Student Passions Benefit the Library

As I have shared before, this is my first year at Emma Willard. It’s also my first time working solely with upper school students. I didn’t begin with a fleet of parent volunteers to draw on. 60% of my students are boarders and the majority of day students are from dual income homes. Rather than spending too much time trying to drum up parental support, and because I am working with older, very capable kids, I chose to look to the students for help this year. It has been an eye opening experience.

Our school has a great freshman service program. Each girl signs up for either a semester or year-long service opportunity on campus, giving a total of 16 hours. The coordinator put out a call to faculty for “jobs” that we needed help with and it happened to fall at that point in the year when I was feeling totally overwhelmed with all I wanted/needed to accomplish on my own. I went a little wild making out a wish list ranging from super practical to creative and ideological. Here are some examples of my jobs:

Pick up daily papers each morning and deliver to library.
Route magazines to various departments, shelve older copies in basement periodical room.
Seek out lost items, process new items.
Shelve books.
Start an “Emma Reads” campaign. Creatively promote books and/or reading using whichever medium you prefer.
Flip library services. Create screencasts demonstrating how to use the advanced search feature of databases.
Photographer/Videographer to promote reading on campus.
Books into art: re-purpose discarded library books and turn into works of art to display around the library.

Kids sign up for either a whole year or semester if they want more variety in their service. Some of these have worked better than others because, hey, kids are kids. One semester’s paper girl had the papers delivered before I even made it in each morning. This semester, my student forgets more often than she remembers. My books-into-art girl is doing an hour of crafting per day over spring break because “she keeps forgetting” despite my gentle requests for her art for my shelves. Despite the few that haven’t gone so well, what has been accomplished, I must tell you, has been pretty darn awesome. Here are some examples:

My student’s “Emma Reads” campaign began with a video:

Emma Reads

It then progressed to posters all over campus with pens attached where students filled in their favorite books of all time. They are chock full of titles ranging from children’s books to Tolstoy.

The most recent video that this girl created is this one, promoting one of both of our recent favorites, Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell.

This girl came to me last week with her laptop and shyly asked if she could show me the PSA she made for me, completely on her own, because “she really likes playing with stop motion”. This is what she showed me. I have tweeted, blogged, and emailed this. If I knew how to send smoke signals to tell people to watch it, I would. The creative piece is covered in a way that is uniquely their own. They enjoy it and I enjoy sharing their talent with the school, hopefully inspiring students to read. It’s a win-win if I’ve ever seen one.

Now to the practical. The mundane tasks that eat up my time. Processing and routing magazines, new books, deleting old books. Done. Cart upon cart of books have been shelved by girls, ear buds firmly in place. They tell me that they enjoy the hour of solitude and feeling of accomplishment by emptying the cart. I say “HALLELUJAH!”

Other students have reacted to the videos saying that they like to make movies and might they make some things for me in the future, just for fun? Book trailers maybe? Ummm, yes please?! We Upper School librarians are lucky enough to be working with some super-talented, tech savvy, creative individuals. We also are dealing with smart students who, for me, grasp the LC classification system (yes, I inherited LC at Emma.). Why not let them explore their passions, share their creation with the school community, and everyone can benefit and grow?

How are you tapping into  student talents at your school?


11 thoughts on “Student Passions Benefit the Library

  1. Wow, I would smoke signal that PSA if it were one of my students too! This is incredibly inspiring, and I love how the students have taken ownership of promoting a culture of reading. This must feel even more rewarding during your first year at the school.

  2. What great stuff, Katie! I can imagine that, with your enthusiasm and warm personality, the girls are lining up to help you. What a gift Emma Willard received when they hired you! Congratulations!

  3. Katie — I am inspired by the wonderful things you and your students are doing to promote reading! I am at an all boys school, grades 7-12, and we have enjoyed some successes with boys writing book reviews to share with the school community, but nothing quite this inspired. Great videos and the Wall of Books is a lovely twist on a common theme. How lucky EW is to have you!

    • Thanks Sandy! Great idea on the book reviews! Those peer recommendations carry so much weight. I think I’m going to create some of those note cards like you find in book stores to stick in the stacks for faculty/students to write short book reviews for particular titles. I always love reading those things.

  4. Fantastic vimeos. I would love to inspire those kinds of creations in some of my students. I know the talent is out there; I just have to climb up out of the mountain of mundane tasks and figure out how to harness and unleash that talent. Thanks for the great example, Katie.

  5. That PSA is so lovely. You should see if there is a YALSA contest that she can enter it into! There must be something so that she can get some recognition for her effort. It is really, really awesome. Thank you for sharing.

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