Kirby Library is the Upper School Library for Wyoming Seminary College Preparatory School located in Kingston, Pennsylvania. With approximately 16,000 items, 115 periodicals and access to 25 subscription databases, the librarians serve a population of 450 students, about half day students and half boarders as well as 80 faculty. A large percentage of our boarding population is international students coming from over 20 countries and we work very hard to reflect our school’s diversity in our library collection, not just regarding nationality, but also as it pertains to socioeconomic background, gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation.
Two professional librarians serve our faculty and students and together we teach the over 370 classes that come to the library space in order to collaborate with us on the teaching of information literacy and technology skills. Over 250 students a day come voluntarily to the library to use our space. We have a cart of 20 Macbooks for kids to check out and use in our space as well as 5 additional computers that comprise our “15-minute Bar” for quick printing and email checks. Our library is also wireless for students who would like to use their personal computers.
Our space was renovated in the summer of 2008 as the specified project of the Class of 1958 in honor of their 50th reunion. We light candles to their image every day, not only because our library was a “very Brady” 1970s nightmare prior to their patronage, but also because this group really understands the role a modern library plays in an academic program. Our thriving Teen Advisory Board worked with the interior designer and architect to come up with several key ideas (our 15-minute bar, for example, was the result of their analysis of student computer usage) and the end result came close to our goal (if an Ikea store and Barnes and Noble had a baby). We added two classrooms during the renovation and installed about $12,000 worth of technology into our existing classroom so we have lots of flexible spaces for teaching classes and hosting meetings and clubs after school as well. The good comments have poured in and it’s a joy to come to work every day in such a pretty and functional space.
What is your favorite thing about your library space?
This sounds weird, but the lighting. My fellow librarian, Ivy Miller, absolutely hated the previous nasty 1975 fluorescent lighting (and she was right to do so – it was ghastly). When we talked to the interior designer and architect we mentioned that while we are not vain, we’d love lighting that didn’t hum or flicker and made us look less “corpse-like”. Thankfully, they were both women who totally understood where we were coming from and we got this amazing lighting which is not only 25% more efficient than our previous lighting (which made our school happy) but the color temperature of the bulbs is such that it mimics daylight, makes you feel happy, and is really flattering to everyone. Who wouldn’t want to be in a library that does all that, just with the lighting?
What is the most important thing you teach students, both in formal instruction and informally?
Two mantras: “Information is Power” and “Question Authority”. I think information literacy can often be boiled down to those two ideas! I also hope that through their interaction with the staff here, they come away with the idea that libraries are warm, helpful places with great information and always staffed by someone who can help you find what you need. We want lifelong library users to graduate from this school.
Do you have a particular memorable moment in your library career?
It came this year. A student of mine was defending her choice of wanting to become a young adult librarian to her parents (who couldn’t wrap their minds around the idea that this was an actual career) and having some trouble. A friend of hers, trying to explain their behavior said, “Well, I’m sure they just want you to have a career that helps people.” My student replied, “What are you talking about?!? Librarians help people BECOME people!! What could be more important than that?” I want to put it on a t-shirt.
Can you name a title that you can’t keep on the shelf because it’s so popular right now?
All of the Twilight series, of course (I’m up to 6 copies of each book and none of them are on the shelf for more than a day) and all the John Green books (probably due to the fact that I can’t stop talking about them!).
If you could give someone building or renovating a library advice, what would it be?
Talk to librarians from competing independent schools that have undergone recent renovations and use their successes or failures to help shape your process. It was an eye-opener for my administration to hear that usually libraries don’t reflect the needs of the students and faculty who will use them – they look all too often like they are designed for the 80-year-old trustee who wants to read The Wall Street Journal (and who might be paying for a big chunk of the renovation).
What’s on your nightstand (in terms of reading material!) right now?
Oh, boy. Vogue Knitting 25th Anniversary and Shear Spirit: Ten Fiber Farms, Twenty Patterns and Miles of Yarn feed my knitting addiction (I’m SassyLibrarian on Ravelry.com for any fellow users). The Complete Compost Gardening Guide tips you off to my hobby farm aspirations (I’m relieved I don’t have to write down one of my chicken or alpaca books for you to see) and my fiction reading is Graceling by Kristen Cashore and Curse As Dark As Gold by Elizabeth Bunce (I’m catching up on the award winners I haven’t read yet).