Monthly Archives: November 2012

Finding my feet: the first two months

This blog hasn’t been updated since I began my new job at the Roeper School as I’ve been busy learning about the community and how I as a librarian best fit in. It’s now nearing the end of October, which means that I’ve been a part of Roeper for two months and so it is a good time to look back and forwards. The Roeper School is built around the idea of responsibility and community, a great amount of trust is placed in students to manage their own time and resources. The school was founded in 1941 by George and Annemarie Roeper after they had escaped from Germany and is built around their philosophy in which students are active participants and leaders. There’s a great focus on gifted students as Roeper tries to be a place where every student knows they will get the attention, respect and challenges they need in the school day. On the , there are wonderful write ups of the , and , I recommend reading them, they are linked here. During my orientation, one of the veteran teachers explained that the way this works for connecting with students is that in all interactions, you must be genuine, because the kids will form an opinion of you early on and talk amongst themselves about everyone. This ended up being good advice as one of the first major changes I made was that I chose to sit in the library instead of using an office behind a door that other librarians had used. I made this choice because the office felt too cut off from the library space and I wanted to make it clear from the beginning that I was available and visible to the entire community. A piece of positive feedback that I keep hearing from the community is how nice it is to see me in the library, I’ve heard this from students and faculty. It shows me that my instinct is the right one. One of the complications this presents is that I sit amongst the students, sharing tables with them instead of at a desk in the room but apart. This has been useful for starting conversations students feel comfortable approaching me about a variety of issues and I’ve been given a good window into how the library is used. However I don’t have a specific place and some mornings have to ask someone to move. I’m in the process of getting a desk, which will I hope help to create an anchor place for me in the library.

The library is one of the largest spaces to gather in the building, so students are constantly going in and out of the space. The most common activities in the library are studying, socializing and computer games. Those games present one of my major challenges in creating compromises within the library space. The library has eight computers in the main room and two computers in a quiet room. Due to the trust placed in the students, the Roeper computers have no filters and students have free blocks throughout the day in which to do as they like. This means that at times the library gets loud as students play computer games and discuss these games. One of my first challenges as librarian was how to insure that the gamers didn’t take over the library, that meant restricting playing of Minecraft and being firm with students to get gamers off the computers when they’re needed for work. This is part of a larger question about how to best use these computer resources and other technology resources around the school that I’m going to address in greater depth in another entry.

It’s a complicated issue, because technology education is a key part of modern education and a difficult one. It’s something that works best in a place between all or nothing and needs to be crafted for the needs of the community, because what works in one school won’t work in another. In the contemporary library, I as librarian can do a lot to create a space where students can learn how to be thoughtful online in their work and play. Technology usage and education is a major component of what I’m working on at Roeper and I’m going to dedicate another entry to my thoughts and observations. I’m excited to be a part of the conversation at Roeper about technology use across the school.

At this point when I look over what I’ve accomplished, a lot of it is in terms of what’s to come and there are many first steps that will lead to greater ones. I’ve been focused on learning a new culture and exploring how the library will play the most positive role in it. I’ve been in the process of gathering copies of textbooks to add to the reference collection for student’s use in the library, which is a small change from how the books were arranged before. I’m working on adding many donated books to the collection and expanding the periodical selection. One of my projects that I hope to finish soon, which will connect into how I wish to get more resources available to the school is putting together a library website. The conversations I’ve had with teachers have been about what are good resources for projects and research. I’ve created an outline of the webpage with useful websites grouped by academic disciplines, that when I post them will have explanations of what they will be the most useful for. The great guys in the IT department have been a real help for me in this as I’ve been learning how to get my ideas to fit within the beautiful website that they’ve created for the school. At this point, I’ve been able to help teach in one class, where I realized that there is a need for a lot of resources in one place and easily organized so that students can find what they need, as well as information to help them best use those resources. The class was an 8th grade science class, I came in to get them started on their research for creating a major experiment. Since those classes, I’ve talked with the teacher and we both agree that there needs to be more showing students how things work. Research is a key component of education but can be tricky to create an overall plan for as different teachers highlight various aspects of it. The Lower School librarian and I are hoping to try and create a schoolwide plan to have the libraries be the place that every teacher can look to when it comes time to teach students about research. She and I both attended the University of Michigan School of Information together and its wonderful be working with her since we share the same ideas of what a successful library looks like.

I feel most successful in terms of how I’ve been able to connect with the students as they’re the ones who spend the most time in the library. It’s one of their favorite spots to hang out and to work. When I was starting, I thought at first that I would be connecting more with bookish girls like I was in Middle and High School, and I do talk to them but the students that have reached out me the most are the roleplayers and gamers, who are mostly boys. If you’ve followed this blog, you know that I consider myself a gamer and that roleplaying and fandom is both a hobby of mine as well as how I’ve met friends and learned a great deal about my own creativity. When the students learned that I was a roleplayer, they asked me questions about my experience and I’m now helping to sponsor and run the roleplaying club. Another student has started a video game club, which is also being held in the library, which makes me hopeful. As I’ve observed in the library, a lot of students find great enjoyment in gaming and that’s something I want to try and find more ways to incorporate into other aspects of the school. Since one of the wonderful aspects of Roeper is how much control students have in terms of the courses they spend their time on and how they use their free periods. The chance to find more ways to take what they enjoy and add other educational levels to it, as well as discussing some of the culture of the gaming world feels like a challenge suited to the school and to me.

Something that I find a pleasure and a challenge is figuring out displays to set up in the library and ways to take advantage of the shelf space I have available. Last month, I put up my first display for Banned Books Week and enjoyed having many students and teachers asking questions. Many of the students weren’t aware of Banned Books Week, so I was able to explain the thinking behind it and the principle that libraries provid access to all books. At the moment, I’ve started a Halloween display that’s going slightly slow as I have books, poems and short stories posted but I’ve been having trouble deciding on bigger decorations. I’ve been going into stores full of Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations and feeling overwhelmed as I try to think of what will be successful, work over a long time and make the library a fun place to be. Recently I was able to look at desks in a store and that helped me see the kind that works for what I wish the library to be.

The desk and decorations are small examples of my great challenges and joys in being a librarian at Roeper-how do I take what’s within my head about the roles of a librarian and library and shape it to fit and succeed at Roeper. I’m learning every day from what works and doesn’t work and finding incredible support within the Roeper community.


Filed under goals and career, links, roeper reflections