School Libraries

No Fire This Time

It’s been a long, grueling semester (made worse by my ongoing eye issues – don’t ask) and now that we’re nearly done I can finally take time to think about past PD and look forward to next year’s opportunities.

About a month ago, I got an email from the Head of Upper School asking for a meeting. He’d email me with a topic later. You all know what that means, right? G.U.L.P. We’re being downsized… the letter of agreement for next year was a mistake and I wasn’t being invited back… someone had filed a complaint against me… G.U.L.P. And, even better, it took 10 days before we actually met. Best yet, when I got to the meeting, our Chief Financial and Operations Officer was in the room. G.U.L.P.

Over the past two decades (give or take) and in four schools I’ve accomplished the re-envisioning of library collections and programs. At one, we migrated from DDC to LC. At another, I automated our catalog and determined that many copies included in the shelf list were, in fact, repurchases of older materials. I’ve weeded literally tens of thousands of books, upgrading the resources to more up-to-date ones that tied into current curricula rather than supporting classes and areas of study that were taught long ago.

At Milton, that’s one of the reasons I was hired: an in-depth departmental review encouraged just such a weed/update. The message was clear, the facility and the collection (not to mention our program) needed to be brought into the 21st century.

With the help of my staff, that’s what we’ve focused on over the past two years. And, despite some grumbles, it’s worked.

So, why this meeting? G.U.L.P.

For the past month, I’ve carried this secret with me and now I can reveal it publicly: given the departmental review and the school’s master plan, we’re moving the library. It won’t be now, it won’t be for a few years, but starting next year we’re going to plan, fundraise and build a new library facility in an older building. One that wasn’t built to essentially be the end of campus (currently this is the only building perpendicular to the road, with an entry on one side – built that way because it was where campus ended and who needed to have access on the other side? since then, two buildings have been built beyond that point!). One that isn’t a dressed concrete and plate glass, open plan space that encourages sound to travel up and down three stories and has no climate control. One that meets the needs of the early 21st century school library and has the flexibility to continue to meet the school’s needs as “best practices” evolve due to changes in technology and pedagogy.

That’s what the meeting was about. Not a reprimand, not bad news. Instead, the school is reaffirming and strengthening its commitment to the library, its resources, staff and programming. We’ll be in the middle of campus, close to the History and English Departments. We’ll be a showcase and destination, not an afterthought. And all this without a fire to force the issue.

Excuse me while I happy dance.

3 thoughts on “No Fire This Time”

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