What do fashion and environmental science have in common? These are the subjects that current teachers at I.C. Norcom High School in Portsmouth, Virginia, want new books on: fashion (a subject that some might find trivial) and environmental science (a subject of great importance to our ever-changing planet). Although they are seemingly on two opposite sides of the spectrum, they are both subject areas that need to be supported by the high school library collection.
The Inspire Collection Development Grant, sponsored by Marina “Marney” Welmers, will help us buy new nonfiction books to support both those subject areas. In my case, it’s a tale of two teachers, really, who inspired me to apply for the grant. One had never used the library for research purposes; the other, a former public library employee, brought his students to the library every year to work on their research project. We all know and love that teacher: the one who faithfully brings his/her students to the library each school year to expose them to books and who requires them to cite at least one book as a source in their research papers; the one who understands how beneficial a library and librarian can be in a student’s research life.
While we can depend on the same teachers to expose their students to the library, of course we need to reach out to those who do not. Our fashion teacher has always been a supporter of the library but for display purposes: every October, our windows showcase the most creative, student-created bras to promote National Breast Cancer month. While this showcased both student work and the library on our school’s social media outlets and promoted goodwill, it progressed into something more.
This past school year, her colleague came to the library to see what books we had to support the fashion curriculum. After three years of weeding the collection and getting little or no money to rebuild it, I knew it wouldn’t be pretty and I admitted this to her. We owned some older history of costume books and fashions of the decade books averaging around the year 1970. It was pretty embarrassing, and this pushed me to research grant opportunities online. I was so excited when I found the Inspire Collection Development grant!
When I told the fashion teacher my plans to write the grant for fashion books to support their curriculum, she was over the moon! I began accumulating a list and shared it with her and her colleague to get their input. We will be working together this fall to narrow the list down and determine how we want to use books to partner for student projects. After receiving the exciting news about the grant, the next semester she came in with her classes for a different student project, using the library’s newest touch screen board. The students used it to trace fashion illustrations onto poster boards and were in the library for a week working on them, culminating in a display of the finished products that brought additional students into the library to see.
Seeing what just a little collaboration and sharing can lead to is incredible. The fashion teacher even accompanied me to the ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans to witness me receiving the grant. Her support has been crucial. She has always promoted the good work the library is doing through all her social media contacts and has also written letters to my superiors for acknowledgment. I’m looking forward to seeing where this partnership will go and am so thankful to AASL and Marina Welmers for the opportunity!