Tag Archives: library

The Library as Third Space

I’m always thinking about how the school library should function as part of a whole school. Often, public libraries are called “third spaces,” i.e., “where you go and spend time in addition to your home and workplace. … ‘Third places’ are
‘anchors’ of community life and facilities and foster broader, more creative interaction” (Library as the Third Place).

School libraries are a little different, sometimes. Classes are often brought to the library as an extension of the classroom. Students find books, research, use the computers, access databases, etc. This would classify the library as part of a student’s workplace (i.e., school), and not a place outside of it. Sometimes, students are given passes to the library, again, as an extension of classwork, and expected to return to class in a matter of minutes after completing a task, such as printing a paper. During class times, the library is expected to be relatively quiet, or at least as quiet as the teacher’s classroom would be.

However, other hallmarks of third space are integral parts of a school library:

  • free or inexpensive; check. In fact, many school libraries don’t even charge late fees for books, only replacement costs if a book is lost or damaged beyond repair; 
  • food and drink, while not essential, are important; some school libraries allow students to bring in food, some have snack bars. My library allows covered drinks away from the computers, and I occasionally turn a blind eye to cold snacks as long as students clean up after themselves;
  • highly accessible; check;
  • proximity for many; check;
  • involve regulars – those who habitually congregate there; I have a dedicated morning and lunchtime group of students. At my old school, I had about 60 students who were my regular breakfast and lunchtime students, plus after school clubs.
  • welcoming and comfortable; we do our best.
  • both new friends and old should be found there. check; many times, I’ve had students just open the door looking for friends. 

Based on that list, the school library can easily fit into the third space ideal. Maybe we’re only third space during certain times, such as before school, during lunch, and after school. I’ve had students complain when I’ve told them the library is closing and I always remind them that the huge city branch is just down the street (in Springfield, it was a few blocks; in Boston, it is a mile walking or a quick bus ride). 

School libraries can also do programming similar to public libraries, if the school day allows for it. I ran yearbook this year during lunch, and that became a gathering time for some seniors. I plan to run a book club next year, hopefully bring back a monthly poetry slam, and maybe get an author to come and talk to students. Programming like this helps the space become less of an extension of the classroom and more of a community space.

I’m thinking a lot about this, since my school is talking to an architectural firm to plan a redesign. The library will be completely re-done in about four years. I need to think about what I want it to become. Do I want an academic space, a space reminiscent of a public library, or something completely different? I know I want some better soundproofing! As much as I love my talented students, many of them have operatic voices that do not have a quiet level.

Ideally, I’d have a space for everything. I’d love to be able to have more than one class in the library during class time, non-carpeted floors so food might be more allowable during lunchtime, space for students to collaborate (maybe soundproof glass study rooms), and comfortable seating for students to sit and read.



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Is the library clean yet?

I told myself that I wouldn’t do inventory.

Well, I’m doing a little bit of inventory. I’ve decided that I could do inventory in sections by Dewey numbers. This way, if I don’t finish everything, it isn’t a huge problem. I’ve finished, with help from two students, 000s, 100s, 200s, 400s, 500s, 600s, 700s, 800s, and graphic lit. I still need to do Reference, 300s (the biggest section), 900s, & Biography. In 1.5 days. Yeah, it might just happen.

Panoramas of my library:
From the middle, in front of my circ desk:


From the left side, in front of the fiction stacks:



From the right side, in front of the non-fiction stacks:



And my data wall in the hallway, showing off the insane circulation stats:




It’s been an amazing year. I think next year will be even better!

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March Reading Madness Finals

I’ve been running March Reading Madness on my work blog: HSC Library Pride (we have PRIDE because our school has Passion, Respect, Integrity, Diversity, Excellence). I started out with sixteen titles, all of which were top circulated titles this school year. Those titles were:

  • City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare vs Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
  • City of Glass by Cassandra Clare vs Deadpool Corps (graphic novel) by Victor Gischler
  • Destiny’s Hand (manga) by Nunzio Defilippis vs Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger
  • Fiendish by Brenna Yovanoff  vs If I Stay by Gayle Forman
  • Just Listen by Sarah Dessen vs Soulless (manga) by Gail Carriger
  • Naruto (manga) by Masashi Kishimoto vs The Fault in our Stars by John Green
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot vs Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
  • This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen vs Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

Students voted via Survey Monkey and I posted the new rounds approximately every week (well, that was the plan, but we know how plans go). We started week 1 on Feb 24th, week 2 on March 9th, Week 3 on March 20th, and this final round opened yesterday, April 2nd.

The final round is:

Soulless vs. Etiquette & Espionage both by Gail Carriger. My poor interns don’t know which to vote for; they love both books.

That top 16 is a pretty impressive list. I’m so glad that one nonfiction made it (Immortal Life…), even though it didn’t make it past round 1. There were some very close races as this went on, some as close as one vote.

I can’t wait to see how the Final Round turns out!

