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The Living Library – A Libraries Transform Texas Story

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brooke corso photoThis week (October 4 – 8) is Libraries Transform Texas Week and we are celebrating librarians’ stories and how they are transforming lives and their communities.  Share your story!

Growing up, I viewed the school or public library as a refuge and a place to get lost for hours as I immersed myself in other worlds. When I entered librarianship in my seventh year in education, I wanted every student on campus to have the same experience. I soon realized that not every learner viewed the library as a place of comfort or that inspired confidence, and that not every adult regarded it as an integral part of the school system. It was a lesson learned – engagement depended on my adaptation to each type of reader, not vice-versa, and  maintaining a seat at the decision-making table would take constant advocacy on behalf of the students, their resources, and their space.

From that first semester as a librarian in the fall of 2012, I began developing my library program, The Living Library, that was structured around ongoing research and student feedback to be as responsive to their needs and interests as possible. I want my kids to walk into the physical space and know they are a part of its development and evolution, to see evidence of their suggestions on a shelf or display or the arrangement of furniture. I look at the special populations and at-risk students, and bring them in for direct interviews, tours, and group discussions. Then, I make sure their feedback is explicitly reflected in library decisions and follow up as soon as possible so they know I value their participation. Beginning in September 2020, I increased my outreach beyond the library walls, surveying homeroom classes and lunchtime cafeteria tables with either a Google Form or trusty notepad, always asking what do they want more of, what are they interested in, how can I help them? Teachers, too: what major unit are they in/starting/planning? The library can help! Comfort and confidence is necessary for all stakeholders, and consistent research keeps the library healthy, active, and vital.

Brooke Corso is the librarian at Pin Oak Middle School, Houston ISD