Behind the Bookshelves: Running the Library

An in-depth look at what goes on in one of BV West’s most active hotspots.

Lucy Call, Editor (2021-22)

The library media center has been a major component of the high school since its opening in 2001. This library isn’t full of just books—it’s a modern establishment including a collection of devices that aid learning and creativity.

Librarians Becca Munson and Courtney Grimaldi are the main staff. Both have Bachelor’s degrees in education and master’s degrees in library science. Formerly, there were two paras, but now only Munson and Grimaldi remain. The staffing change presented challenges and a different environment in the library.

Lucy Call

“Our job duties have increased to where we do more book checkout and reports, which we didn’t use to focus on as much,” Munson said. “Our main purpose is the instructional piece, where we work with students on research skills, doing projects, and different media literacy skills.”

However, neither librarian lets the changes affect their passion or performance, even during the busier times like JAG (all school lunch) or Academic Support Time (AST).

JAG is only held on Fridays instead of every day.
“This year, having just Mrs. Grimaldi and I, we have to close [JAG] for half of the time so that we can eat lunch,” Munson said. “The other half we just open it. We have students come in to play chess, talk with their friends, or read. We used to have the manpower to have someone at the door to check students in and monitor. Without that, during JAG things can get a little crazy, which, I’m sure [students] have noticed.”

The library is also a popular place for students to visit during AST, which is a half-hour of academic time provided to students on block days. However, it can be a lot to manage.

“The biggest challenge during AST is students want to come in to do work, but also meet with their friends. It’s great… [but] we have to find balance, because there are a lot of kids who only want to work,” Munson said.
“We have someone at the door or we have passes, so we allow about 60 students to come in by reserving spots,” Munson said. “We try to maintain a space that is welcoming and structured.”

Since the paras were removed, the librarians have to deal with the hundreds of kids that want to spend their time at the library; with the short staff managing seats, students, and materials it becomes increasingly difficult for them to keep up with the demand.

“We don’t like to focus on the negative,” Munson said. “However, I would ask for our staffing to be restored. That’s made a difference in our services this year. It’s impacted our well-being and ability to be as helpful as we’d like to be.”

Aminah Syed

Munson has been a librarian for over 20 years. She opened the building in 2001, before leaving in 2010 and returning.

“In 2001, we had twice as many shelves. We had a ton of references–encyclopedia books, a huge nonfiction section, a literary criticism wall, and more,” she said.

Grimaldi formerly worked as an English teacher. She likes how being a librarian doesn’t limit her to only certain grades of kids.
“We get to see them grow and change, from freshman to senior year,” Grimaldi said. “We get to have different interactions with the kids [than classroom teachers]. Which I feel are almost always positive.”

One of the ways librarians help aid students’ research is by putting together the LibGuides, a collection of helpful sources geared specifically for big projects. The efficient design helps students get solid information without having to look too long.

“We’ve found that the more clicks they have to take, the less likely they’re actually going to take them. We try to provide less clicks to get to quality information,” Munson said.

She works on making the Libguides and library website look “clean” as well as recognizable. While technology may have altered the way kids research, reading remains popular.

“I think what’s stayed the same is students love to read still. They still like the paper books and love to come in to find books they’ll like,” Munson said.

Home to a 3D printer, craft station, and sewing machines, the library provides many creative outlets for students, as well as opportunities for classes to include more arts in their projects.

“Nationwide, libraries are changing to fit the needs of the customers,” Grimaldi said. “They’re expanding the community spaces so more people can gather, and are getting more maker spaces. People are going to libraries for more resources, and that includes high school libraries.”

Lucy Call

“Collaboration has changed instructionally with students,” Munson said. “[Students] are given a lot more freedom and choice now. We like to have whatever they might need to be creative.”

The library media center is open to students from 7:15 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. Munson and Grimaldi offer help to students in need. Books are available to check out and different tools for projects, for school or personal use, are provided.

“At the end of the day, we want students to feel that this is an inviting, safe place. We want students to feel they have ownership over this space,” Munson said. “We make choices for the library based on what students tell us.”