals, and efforts to improve the school environment. From the custodian to the attendance secretary, from the chemistry teacher to the band director, I learn much about each and honor them because of their commitments. I find myself reflecting after conversations and am overwhelmed with the amount of creativity, knowledge, and experiences they bring to the school environment. Each person has a unique perspective that is driven by his/her own life experiences. Recently I began to think about how to capture the talents and skill set that our staff members bring to the community. I decided to provide a space within the library utilizing one of our glass showcases to curate items, artifacts, and memorabilia staff members share and title it “What is a [last name of the staffer].”

How to organize a “What is a [last name of staff member]” curation

I mentioned the idea informally to several staff members to get their reactions and generate fresh ideas for improvement. After receiving an overwhelming amount of positive feedback, I generated a sign-up sheet with an explanation and slots for staff members to sign up every 2-3 weeks and placed one inside each person’s mailbox. Those who were interested returned the forms to me and I placed them on the calendar. Within a week we were set to showcase our first staff member, Mr. Troy Weis who came with a wealth of experiences including being a veteran, heavy metal fan, guitar collector, and avid reader of history books.

“What is a Weis?”

“What is a King?”

When beginning a project like this, be mindful that some staff members may not think they have much to offer. I heard comments like “I’m not interesting or my life is boring” or “I’m just a teacher” so it’s important to be encouraging and support them in their efforts. As the school librarian simply tell them to bring their items and you will curate. However, some staff members are quite capable of doing this themselves

Positive impact on the school community

Students are excited when they view the showcase. They comment frequently about how much they learn about their former or current teachers by viewing the pictures, awards, artifacts, and certificates. While viewing childhood photos, there is laughter but there is also a newfound respect for teachers who demonstrate their values as represented in their memorabilia. Imagine finding out that your teacher enjoys plays, movies, and attending rock concerts. These showcases humanize staff members and teach everyone that each of us contributes to the school environment. Additionally, students are surprised to learn teaching is a second career for some staff members. For example, wait until students learn that one of our English teachers is a former baker. We have one staff member who is an alum of the high school, played basketball as a student, and is now the head coach for the girls’ varsity basketball team. The showcase also brings in staff members who may have never visited the library, and visitors find the curation quite educational. For me it was a wonderful opportunity to teach and demonstrate how to collect, organize, and share resources that are meaningful and high relevant to others.

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Author: Chiquita Toure

I am an educator, school librarian, writer and wellness advocate.
This is my 23rd year with Columbus City Schools. Currently I serve as the head librarian at Eastmoor Academy, a college prep high school. Although memoirs and biographies are my favorite, I am not afraid of sci-fi and fantasy. Using my role to promote social justice and culturally relevant literature is one of my favorite things to do.



Categories: Blog Topics, Collection Development, Community/Teacher Collaboration, Student Engagement/ Teaching Models

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1 reply

  1. I love this idea! I’m always trying to bring more personalization to my high school library and this seems like a great way to do that. My only concern would be that teachers would be overwhelmed with the idea of spending time finding materials to bring in. Do you have a hard time getting teachers to volunteer?

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