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.