Today kicks off the first day of Teen Read Week and teen librarians everywhere are working hard to promote a culture of reading among teens. The goal of having the library become a place where young adults want to spend their time is one that is often talked about among librarians. This week displays will be created and promotions for teen reading will blanket libraries. This year at my library Teen Read Week marks the first major library promotion in well over a year.
Last year my school underwent a massive, much needed renovation. Students and teachers alike dealt with construction dust, displaced classrooms, bad lighting and crowded conditions. Before the construction began we had a firmly established culture of reading in our school. One day a week was a designated reading day in homeroom and the expectation was that every student always had a book to read. Reading was the expectation that became very difficult to continue during our renovation. The majority of the library was packed up and put into storage and I operated a very small temporary library in the former teachers lounge for the majority of last year. In my high poverty school where many students had access to books only at school, it became hard to make it a requirement to have a book when so few were available in the library.
I thought I had planned for operating with a very limited collection in such a small space and established other avenues for getting books into the hands of students. I borrowed heavily from other schools in my district, I worked closely with the librarians at our public library to get students the materials they needed. Something I did not plan for was the loss of the library as place. Due to construction, I was no longer able to have the library open before school and there wasn’t room for students to spend their free time in the library. Over the course of the year students only came to the library as a book source of last resort. The reading culture at the school began to fade away.
This year I began the school year with a gorgeous new library full of books and a building full of excited students. However, the habit of not coming to or using the library has proven harder to break than anticipated. I have used Teen Read Week as my springboard to promote the library over the last few weeks and slowly reintroduced the library as THE place to be. This week is packed full of contests and will be a celebration of reading in my library that I hope to carry over into the rest of the school year.
Celebrate Teen Read Week in your library and celebrate your library as the place to be.
Amanda Kordeliski is the Librarian at Irving Middle School in Norman, Oklahoma