Karah's #hyperlinkedlibrary Blog

“Encouraging Learning Everywhere”

Posted in Uncategorized by Jorge Garcia on April 23, 2019

I’ve done a lot of work I’m proud of since taking the position in my school library, like weeding the dated and dusty reference collection (replacing much of it with an eBook collection and moving the rest to nonfiction) and using the space to create New Arrivals shelving, which we previously did not have (new arrivals would sit on a prominently displayed cart for a while and then be put into general circulation). While this is good, necessary work, I’ve struggled much more with outreach and advocacy that encourages and supports “learning everywhere”.

The title of this post comes from what Michael says is what he thinks of as the most important work of the information professional at this time, and it is a concept that resonates deeply for me both as an educator and as someone who is passionate about learning herself.

As I read about the public librarian Leah Hamilton in Voices from the Hall, a publication that features innovative service in local government, I was thinking a lot about my own experience offering services in the school library.  Creating programming and experiences that are meaningful and useful to my community is perhaps my most important goal. I am constantly looking for ways in which to leverage connections to grow our reach and meet the needs of our users.  But networking and advocacy does not come naturally to me. I’ve done some necessary and deeply satisfying work sprucing up the library to make it more attractive, but, as Hamilton says in the piece, “‘Paint can cover up flaws within a building, but it can’t fix broken relationships.’”  I need to convince stakeholders of the library’s capacity to transform learning, and to do that I need to rebuild perceptions of the space; this can not be done alone. People are at the heart of good librarianship.

Reading about librarians like Hamilton inspires me because her work models what I can and should do for the users:  Get out there and make connections with the needs of my students as my guide.  “In 2018 alone, she’s leveraged over 100 partnerships with public, private, and non-profit sector agencies to acquire funding, equipment, and expertise to provide hands-on educational opportunities.”  I can’t get mired in worry about stepping on toes or being aggressive. What do my students and teachers need to be successful in their learning? What are the best ways of providing for those needs? I draw heavily on my 14 years in the classroom to answer that question, but maintaining existing relationships and continuing to forge new ones with my community is the key to getting the job done.

Interpret the library world in whatever way makes the most sense for the situation your community is in.  Libraries have much more freedom to leverage creative approaches than [classrooms]. You can create the solution that meets the need that you’re facing.

I often say that the difference between being in the classroom and being in the school library is that in the school library, I get to do fewer things better.  Hamilton says, “‘Interpret the library world in whatever way makes the most sense for the situation your community is in. Libraries have much more freedom to leverage creative approaches than school districts.  You can create the solution that meets the need that you’re facing.’” If I swap out “school districts” for “classrooms” in that quote, I’ve got an idea worth reminding myself daily as I do this joyful work.

5 Responses

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  1. Britten said, on April 23, 2019 at 2:33 pm

    That is an awesome quote! I also love you mindset, “I get to do fewer things better.”

    My prior job was at an elementary school library, so I understand how cleaning up like that helps. It is amazing how difference the space feels when you remove outdated items. Less is more in these situations.

  2. Michelle Sutor said, on April 24, 2019 at 11:17 am

    Hi Karah! I really appreciated what you worte for this post. I too struggle with networking and advocacy. The quotes (and inspiration) that you pulled from Leah Hamilton were perfect. And I really liked your point about school libraries being able to do fewer things, better. Wonderful post!

    p.s. I love your new arrivals shelving, it looks so much more appealing than your before photo!!

  3. Michael Stephens said, on April 26, 2019 at 3:28 pm

    I heart this:

    “…maintaining existing relationships and continuing to forge new ones with my community is the key to getting the job done.”

    This says so much about the soft skills or people skills needed to be successful in our libraries these days.

  4. Lisa Semenza said, on April 27, 2019 at 7:52 pm

    It really is so true that how things are laid out and how the library looks makes all the difference. We have limited space and it’s a constant battle to keep it from looking cluttered but just in making some adjustments to where items are located and what people’s first impression is when they walk in has made it seem like we made bigger changes than our space would allow.


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