Library begins new chapter with big changes

The tiny library was packed with books–unread and unneeded.That was the first thing librarian Paula Murray noticed when she came in on her first day. Immediately, her mind envisioned a place where students worked and only worked. She did not want that; she wanted a place with more freedom and more comfort for students–a place that encouraged them to read, relax and work.

One of the first few things Murray did to kickstart this vision is to write a grant proposal to fund some new furniture and books.

“We’re getting four café tables, and I’m getting chairs and sofas with laptop desks that flip up and you can put your laptop on,” Murray said. These have already arrived, but others should be in place by January.

Murray also discovered the library lacked books she thought would interest students and is working to change that.

“I’m working on building the graphic novel collection because there wasn’t a graphic novel collection when I got here,” Murray said. “I’m also working on getting those young adult fiction titles.”

This is an important objective because it reinforces the purpose of a school library.

“Building a community of readers is really important,” Murray said. “Teens want to read the popular books and it just builds a community of readers.”

What the library has to offer is important, but its environment is important as well.

“I want to make the shelves more attractive, like a bookstore,” Murray said. “I want to create more of a bookstore feel in the library.”

Even with these goals in mind, Murray has encountered resistance from some students and staff who have been used to the way former librarian Jean Wu managed the library for nearly 20 years.

Senior Lorena Jimenez, who has been at Kerr all four years of her high school career, is one of those students.

“At the beginning, I was uncomfortable,” Jimenez said. “I felt it was a drastic change because I have this perception of only doing work.”

Sophomore Ramadya Sasongko held a similar perception.

“First, I opposed the changes because I was very familiar with the old layout of the library,” Sasongko said. “I felt very uncomfortable. It’s like being in a place that you’re used to being in, but it’s a new place now.”

Murray understands those who are wary of the changes. However, she believes acceptance is possible.

“There are people  who are used to the way things have always been, and they don’t want to see change,” Murray said. “But I think you have to expect that when you’re making big changes.”

Paraprofessional Lee Bryant, who has been at Kerr since the beginning, believes people should be open-minded to these changes.

“Change is good,” Bryant said. “Everybody has to, everybody should be open to changes not to accommodate the person but to make her feel welcome. Just like when you get a new office, you have to decorate it to your liking.”

Eventually, Jimenez’s initial perception of the library improved.

“It’s more socially active,” Jimenez said. “Before it was just like this aura of you just had to do work. Now, it’s more free and loose and student-friendly. I learned how to work and enjoy reading a book.”

Sasongko agrees.

“There’s more accessibility to laptops now,” Sasongko said. “This change helps improve my grades because I don’t have to wait for anyone to get off the computers on the counter.”

At the end of the day, the changes made are ultimately for the benefit of one group: Kerr students.

“I want the library to meet the needs of the twenty-first century learner. I want tables that move easily to collaborate, more laptops, creative and collaborative spaces to work,” Murray said. “That’s my vision for the library.”