3 replies

  1. In “Part of Our Lives: A People’s History of the American Public Library” (Oxford University Press, 2015), I showed that from “a library in the life of the user” perspective people love their public libraries for three main reasons: (1) for the practical information public libraries make accessible; (2) for the billions of stories they circulate that help people make sense of their lives in so many ways; and (3) for making public space available for multiple uses, including the construction of community. Unfortunately, our professional discourse has devoted most of its attention for the last 150 years to the first, and for the most part overlooked and undervalued the second and third. Scholars from other fields, however, are beginning to notice. See, for example, sociologist Eric Klineneberg’s new book, “Palaces for the People” (2018); Eric will be delivering the Curley Lecture at ALA Midwinter in Seattle.

    I am currently writing a history of American public school librarianship, and in my research am struck by how little attention the school library research community has given to “school library as place” over the generations from a “library in the life of the user” perspective. For decades I have told my students: “There is no holy book in which God tells us what a library should be; historically, it is people (users and managers) who make libraries and people (users and managers) who change them.” So the research question I would ask is: “Between K-12, what are the changing space needs of children and young adults [there is a lot of research outside LIS literature that identify these needs], and what changes can school libraries as places make to address them”?

  2. I too over the past 33 years had many students who have sought out the Media Center/Library as a place to practice socialization skills with me or my assistant(they don’t know that is what is happening) Our students in 4th and 5th grade can currently come in at lunch, in addition to weekly library times, and throughout the day. Some receive standing passes and they become assistants in the library. It is amazing to see the change in them when they interact with other students. They have learned how to interact in a non-judgemental way, and they gain confidence

    We have a puzzle, a coloring area, and computers to use. It is amazing what you may overhear, as they are working.

  3. Thank you so much for the reminder that a library should be an open, inviting environment where all are welcome. There are so many students (like C in your blog post) that struggle with social interactions and making connections either with the students and/or staff. I think that this blog topic serves as a critical reminder that the library is so much more than a library and, in this case, has acted as a platform of comfort and safety in the school community and a gateway to practice some social skills.

    My library supports students that may need more opportunities to socialize by hosting various clubs and activities such as chess club or the comic club. The comic club was my son’s idea when he was a student at the school in which I was the librarian. With the trend of graphic novels, he sparked an interest in creating his own graphic stories or comics, so we started a lunch time club. I was amazed at the turnout and the students who chose to come. In a K-5 school I had students from every grade show up, many of whom were some of our most vulnerable students and struggling readers. It served as such an opportunity to make personal connections with students that I otherwise may not have.

    It’s amazing what can happen and the connections that you can make by simply opening the library doors and having a welcoming space for the students by offering a more unstructured activity.

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