School Libraries

Pets Lifeline teaches literacy through animals

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The ding of the bell signals the class at Sassarini Elementary School (AZ) that it’s time to head to the library. There’s a cacophony of excitable chatter as the kids enter, swinging backpacks, schlepping books and generally bouncing around. But as soon as the youth sees the little purple stroller, they lower their voices and their boisterous energy falls into a hushed calm.

One by one, almost as if they were in a receiving line at a wedding, the students parade past the stroller, offering their greetings to Leo. Born with a cerebral condition that limits his mobility, Leo is lucky to be alive. The 1.5 year old black cat was in a kill shelter in San Bruno before he was adopted by Mary Green, the founder of Pets Lifeline’s Humane Education program.

“He’s perfect for kids because he doesn’t freak out,” Green said of Leo. “He stays calm and they can pet him.”

Harbor Creek High library transformed into ‘relevant, inclusive, engaging’ place

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When Chris Peters became Harborcreek High School’s librarian this year, she wanted to see through an idea to make the space “relevant” to tech-savvy teens who had little use for the encyclopedias.

With a team of volunteers, Peters unscrewed the wooden bookshelves anchored to the cement floors. They took every book off every shelf. They bought Keurig coffeemakers and K-cups, sofas and rocking chairs, a record player and vinyl records. They installed a black chalkboard and painted a few walls orange, one of the school’s colors. A local contractor lent his time and skills to transform old shelves into tables.

That wasn’t all.  Peters turned one area into a makerspace where kids tinker and create. And she halved the librarian’s office to make a kitchen for café.

Some of it, she admits, was done without the permission of the maintenance personnel. But her vision in its entirety has come with overwhelming support from fellow teachers, staff members, administrators and school board members.

Peters, an elementary school teacher in the district for 24 years and an elementary librarian the last four, came to the high school library with grand plans.

Connecting to Choctaw culture

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Neshoba Central High (MS) students have been busy, crafting Native American necklaces in their school colors of red, white and blue.

For two weeks, students are learning about the history and culture of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians through storytelling, dancing, beading and cooking Choctaw food. The program is made possible through a grant from the NoVo Foundation, according to Rachel Kiepe, the school's library media specialist.  

Phyllis McMillan, a member of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, came to the school to share her tribal beading skills with the students. She encouraging them to create something meaningful, such as jewelry they could wear to pep rallies. 

With that in mind, the students created diamond-shaped necklaces. McMillan said that in Choctaw culture, the diamond shape represents the diamondback rattlesnake, which eats rodents trying to destroy the farmers' crops.


Comics, Education, and Advocacy

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Emerald City Comic Con (ECCC), held March 1–4 in Seattle, expanded its programming this year to include a full day of professional development for librarians and educators, cosponsored by the American Library Association and several publishers at Seattle Public Library’s (SPL) Central Library.

Creating a community of practice for librarians and educators around comics collection, education, and advocacy was a major theme of the program, which included sessions such as “Censored: The Comics They Don’t Want You to Read (and How to Keep ’Em Circulating),” “The Representation Bookshelf,” and “What Do I Say When?: Tough Questions about Comics and How to Turn It Around.”

Taylor Eastman, ReedPOP content and talent coordinator for ECCC, said, “On top of being fans themselves, educators and librarians are teaching our next generation of fans. We feel lucky to not only offer this content to our professional badge holders but also help connect these educators and librarians in a place where they can learn and share ideas.”

School library commons offers students outdoor learning options

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Chess is increasingly popular at Carmichaels Area High School (OH), partially thanks to an outdoor, oversized board in the school’s new commons.

During the high school renovation, finished in late 2015, there was an area just outside the high school library used to house temporary classrooms. After those buildings were removed, they left a muddy, unusable mess.

Librarian Cassie Menhart said that she talked with the administration to construct some sort of outdoor area. The issue, though, was finding funding for such a project.  “I had to have a patio,” she said with a smile at the dedication of the new Paci Madich Commons Nov. 9.

That’s where Gary Madich, the 2017 commencement speaker, and his wife, Cindy Paci Madich, stepped in, giving an undisclosed donation to help.  Both 1973 graduates of Carmichaels Area High School, they were looking for a lasting way to give back. The couple now lives in Westerville, a suburb of Columbus, Ohio.  “This is home for us,” Cindy Paci Madich said. “To think that two rural farm kids with not much guidance were able to be successful.”

A Model School Library Program in Colorado

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If you are seeking an exemplary school library, look no further than the one at Eaglecrest High School in Centennial, Colorado.

The library at the high school, which is a part of the Cherry Creek School District in the southeast Denver area, earned the 2014 National School Library Program of the Year (NSLPY) Award, which is awarded by the American Association of School Librarians' (AASL), a division of the American Library Association (ALA) and sponsored by the Follett Corporation.

The school librarians at Eaglecrest seamlessly support, and in many cases take the lead on, integrating education and technological initiatives that best serve the students.