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I was brought on as the teacher-librarian at Polytechnic high school seven years ago to revitalize the school library. When I took over the library, it was in pretty bad shape. You have to remember, the current Polytechnic high school campus has been around for over 60 years and was founded in 1906, the second high school in the Los Angeles area – the library needed some major work.  

I remember the sunlight shining through the windows in this big, dark and dusty library that first day I started working on the library, surrounded by really old books and I thought, “I get to help new books get into student hands.” It was an exhilarating feeling. 

During the cleanup, I found these giant book catalogue cards from 1958 in a back room that were used to teach students to search for books back when the library first opened. Here I am touching these huge catalogue cards that lots of teacher-librarians before me had touched. I got a feeling like I was part of something bigger than myself – in solidarity with a group of people who came before me, and that were in this together to help students and teachers.

When you have a teacher-librarian at a school, other teachers don’t have to spend a lot of time figuring out the best sources for research purposes. That’s one less thing they have to worry about because I’m an expert on the research. Teachers already have so much on their plate. In me, both students and teachers have someone who can break down the process of research and provide them the resources they need to get it done. 

And more than being a resource, the library itself is a really engaging place for students, which I feel they appreciate. It’s a quiet place during lunchtime where they can come in, relax, read, do school work or put their heads down because they know it’s a safe place. They know they can come before, during and after school and find safety and comfort here. The library is open 30 minutes before school opens and 30 minutes after school ends. Students can rely on the library being there for them. 

I say to my students all the time: “When you’re an adult, you’re going to have to do a little research so you know what the choices are. How are you going to make those important life decisions if you don’t know how to do your research?” Research is such an important skill for students to learn. 

Unfortunately, many middle schools have been closed throughout LAUSD, and now I’ll start getting students who went to the library in middle school – I can start at a different point with them instead of starting fresh. That’s why it’s important that the district provide library services at every school for students in K-12. Every student deserves a library and teacher-librarian to help them with their research.  

The most important thing about teacher-librarians is that we are helpers. I kind of compare myself to Spiderman – I’m here to save the day and help my students and fellow teachers.

Lisa Blackwell
School Librarian


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