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The Library as a Leader

By Rafael Eaton, head librarian
The head librarian shares how the library has adapted and continues its support to the community.

Since March 2020, a hush lingers in the library. Our physical space is typically a student space, home to a regular thrum (often advancing to a dull roar) of energy, students working, chatting and socializing. Student support is typically housed on that second floor, from IT in the corner, the Learning Resource Center at the opposite end and the librarians at the circulation desk. But, in the year of COVID, I’ve had to answer this question many times: what is the library without its students?

The pandemic has brought a host of issues, and with them, new ideas. Most importantly, it has given us the space to divorce ourselves from the physical library and brought us to wholly focus on our program and initiate creative changes. 

A library’s underlying mission has and always will be the organization, access and ethical use of information. In many of our adult lifetimes, it meant books first and foremost—nonfiction when we were curious or poring over a research project and literature when we were looking for a story “truer than truth.” This is no longer the case. Our students and ourselves are currently assaulted by information from a billion different sources—hounded by perspectives unclear, unverified, biased and faulty—and most often when we didn’t even seek them out in the first place. 

We aim to create independent and informed citizens. Students learn the value of their own powers of discernment guided by LJCDS librarians and educators so that they may take on this onslaught of information and not just to weather it but to use it to create the world they envision. 

The library collaborated with educators in design and innovation, life skills, service-learning, and visual and performing arts to create this year’s newly formed Exploring Identity courses. We help provide a curative and curious framework that allows students to see the world isn’t compartmentalized but rather interconnected, working intentionally with thought and action.

The library is committed to creating and sustaining an environment and program that uplifts our community’s academic and personal curiosities while actively ensuring a fair, equitable, and diverse program and collection. Over the past year, we’ve had the honor of being an integral part of the continuing anti-racist work at LJCDS, including leading conversations rooted in learning (or unlearning) and building community as well as policies that will drive us forward. In the library, that policy looks like regular diversity audits to ensure we’re amplifying the voices of Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) in the curriculum and content we teach.

While students aren’t physically in the library at the moment, that thrum of energy is still discernible. We visit classes, design practical skills workshops and videos, and collaborate with teachers on projects that push student experience and critical thought toward a more inspired future.

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