How Libraries Make Us Feel
On a memorable day a few years ago, a precious fifth grader named Joseph visited the library. I heard him breathe deeply and say, “I just love the smell of the library on a Monday morning!” I will never forget it. He captured how I feel about our school library in one sentence. Now, I am at Highland, a magnet high school in our district. Students from across the county choose to come to our school, making up our diverse student body. There is no doubt that a school library is a special community of learners. Each day, I hope my high school students have the same feeling that Joseph had, that our library is indeed a special place, a community, a place that feels like home.
Rooted in Standards
As school librarians we make so many choices that impact our libraries and learners. On a daily basis we decide what music might be playing in the background, we create attractive book displays, we make sure supplies and resources are available for our students and teachers. We plan lessons with teachers. The physical space is ready for our patrons. What brings the space to life is our students. They make the choice to walk through the doors in our secondary schools, although we often have an enthusiastic captive audience in our elementary schools. Our students are the “family members” who help to create the community in which they learn, grow and simply relax.
The Shared Foundation of Collaborate found in our AASL Learner Standards undergirds my daily and weekly plans for the Highland library. The key commitment is, “Work effectively with others to broaden perspectives and work toward common goals” (p. 36). I love to see a library full of students each morning, as they are indeed thinking, creating, sharing, and growing together. They define this space. They make these four walls a vibrant community. For example, when groups of students visit the library to work on an assignment, to hang out, or find a “just right” independent reading selection, they reinforce this sense of community. Whether the room is full of students with a happy hum of conversation or it is a quiet refuge for students to sit and read in a comfy nook, the school library is a community.
Do Our Students See Themselves in Our Libraries?
I hope our Highland library is a reflection of the students and teachers who frequent this special place. Framed pictures of students and teachers hang on the walls. A photo slideshow loops on a display screen all day, highlighting special activities and collaborative lessons. Stakeholders can also view the slideshow on the library website. Collaborative work stations are scattered about the room. A diverse collection of books are available to appeal to the students. I hope that my students find themselves in our books. I hope they are inspired, motivated, supported, comforted, and entertained by what they read.
Just like at home, I hope they are fed, emotionally and physically. The artful writing of authors feeds them intellectually, and candy often feeds them physically here at Highland. It’s amazing how happy high school students are about a jar of lollipops or a seasonal treat.
Additionally, student art projects are showcased throughout the library. I love displaying student work in the room; it helps create that homey feeling. Walking into a room filled with colorful art reinforces the comfortable atmosphere and warms up the place. The more students see their work and that of their peers, the deeper the sense of community becomes.
Inspiration from #NCSLMA19
As I reflect on our association’s annual conference which is now complete, one particular session inspired me that is related to this idea of community. Librarian Stephanie Fiedler presented an engaging session about “hygge” (Danish principles of happy living). Maybe it is because I am part Norwegian or because I strive to make the library feel like home, but her session resonated with me. As conference chair I didn’t get to attend her session, but I was able to download her session slides and I have been so impressed. Rooted in Meik Wiking’s The LIttle Book of Hygge Danish Secrets to Happy Living, there are so many connections to apply to libraries. Her students at Davis Drive Elementary School in Cary, NC, are so fortunate! This concept may be inspiration for you as well. So, however you create a feeling of community, I know students are able to Think, Create, Share, and Grow in our school libraries.
If you have a minute, I would love for you to leave a comment or two about how you create a special sense of community in your library.
AASL. 2018. National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries. Chicago: ALA.
Wiking, Meik. The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living. New York, William Morrow, 2017.
Author: Laura Long
Laura Long is the school library media specialist at Highland School of Technology in Gastonia, NC, a 2017 National Blue Ribbon School. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Education from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and her Masters of Library Science from East Carolina University. She is a Gaston County Schools’ Delta Fellow, Pinnacle Technology Leader and member of the Pioneering Educators Team, as well as a National Board certified language arts teacher. Additionally, she is the President-elect of the North Carolina School Library Media Association. She loves collaborating and helping her students connect with others around the world, so feel free to contact her via email or social media.