I’ve been serving both middle and upper school constituencies since I arrived at Out-of-Door in 2008 and have often joked that I could use a clone to cover all the spots where I need to be in two places at once, but this time I really mean it!
In August we celebrated the ribbon-cutting on our shiny brand-new building, which comprises the Dick Vitale Family Student Center and the Dart STEM Center. The student center occupies the ground floor, while the STEM center takes up the second floor. (Yes, it’s that Dick Vitale. They’re a really lovely family, as are the Darts.)
The student center is host to a small café area with a coffee machine, a few booths, a couple of high-top tables with chairs, and a very large TV tuned to CNN to keep us current on events as they unfold throughout the day. Our food service is just a few feet away, so it’s easy to grab a salad or the daily special and enjoy it there.
The director of student activities occupies a small office nearby, which allows for easy communication with the kids. Along one wall is a spectacular classroom equipped for videoconferencing with a very large projection screen and a camera and microphone suspended from the ceiling.
Adjacent to that is a writing lab, soon to be staffed by peer tutors and overseen by members of the English faculty. Our director of collaborative learning and educational outreach is next door, and immediately next to her resides the assistant head of our upper school. The academic services office is also found in the student center.
The majority of the ground floor is given over to open space filled with tables, chairs and soft seating, just the kind of collegiate environment to encourage social study and collaboration with pockets of quiet for individual work.
Upstairs are the classrooms for all the math teachers, science laboratories for biology, chemistry and physics; and we have two 3D printers that have the campus buzzing with imagination. (Everyone is about to ask, so I’ll answer: they are available by appointment only, must be used for school-related projects, and the cartridges are removed when the machines are not in use.)
And where am I? And where’s the collection?
And thus . . . the conundrum. The librarian is not in the library, and by the way, what’s a library? Is it the place where books are, or is it the place where the librarian is?
My desk, really more of a fortress, occupies one end of the Student Center. I don’t have an office, but I have plenty of storage and the very best view of anyone on campus, including the headmaster.
There are two small project rooms behind me, plus a larger conference room with a curtain wall of glass, so there is plenty of room for book processing if I need it and places for private consultation with students or faculty.
The Savidge Bowers Library suddenly became the “old library,” paradoxical because there isn’t a “new library,” it’s a student center; but we do have a small collection here. I brought reference materials suitable for high school students, as well as fiction and biography for high schoolers as well. I figured that since it was designed to be Hangout Central for ninth through twelfth grade, what should live here are materials that need to be quickly at hand, either for reference or to grab as pleasure reading while walking by.
(Interesting side effect: these are mostly the same books that occupied the library these last eight years and had faded into the background as part of the scenery, but by removing them to a new location suddenly they’re a hit. “HOLY COW MISS MANDEL,” I keep hearing, “WHEN DID WE GET THESE AWESOME BOOKS? I LOVE THIS AUTHOR. DUDE, YOU SHOULD TOTALLY READ THIS.” It’s both gratifying and slightly perplexing.)
The “old library” houses the rest of the circulating non-fiction, and biographies, reference, and fiction for middle school students. How to get middle schoolers in front of those books to keep the collection relevant and in use is the other issue. Senior students collectively take a seminar course that meets in the old library (I guess we’re saying that now!), so they visit every day. All high schoolers are allowed some freedom to wander the campus at lunch or other free times of day, but our middle school students are more managed than that, so they don’t simply just wander over to the library. And if they did, I’m not there!
All students in grades six through eight have study hall during the same period of the day, divided up by advisory group. Thus, I made a rotating docket that schedules each group to come in at least four times per semester during that study hall. Teachers have pretty universally been on board – who’s opposed to more reading? – so I set up my laptop and portable barcode scanner and wait for the hordes to descend at the appointed hour and check books out to happy readers.
It’s working well. I don’t think there’s a perfect method, short of replicating myself, but this way I get to work with readers and with the collection, my circulation numbers are up, awareness of the resources we have has improved, and I think all of my constituencies really understand that I’m trying to serve everyone despite trying to be two places at the same time. Also, seriously, have you seen my view?