Curbside Libraries Draw PUSD Students Back to Campus

District librarians work to keep libraries relevant in a digital universe

With the coronavirus pandemic still on, and cases rising and falling nationwide, most of Pasadena’s school children are attending schools at home, gazing at a laptop for hours a day. But what about actual books?

It’s an issue that the PUSD, particularly Librarians Natalie Daily and Micol Issa, have been grappling with, and they think they have an answer.

As Daily, the librarian at Eliot Arts Magnet and Washington STEAM Multilingual Academy, explained recently, “We were kind of thinking, what can we do to get books out to kids? We’ve got thousands of books sitting on our shelves that we would love for the kids to be able to have in their hands”

Daily created a proposal to the district to get books to schoolchildren safely following the health and safety guidelines for the pandemic.

Students can peruse a campus’ online library and then make a reservation to come pick up the books, which will be waiting for them. In addition to the libraries at Elliot and Washington, Daily is also curating a small collection of other popular titles that kids can choose from.

Daily continued, “Even if they haven’t reserved a book, I have books available for them that they like. I have a bunch of Halloween books. I have books for Latinx heritage month out as well.”

Though students may be at home, the campus sites are still useful, said Daily. The Washington campus is a US Census site, as well as voter registration, said Daily. The library is also serving outside meeting groups, and providing a site for band instrument distribution.

“Sometimes when people come for another purpose, then they’re also getting books,” said Daily, “and we’re also exploring the idea of getting some younger children’s books, because now students are bringing their siblings with them, and we feel like we want to give books out to younger siblings that might be before school age.”

Added Daily, “We’re really kind of using it to do as much as we can, but doing it safely.”

And in case you’re wondering, yes, children still read the “classics.”

“If there’s a kid who’s a real, real, real, real reader,” explained Daily, ‘Then, yes they will. If they’re a serious reader, then they might also want to go back and read some of that stuff.

Daily said her own children read “Little House on the Prairie” and “Tom Sawyer,” but what’s generally really popular in middle school is fantasy dystopia, graphic novels, and series books.

“Anything that has a series is popular,” said Daily. “It’s a lot easier to hook a kid in because authors are really smart and they know how to leave the story as a cliffhanger so that kids want to take the next one.”

Meanwhile, according to Issa, high school kids are transitioning into young adulthood, and “interested in titles that reflect the things that they’re going through.”

At Muir, for example, she said, there is an active LGBTQ, student club.

“And so any books that have to do with LGBTQ issues, students are interested in,” she said. Students are interested in books about race and racism.

According to Issa, “The Hate You Give” (a 2017 book by Angie Thomas) is hugely popular, as well as the poet, X.

“These are all sort of contemporary,” Issa explained, “and (high school students) are really into the contemporary titles right now. If they’re reading a classic, it’s for class. And most of the time the teachers are finding ways to make that classic relevant to today.”

High school students are looking for relevance, Issa said, and “anything that’s going to reflect who they are and what they’re going through and their identities.

“Fantasy books are still popular too,” she continued. “Twilight” is just as popular in high school as it is in middle school.

But Issa also noted that a number of schools—Washington or Elliot or Muir—are catering more of their collections toward their academies. Washington and Eliot are both magnets with a particular emphasis, and their library collections reflect that, while Muir is an early college school.

“So students (at Muir) are taking classes at PCC,” said Issa, “and we are a wall to wall Academy school.”

Muir currently has three academies. An arts media and entertainment academy, one in business and one in engineering, so Issa is working with those individual teachers to help develop and specialize their libraries, and connect them to the various academies.

Student are also requesting magazine, so Issa will also be looking into specialized digital subscriptions.

‘Students can actually use magazines like art magazines for the arts media and entertainment,” Issa explained, “along with some really cool engineering magazines as well, for all the different types of engineering and business interests.

So yes, PUSD students are still reading words on paper and looking for more.

As Daily happily noted, “Nothing makes me happier than to put a book in a kid’s hand and to see them excited about it. This is why I do this job.”

Curbside library hours by school:

John Muir High School Early College Magnet– 1:30PM to 4:00PM on October 22, November 5, November 19, December 3, December 17

Washington STEAM Multilingual Academy– Every other Thursday from 2-4PM on Howard

Eliot Arts Magnet – Every other Tuesday from 2-4PM on Calaveras

McKinley Middle School -Fridays with an email appointment & confirmation from the Library Media Specialist; Elsa Beltran.

Sierra Madre Middle School– Fridays with an email appointment & confirmation from the Library Media Specialist; Elsa Beltran.

Marshall Fundamental School– Fridays between 2:15 and 3:30PM

Pasadena High School– Tuesday and Thursdays in the Little Theater parking lot after email confirmation from the librarian

Blair High & Middle School– Wednesdays and Fridays 9-11AM and 2-3:30PM after a confirmation email from the librarian saying the book is ready

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