In the heart of West Liberty Community School District sits a busy room, full of construction paper, streamers, posters, and homemade garland. No, it’s not the art room – it’s the library, filled with rotating book displays that are both eye-catching and interactive.
“Our students are busy. When they get a chance to come to the library, their time may be very short – they need a great book, and they need it fast!” said Teacher Librarian Kelly Butcher, who alternates days working at West Liberty middle and high schools.
Butcher typically creates two new book displays each month. “I like to keep the displays fresh so the kids know to come in and look for new displays often,” she said.
Students are drawn to displays that are bright, colorful, and deal with current issues or pop culture, said Butcher. “Kids are smart! They like displays that engage their sense of humor and curiosity.”
Butcher said she also tries to capitalize on fads or material that is relevant to classes in the building.
“If I know a class is studying a certain topic, or the marching band or choir has a certain theme – I try to turn that into a display as well,” she said. “It gets tough because all of the books need to be connected to the theme in some way.”
According to Butcher, the most important element of a good display is a strong selection of books to include.
“Kids will check out anything that is put on display, and I wouldn’t want to betray their trust by displaying books that aren’t worthy of being read,” she said.
“Another important element is the theme – will the kids react and respond to it?” said Butcher. “I need to keep my finger on the pulse of what teens think is hip. They know if I am trying too hard!”
Supplies and materials can be a limiting factor when it comes to designing displays. “I don’t have a budget for displays, so any supplies I use I purchase or scavenge from the school and library. I have built a collection of things that I always use – props, lights, banners, etc.” said Butcher. “I will head to the store for anything that might take the display to the next level. Most of my displays are very frugal!”
Attention-grabbing displays help books vie for students’ attention in the busy, digitally-centered world of teens.
“Books have a lot of competition these days! Teens are so busy with school work and extracurricular activities and then what free time they have is eaten up by phones, computers, Netflix and friends… it is hard for them to find the time to read a book for fun,” explained Butcher.
Reading is important not just for improving students’ literacy skills, but also in helping teens develop personal traits like compassion, empathy, courage and resilience. “When teens read, they know they are not alone. They read about topics that are relevant to them, about people going through the same things they may be going through – and they know that they can make it,” said Butcher.
“It opens up lines of communication so teens, librarians, peers, and parents can talk to kid about what they are reading. It helps them deal with adult issues in a safe way and helps them understand an ever-changing and complex world,” she said.
Butcher’s position as a Teacher Librarian is more than just designing displays and checking out books, however. She supports classroom teachers in their respective content areas, and is an expert at integrating technology and 21st Century skills into the curriculum.
“I do teach lessons and have state standards that I incorporate into everything I teach. Librarians don’t just check books out and shelve them – they are experts in citing sources, finding information and teaching students to be responsible users of information and technology,” she said.
One of the unique resources in the school library is the Spanish collection,” said Butcher. “We have a great collection of new, best-selling books in Spanish,” she said. The nonfiction section has been recently updated, too.
“Last year, I received a Ryan Grant from the district to update our nonfiction section. I was able to purchase lots of new and beautiful nonfiction books for the library.”
Butcher didn’t always know she wanted a career as a Teacher Librarian. As an undergraduate college student, she initially studied music education. “After teaching for 8 years, I went back to school to become a Teacher Librarian- it seemed like a natural fit for me. I am comfortable with technology, I love reading, I enjoy collaborating with other teachers,” she said.
“Once I became a high school librarian, I realized that it is more than the stuff they teach you in college. It is about relationships,” said Butcher.
“I work hard to build trusting relationships with all of our students, and those relationships help me find the perfect books for them. It also helps transform our library from a room in our school to a hub – the heart of our school – a place where even seniors on open hour can be found. A place where kids line up to get in each morning and have to be shooed out each night,” she said.
Butcher runs the high school Twitter and Facebook pages, and says she enjoys interacting with the community online. She has been the emcee of Stars On Stage, the high school’s annual show choir competition, for the past four years, and serves on the Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS) committee at the high school.
“I love my job, and I love working in West Liberty,” Butcher reflected. “Our library is a safe place where each student and teacher knows that they will be welcomed, accepted and encouraged.”
Butcher’s BooksAshley Smith · Wednesday, February 15, 2017