Northeast Tarrant

Why are school librarians getting rid of books?

Keller High librarian Audrey Wilson Youngblood has a plan to attract more students to the school library.
Keller High librarian Audrey Wilson Youngblood has a plan to attract more students to the school library.

Local school librarians are reinventing libraries to attract more students, and one of the first things they are doing is getting rid of thousands of books.

At Keller High School, librarian Audrey Youngblood eliminated 5,000 reference books, replacing many of them with online resources to free up space for students to congregate, collaborate and study.

Paschal High School librarians Nicole Graham and Jennifer Stafford got rid of almost 15,000 nonfiction volumes over the last six years. The library retains more than 25,000 bound books.

“We had good data in our online system that showed a lot of these books had not been checked out in over 10 years,” Graham said.

For popular resources, the librarians ordered digital versions.

“Any kid can use them at any time, from any place,” Graham said. “With one book, it could be checked out and only one kid could use it.”

Going low-tech

While both Keller High and Paschal libraries have extensive digital resources, librarians from the two schools are looking at more low tech ways to improve their services. They are among the many school libraries offering “makerspace,” a place for students to create or craft something they enjoy.

Youngblood recently won a $13,000 grant from the Keller ISD Education Foundation to purchase more flexible furniture on casters that can be moved wherever needed and tools like a large, movable project board backed with Velcro with lots of small whiteboards that can be placed on it in different configurations.

“Everything we’re bringing in with the grant is low- or no-tech,” Youngblood said. “We can’t always keep up with the demands of technology, but everything we bring in will facilitate learning.”

The Keller High library already has some movable tables and chairs. Where six-foot shelves lined with reference books used to stand, several tables provide spaces for chess and other games, puzzles and crafts like origami.

Keller seniors Grace Farley and Emily Walton, both 17, come to the library nearly every day during lunch.

“It’s really spacious now,” Farley said. “Before, it was really crowded with all the shelves.”

Walton said the library provides plenty of room for group project work and quiet reading.

Lunch in the library is a new trend. In the old days, food and drinks were prohibited, now both Keller and Paschal welcome students who come to eat their lunches, so long as they clean up after themselves.

Keller High is slated to become the second district school with a coffee bar in the library next fall. Timber Creek High School opened a coffee bar in the library in September.

Paschal librarians also are focusing on low-tech options for students.

In December, they offered a “Painting with a Twist” class after hours and places to decorate gingerbread houses before school and at lunch.

This spring, Graham and Stafford plan to host a workshop for the school’s Anime Club on creating costumes for popular “cosplay” events and helping the science club make wildflower “seed bombs.”

The idea behind all these activities is to provide activities that are creative, enjoyable and relaxing.

“Kids are very stressed out. Paschal is a high-achieving school,” Graham said. “We can help with resources, but we also provide a place to just be.”

Improving technical skills

Although both libraries offer low-tech opportunities, the librarians also continue to focus on improving students’ technical skills.

The Keller High library partnered with the City of Keller library last month to offer teens the chance to try their hand at coding, operating robots, putting together electronic circuitry and programming Minecraft games.

Instead of holding the event in the library, Youngblood moved everything out into the Commons during lunch, so more students could participate. Now, more students come into the library to work with the robots and circuits.

Keller High also has a small 3D printer in the library for student use.

A large part of the job description for all the librarians remains helping students and teachers find the resources they need.

Graham said they still focus on improving students’ digital literacy.

Youngblood said she spends a lot of time working with teens and teachers on how to identify legitimate websites and which ones to avoid because they may sell student information.

“I want them to know before they start clicking on links that some sites are after their personal information that can be bought and sold,” she said. “I want them to know what is safe for them to use.”

Sandra J. Engelland: 817-390-7323, @SandraEngelland