Tag Archives: work

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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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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Code switching and communication

My Library Word of the Week on my other blog (my work blog) is “code switching.” Code switching is when people use more than one language to communicate. I see this often with students who speak Spanish. They can switch mid-sentence from one language to another. Sometimes it is for emphasis, sometimes it is to ease communication, and sometimes it is to keep a conversation more private since not every other student and teacher speaks Spanish.

I find code switching to be fascinating. I think it expands beyond languages and into language choice. For example, if I stub my toe at work, the worst I’ll say is “ow.” Meanwhile, if I stub my toe at home, I’m going to swear. We modify our language based on who we are around and who we are talking to. I’m more likely to use proper English at work than at home. I feel that I have an extended vocabulary when I’m around highly educated people, such as some of my friends and my dad. Meanwhile, I have no problems switching into a limited vocabulary around people, or children, who don’t have the knowledge of language that I do. In fact, when I help students edit papers, I need to be careful to not suggest too much language that they wouldn’t know. Last year, I taught a student the word “shrew” to use in a speech in regards to The Scarlet Letter, and his teacher thought he had plagiarized.

Code switching is common in one of my favorite sci-fi shows, Firefly (which also has a movie: Serenity).  The characters switch between English and Chinese, generally to add emphasis. My favorite is probably:

Holy Mother of God and All Her Wacky Nephews
我的媽和她的瘋狂的外甥都 ・ Wuh duh ma huh tah duh fong kwong duh wai shung

(from here: Firefly’s 15 Best Chinese Curses (and How to Say Them)

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Summer is Gone!

Well, summer went quickly! I received an email yesterday that work does, in fact, start on Monday the 12th (as I thought it did). I’m so excited but also nervous! Two weeks of professional development will at least give me some time to meet my coworkers and get acclimated to the school itself. Hopefully, I will have time to get the library all sorted and get the library website up and running. The site shouldn’t take too long, since I’ll likely use WordPress. I would hope that the library itself is pretty organized already, but I doubt it! I will happily take the time to pull it together before school starts.

So this is what my summer entailed, other than reading a lot:
This is Maya! She’s a sweetie:



This is the henna that I got in CT:



These are the Steampunk Minnie Mouse ears that Suji got me!

Steampunk Minnie Mouse

And this is at the Norwalk Aquarium! I love Lorikeets, and I was actually trying to turn on the camera on my phone when my dad shot this picture:


That was a fun visit to CT.

I also bounced around Western MA for a bit, since I haven’t lived here for a little over 10 years. Jamie and I hit Mimmo’s Pizza in Northampton, which used to be called Nini’s many years ago. The pizza there is still the largest slice for the best price that I have ever seen and I was able to try pineapple and coconut on a slice!

The heat wave was awful, but it appears to be over now.

I’ve been baking often. I actually made pancakes from scratch, which turned out surprisingly well.

I spent a couple days in Philly visiting friends this past weekend (below is the lion outside of Garland of Letters):
Garland of Letters Lion

It is with some sadness that I say goodbye to summer, but I’m looking forward to jumping into the school year!

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