Hewitt News

A Day in the Life of a Librarian
Erik Sommer, Middle and Upper School Information and Library Specialist

One of my favorite questions is: "What does a day in the life of a librarian look like?" Today was a good example of the many ways a librarian works with student scholars and researchers at The Hewitt School. 

I spent the first part of the morning cataloguing new books that were donated by Hewitt families during this year’s book fair. Through their generosity, and with the help of the Parents’ Association, we added over 200 new titles to our collection, including many that will expand and diversify our graphic novel collection. We were also able to bring in new material for our reference shelf -- specifically texts focused on writing and grammar -- and acquire many of the most talked about young adult novels of 2018. Research shows that student choice is an important factor in developing a passion for reading, and we were delighted that so many students gave their input during the book fair to ensure that our library is full of new books that Hewitt girls are eager to read. Throughout the morning, and indeed throughout the day, students stopped by the library to peruse the shelves for their next independent reading choice.

Later in the morning, our ninth grade English teachers held class in the library. I love when this happens. The grade is studying the work of Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen and wanted to find reviews of A Doll’s House from when it first premiered in 1879, reviews from more recent productions, and photographs or other resources to help the class better understand the play’s social context and setting. I showed the students a few resources that I had found among our over 50 online databases, but the majority of the time was spent helping each student conduct her own research using JSTOR, Daily Life Through History, and the Digital Public Library of America. For these high school students, conducting independent research using digital tools is a critical skill they have been honing for years, and it gives me great joy to see them engage confidently and creatively with these robust academic tools.

In addition to being a quiet spot to study and learn, the library is also a shared community space where students can gather for meetings and lead group discussions. Today, immediately following the upper school English class, the sixth grade came together to hold their weekly town hall meeting in the library. Once the middle schoolers had gathered in the room, their class reps shared updates about new options being offered for snack as well as uniform reminders. Following these announcements, the entire grade enjoyed a Kahoot trivia tournament, featuring quizzes created by each sixth grade advisory. Needless to say, it was a huge success, and yet another example of the vibrant and diverse life of our library.

One of my favorite parts about being a librarian at Hewitt is when I get to join classes to help with research. For the past few years I have been proud to serve as a research coach for the seventh and eighth grade Latin docent project, a role that involves assisting students as they research objects they have chosen from The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Greek and Roman collection. Many students become so engrossed in their research for this project that they come to the library during free periods and breaks, and together we find reliable resources about their artifact’s history. It is an absolute delight to spend my lunch learning more about Greek and Roman history alongside Hewitt students.

The day was capped off with an afternoon library class for fourth graders, who have spent the semester learning how to choose effective keywords as they use the library catalogue to search for books, honing their critical thinking skills as they assess their search results, and developing both patience and perseverance as they use call numbers to locate their books on the shelf. In order to gauge how well the students are understanding their new library skills, I asked them to complete a writing-to-learn activity by drafting a detailed narrative outlining the process of finding a book in the Hewitt library. Writing-to-learn is a valuable pedagogical practice used throughout the Hewitt community, one that allows students a chance to express their understanding, opinions, and questions in writing as a means of improving their overall self-expression. It was interesting to see the unique and enthusiastic ways our fourth graders expressed themselves and their newfound library expertise in writing. As is the case for every library class, the final 15 minutes were reserved for checking out books. Unsurprisingly, most of the new books I had just shelved this morning were discovered and eagerly checked out.