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Being an authority figure

Every once in a while, I tell my partner a story and we remember that students do view me as an authority figure. I mean, yes, I am, but I tend to act more like “the cool aunt” (as a student once called me) than a harsh authority figure. I get things done and get students to listen to me by being a firm, but generally easy going, person. After all, if they aren’t breaking rules or are going to hurt themselves/others then it isn’t something worth raising my voice over.

Today, I caught three students playing a computer game. All the students know that they aren’t supposed to be on video games during class time. I’ve caught them before, but generally, if they’re quiet and not bothering anyone, I’ll ignore it. If it is 10 minutes until the end of the day, and their work is all done, then fine. These students tend to play a warfare game and they are all in JROTC, so it is a little like doing class work. Today, it was last block and I hear “F*** you killed me!” across the library. I storm over, look at all three of the students, and say “Turn off the computers, push in your chairs, you’re going to clean the library.” They didn’t even complain; they knew they had been in my good graces and will be again by tomorrow. They shut down their computers, picked up trash, and windexed the tables and windows. All in 20 minutes.


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Doing science the stupid way

A couple of my library desktop computers have been replaced (YAY!) because they were old, slow/not working. I asked tech since the towers were just being thrown out if two of my students could dismantle them. Tech had taken the hard drives, so he said he didn’t care.

For the past three days, two boys have been literally pulling wires, motherboards, memory, and fans out of these three useless computer towers. Today, they realized they had fans but didn’t know if they worked. So they decided to use the small button batteries, hold the wires in place, and see if the fans worked. This is where I stopped them…

with: “If anyone is going to get electrocuted, it will be me.”*

So there I was, with stripped wires, holding computer fans, and touching the wires to the batteries.

Yes, the fans work.

Doing science the stupid way since age 7.

Dec 2012

Dec 2012


*Yes, that is an extreme comment and it wouldn’t happen off three little button batteries. However, it was funny.

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Why Teacher Librarians Do What We Do

Today is day 2 of February break. Schools in MA & CT (all of NE, I think) get a week off in February, probably because it is REALLY COLD and snowy in New England in February.

I went in to work today for 4 hours. I had eight students show up to either do schoolwork or to work on Khan Academy’s Intro to JS videos and activities. That’s right… I went in on a day off voluntarily (not getting paid) for four hours, and will be doing it both tomorrow and Thursday. Six students came in to do voluntary extra work that does not count for a grade (the other two did schoolwork). I might have more students tomorrow.

These are inner-city kids. Kids who go to a school that doesn’t have the newest technology. Kids who might not even have up to date textbooks, or enough books for the entire class. Kids who understand that they don’t have the best chances to succeed, but they’ll try and do their best. They know that they need skills to succeed that we don’t have classes for yet.

They’re why I don’t mind volunteering 12 hours of my time. They’re why I don’t mind running clubs after school.


And a reminder: https://www.funds4books.com/Fundraiser?code=e493 

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All The Things

Image from Hyperbole and a Half‘s blog post called “Why I’ll Never be an Adult.”

The school year is a little over halfway done. Things are rolling along nicely, but we are suddenly thrust into MCAS Season. Oof.

Basically, I’m doing a ton.

  • Putting together my “need” and “want” list from my massive wish list for books and other library supplies
    • I’d love to re-do my circulation desk, but new books come first.
  • Presenting at the SPS Ed Tech Conference on Saturday (two sessions, not three this time. One on Discovery Ed, one on library research)
  • Running three fundraisers
  • Co-advising clubs
    • GSA
    • Anime/Gaming/Coding (they all meet at the same time with lots of cross-over students)
  • Starting my grad class next week (Teaching of Writing certificate that I started this past summer)
  • Going to MSLA on March 1 & 2 (this is so exciting!)
  • Proctoring MCAS (just did three days of Bio. ELA and Math are coming up soon)
    • This is both nice and not nice. It is quiet. Students are testing. I get to read a book and walk around.
    • However, it means that I can’t be on my computer; I can’t be making noise (covering books is noisy); I can’t be shelving books because I need to be in view of the students. It puts me behind schedule.
  • I need to find time to actually teach lessons! All the teachers I collaborate with are busy right now too and understand that the library gets taken over for MCAS and ACCESS testing, but I want to teach more! I love research projects! Bring it on!


I finally understand why my dad always makes lists. The problem comes in when I go to make a list, I forget whatever I was making the list for! It is like knowing that I need something at the grocery store, reminding myself all the way over, and then forgetting as soon as I walk in the door. Except, I remember that I need to do something, I pick up a pen, and I forget what that thing was. I don’t get it; I can have two or three conversations at once at work (two verbal and one email is my limit so far), but I can’t remember what I was just thinking about that I wanted to write down so I wouldn’t forget. I guess that comes with the job. I need a card catalog for my brain! I’m so lucky that I have interns. Two of them keep me organized and remind me where things are. Then again, they also move things, like my scissors, so I have to go searching for them!

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