15 May 2023
A display of the new Graphic Novels.

Getting to know the library

I started as the school librarian at Grace Lutheran School in the fall of 2021. My first job as the school librarian was to unpack and move the library back into its space. (The library had been boxed up and put on temporary shelves in another space during Covid to provide more space for social distancing.) I had also been the third librarian in three years, and the lack of a consistent presence showed in the state of the collection: The nonfiction and biography sections were old and outdated and certain reference materials were published in the early 90s. No wonder none of the students were interested in doing research in the library, let alone using it as a source for pleasure reading.

The more I dug into the collection, it became clear that age wasn’t the only problem. Diversity was really lacking, especially in the picture books, early readers and graphic novels – some of the most popular areas in the library. Our school demographics had been slowly changing and for the first time in the 2021-2022 school year, we were a minority majority school. The library collection (and publishing in general) sadly had not kept up with this demographic shift.

What’s a librarian to do?

As is the case in many schools, our school’s library budget wasn’t very large. Therefore, I knew there wouldn’t be much money to spend on updating the collection, so I began looking for grants. After hearing about the RAILS My Library Is...Grant, I knew it would be the perfect way to give the library collection the update it so sorely needed. The focus on DEI was exactly what I wanted for the collection.

After being awarded the grant, my priority became creating a collection that would reflect our changing student body and ensuring there was more current nonfiction available for assignments. Four areas were identified for the grant to focus on:

  • Nonfiction
  • Biographies
  • Graphic Novels
  • Fiction for PK-2nd grade

Why it matters – what a difference a book can make

Every child deserves to see themselves in books. I was book–talking titles for the sixth grade class when I got to one of the graphic novels purchased as part of the grant. All I had said was that the characters were Hispanic when two hands shot in the air asking to check it out. One of the students expressed how she had to have it since she was Hispanic and hardly even got to read books about characters like her. The other student protested that he was also Hispanic and should be able to have the book. Fortunately, they came to an agreement, and I had another new graphic novel that also featured Hispanic characters.

There was a noticeable difference for the younger grades as well. The kindergarten teacher was so excited at all the choices she had to share with her class. The 2nd grade teacher loved the titles I pulled for her when her class was studying civil rights. Those are just a few of the times the grant made a difference at Grace. Without the grant, I never would have been able to add such a large number of titles focused on diverse authors and characters.

Today's My Library Is... blog post comes from Keary Bramwell. Keary is the School Librarian at Grace Lutheran School in River Forest, IL. In 2022, Grace Lutheran School received a My Library Is... Grant for School Libraries.