Preserving Our School’s History


I don’t know how many of us school librarians are checking our email during winter break … for those who are, I apologize for the tardiness of this blog. Of course, I could use the usual excuse that I’m on break, that I had guests visiting, that it’s a crazy time of year, yada, yada, yada … all of which were true, but we’re all busy, so those are not good excuses.


I think that the real reason that I kept procrastinating is that this post was due on December 22nd, which would have been my dad’s 88th birthday. I thought about him all day and that he was the one who encouraged me to attend and then graduate from college (he was the first person in our family to do so and I was the second).


But what I kept thinking about was that he had a great story to tell and now he’s not here to tell it. I should have recorded his oral history or had him write down some of his major accomplishments or his thoughts and dreams.


How many of our independent schools are archiving the school’s history? La Jolla Country Day began in 1926 … the school will celebrate its centennial in eight years yet our Heritage Project was just started three years ago by an employee in development who had no idea that librarians should be part of the process. This former employee said nothing to any of us in the library … she just visited history centers to find out what and how. When I heard through the grapevine that she wanted to start putting our school’s history in some sort of order, I jumped onboard. An interested board member had office space that he let us use for a few months and we took boxes and boxes of papers and photos that had been stored above the gym to the space and started the process of assessing what we had.


And, as probably happens too frequently, the employee retired, the office space was no longer available and after a few old photographs of the school’s founder were used for publicity, the boxes went back into storage.


However, interest had been generated as people started talking about 10 years, then nine, now only eight until 2026 and the Parents’ Association put moneys aside to spend on a now-named Heritage Project. Also, fortuitously for the library, we hired an assistant (now our middle school librarian) with not just an archiving class or two under his belt (like me) but actual archiving experience.


There are some schools in AISL (mostly older and on the East Coast) that have their history online, accessible through their school’s website. There are even a few, fortunate schools that have a dedicated archivist on staff (lucky) but many of our schools are probably in similar situations to ours … the school is old enough that much will be lost unless we make preservation a priority. We recently lost a major benefactor to our school … she lived close by and was accessible to interview … but now it’s too late. We have a new theater tech teacher who wanted to line the walls leading to the theater with photos of past drama productions but all of the photos we could find were from recent productions. The teacher ended up scanning photos from yearbooks but the quality wasn’t great.


Speaking of yearbooks, we need to ensure that we have copies from every year. The science dept. wanted to give a yearbook to a retiring teacher from the first year that she taught at the school (1998). The only copy available was one that I had in the library and, as the yearbook adviser, I loved their idea for a retirement gift! The other upper school teachers all signed her old yearbook … only a handful were pictured with her (obviously many had moved on) but she enjoyed it nevertheless. We also need to ensure that we are preserving our newer, digital school activities. I’ve asked our yearbook rep if we could get a digital copy of this year’s yearbook, but so far no luck. Does anyone work with a yearbook company that will provide a reasonably priced digital copy?


So I just want to end with a plea that our schools start taking their histories seriously and not to forget to keep digital back-ups of current school happenings. So, Happy 2018 to all! May we enjoy the present, be curious about the future and preserve our past!














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