Participatory Service in the Elementary School Library

Whenever I dig into any of our readings, I find myself trying to make connections to the library where I work.  I’m a K – 5th grade librarian (obviously not credentialed yet…) and technology teacher at the small private school where I work. It’s a for-profit private school and I am the only librarian in our company.  In fact, there have been times in my company/school, in their push to enroll more students (students = $), it was rumored that they would take my library and turn it into a classroom.  As in, remove all my books and materials and have no library whatsoever in lieu of more small bodies on our campus.  I’ve had to fight to keep it and my principals have always had my back, but it’s exhausting.  The thing is the company sometimes loses sight of what this library brings to our students.  It’s not just books that they want, they want space to just “be” and create and innovate. I’ve been planning a huge weed soon to make room for what the students really want.

They want more time with the 3D printer.  They want more time for collaborative art. These are the things I’d like to focus on this school year. Three items in Schneider’s The User Is Not Broken: A meme masquerading as a manifesto popped out for me (Schneider, 2006).

  • The most significant help you can provide your users is to add value and meaning to the information experience, wherever it happens; defend their right to read; and then get out of the way.
  • Meet people where they are – not where you want them to be.
  • We have wonderful third spaces that offer our users a place where they can think and dream and experience information. Is your library a place where people can dream?

I want my library to make my students feel like it is a place where they can dream, create, and ”be”. I want my kiddos to value their experience in my library. My school’s theme for this month is ”Everyone has a story. Make yours worth telling.”  That’s what I want and I love that our course readings inspire all kinds of ideas that I can use! As Erik Boekesteijn says, ”libraries should keep stories, share stories, and make stories” (Stephens, 2019 p. 92). As I mentioned, I’m planning on a big ol’ weeding which will create space for the stories the kids want.  I’m going to share out a Padlet to them so that they can share what they are reading or doing to inspire others and to create stories of their own to share. Yay for the participatory library!

References

Schneider, K. (2006). The User is Not Broken

Stephens, M. (1019). “Telling Stories” in Wholehearted Librarianship p. 91

Image retrieved from https://www.wilder.org/articles/youth-participatory-evaluation-how-start

7 thoughts on “Participatory Service in the Elementary School Library

  1. @roseholck I loved reading your blog post and it mirrored my own quite a bit. I came into this program with no interest in school libraries (so sorry!) but I’m currently taking a grant writing seminar and I’m partnering with a school librarian who told me about how difficult it is to get funding and support. It was shocked and confused. I had no idea how undervalued school libraries have become.

    I hope your school library weeding project goes well. Where will your weeded-out books go? Perhaps to a local public school library?

    Wonderful post, Rose!

  2. Rose Holck says:

    Thanks @haleymsjsu !

    Yep — it isn’t that our company doesn’t value what I do, it’s that they value the space more. Once I explained to them that the library was a HUGE selling point (aka. families love it so it is one of the things that sets our school apart from others in the area) they were inclined to leave it. I even talked them into upgrading my Follett software and they also provided training for me. So happy!

    That is very cool about your grant writing seminar! I hope it goes well.

    As far as weeding — some will get donated to various places and some will just be recycled (ack, I know). If the book is super tattered and gross it gets recycled/replaced.

    I just wish Covid would go away so I can have kids do more hands-on activities and projects — as it is, I need to space them apart. 🙁

    –Rose

  3. @roseholck So appreciate your takeaways from your CYOA explorations, especially: “I want my library to make my students feel like it is a place where they can dream, create, and ”be””

    Yes! Here’s to just being in a safe place where anything is possible.

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