Making students feel at home in the library
The Douglas High School Library is a busy place. Librarian Kim Darata works hard to encourage students to read for pleasure and to enjoy their library space.
How are today’s school libraries different from when you were in school?
I think they’re used a lot more than when I was in school, and I think that has a lot to do with the technology we have today that our students need. We have a room of 35 computers within our library. We also provide cameras and iPads for students to check out.
I also think librarians are making changes in the environment of libraries to make them more welcoming places and more “teen-centric,” so it doesn’t look like it was built or decorated for adults.
How do you make the library “teen-centric”?
We have a couple different lounge areas, and we have some beanbag chairs, rugs, posters, lamps. Around August, I start looking at store ads, because that’s when they’re advertising for dorm decorations. So that’s the best time to find things I think our students will like in their space.
What kind of social events do you hold in the library?
I advise a student book club, and they run our Library Cafe every Monday and Friday morning. They make coffee, hot chocolate and tea. We have fruit and cereal bars. And one non-breakfast item is very popular--the popcorn. It’s nice for the book club students to get together and our other students enjoy the cafe as well.
What are some unique ways you collaborate with teachers on student projects?
For the past few years, I’ve worked with our photography teacher on a project called Book Face. Students choose a book that has either a face or a person on the cover and they must then incorporate that cover into a portrait of themselves or a model they choose.
A few years ago, I also started working with some of our English teachers on Book Spine Poetry. Their students come in and create poems by stacking books that have words on the spines. We take pictures of those poems; then students and staff get the opportunity to vote on their favorites and we award prizes.
When it comes to research, how do you help students identify reliable resources?
We discuss what to look for in a resource and the fact that our State Library provides these research databases that are maintained by authoritative publishers who do this work professionally--providing us with quality information.
Our middle school librarian teaches about those databases too, so I explain that the databases for the high school level and beyond look a little different from the ones they used when they were younger, but that they all basically work the same way. Once they’ve learned how to use one, they can learn to navigate others.
And if they choose to use something from websites and so forth, we talk about how to evaluate those sources so they can still get quality information.
Learn more about the Douglas High School Library’s programming on its website. It is recognized by the South Dakota State Library as an Exemplary 21st Century School Library.