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More Than Just Books

By Lucy Jaffee ’22
How the library is overcoming the challenges of COVID, supporting the community and cultivating diversity.

Head Librarian Rafael Eaton has used this unusual school year to implement ground-breaking changes to the library to enhance the student and faculty experience and support the school’s diversity, equity and inclusivity commitment. 

The team has been dedicating time to positively reform the library and expand its digital footprint, whether it be through their new Instagram account or YouTube channel dedicated to teaching students practical skills (e.g. identifying credible sources). Aware of the shifting emphasis from print resources to online websites and younger students’ unfamiliarity with accessing proper resources, Mr. Eaton substituted his traditional Middle School class visits with creating specific online boards dedicated to in-class projects, what Mr. Eaton calls “scaffolding for student projects.” This functions as a one-stop-shop of relevant databases and online sites and tutorials on how to utilize these resources, allowing the librarians to teach information literacy during class visits rather than just the nuts and bolts.

Exploring diversity has been at the forefront of the library’s mission as well, both through its book selection and community-based programs. Library Assistant G Trupp, alongside Upper School Director of Service Learning and Education Hadley Zeavin, has led trainings that focus on gender and sexuality inclusion in the community. 

Beginning in summer 2020, Mr. Eaton, Ms. Zeavin and Director of Head’s Office and Board Relations Jennifer Turner led weekly discussions on antiracist readings, podcasts and videos following the “Justice in June” movement on how to be a better ally to the Black community. “Everyone is at a very different place in their journey or understanding of how white supremacy informs our current culture,” shares Mr. Eaton. “I saw people wanting to be involved but not knowing where to start.” The faculty/staff summer book was How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. Faculty/staff met several times throughout the fall and winter to discuss the material in cross-divisional and cross-departmental groups. A book club was also started in the fall for parents and guardians interested in culturally responsive conversations. The inaugural read was Caste by Isabel Wilkerson.

To take concrete action towards inclusivity, the library staff is conducting a diversity audit of their book collection. This involves randomly sampling one-third of the Lower, Middle and Upper School library collections to determine whether authors and subjects are properly (and positively) representing differing perspectives of race, ethnicity, gender and sexuality. Using this data, the library can determine where there are some gaps in their collection and which types of books need to be included. 

Mr. Eaton loves that his job is truly rooted in curiosity. “Being a librarian is all about nonclosure, and it is very much rooted in helping people to build questions,” he shares. “There are a million answers out there that don’t really mean anything, but it’s building the questions that really matter that drives everyone to be their best selves and the people they aspire to be.”
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