Saturday, September 10, 2011

A library in crisis


It was the morning of September 11th. I was an elementary school librarian. It was a perfect, serene, blue-skied September day.

My library aide and I were preparing the library for the new school year. Our roving tech guy came in on his rounds. “You guys have a TV? It sounds like something big is going on.” 

I remember being a little put out. I had things to do. But he was the nicest guy in the world, and he made it sound pretty urgent. We wheeled the TV out on its massive stand, plugged it in, and then screwed the cable connection into its port. The TV screen flickered on, and as I stood and looked at the screen, a plane slammed into the second World Trade Center tower, inches from my face.

Faculty began to get the word that something was happening and began to come into the library. The day evolved into faculty and staff rotating in to watch the television reports while their students were at recess or lunch. People wept. Our community was gripped with worries about civil crisis, their own families, and the sheer emotional trauma of the attack. That year we had a new faculty member. We hadn’t met yet, but as people gathered in front of the TV, I watched as she first looked at the television and then came to my desk and asked, “How do I dial out?” Her brother worked there. On one of the top floors.

Our principal joined staff throughout the day in the library, giving updates for dissemination throughout the building. We all wondered whether school should close. The message came from the Superintendent. Children were safest in school, and the day would continue.

In the years since then, I have moved from elementary to high school. Here our mission is different. High school students are active consumers of news. It isn’t a time to shelter them, but rather an opportunity to expand their understanding of global events. It is commonplace for us to stream breaking news on our ActivBoards during the school day. In the past year we have shown important events using diverse sources such as Twitter and live streaming news from Al Jazeera. Students, faculty, and staff come to us for the most current information, because our mission is to locate and organize information quickly and effectively.

On this 9/11, I strengthen my resolve to be the information center for our school community and to teach our students the information skills to navigate these challenging times.

Let’s roll.

Photo credit:
Flickr Creative Commons
Fabio Marini 

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