In reference to the TownDock post of March 30th regarding the library, I appreciate the opportunity to clarify a few points.
The Pamlico County Public Library is housed within the high school and pays a nominal rent to the school district for the use of the space. At the time it was built, there weren’t many differences between the purposes of a public library and a school library.
But school libraries are no longer the quiet study halls of our youth. 21st century school libraries are the heart and hub of the school. They aren’t just about books; they’re about technology, collaboration, and creativity. They contain areas for STEM exploration (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), creating multimedia presentations, and having Skype calls with authors and experts around the world.
These activities involve a lot of movement, discussion, and active engagement. Public library patrons have made complaints about such student activity in the library. School administrators have been working with public library board members for years to come up with solutions to address our diverging needs.
Additionally, the school has struggled with how to make the library available to students while still keeping them safe in the public space. Recently, a swipe card system was put into place which keeps the public out of the school building, but has also made the library less accessible to students and staff.
Because our public library is part of a regional library system and the school collection was shared with the public library, books purchased with school funds for student or staff use were required to circulate to all ten public libraries in the region on a first-come, first-served basis. Meanwhile, our students were paying fines to the library system for books that were owned by the school. For these reasons, among others, the school decided to separate our collection from the public collection. This gives us the ability to use our own circulation system, allowing us to integrate digital resources and to more readily meet the curricular needs of our school.
In order to maintain this separate collection, meet the demands of a 21st century school library program, and address student safety issues, we need a space within the library that is not open to the public. The room that has recently been the children’s room opens directly to the school, so can be safely accessed without a swipe pass, and was in fact used by the school system for decades.
You may recall that at the beginning of this school year, the library was rearranged and what had been the young adult room was converted into a quiet study space. This move was done in one week without closing down the library. That is why, once it was agreed by both school and library administrators that it made sense for the school to reclaim the former children’s room, a month’s notice seemed sufficient. So on February 16th, a formal request was made for the school to be granted use of that room by March 15th.
While it is unfortunate that on March 29th the library temporarily closed, the decision to do so was not because they had little notice. I recognize that the public library is a valuable resource to our community. I hope the citizens of Pamlico County agree that we also have a responsibility to do what is best for our students.
Jen Baker, MLS
School Library Media Coordinator
Pamlico County High School