Pasadena High library has giant chess pieces, noisy kids and nobody saying, ‘Shh!’

Yvette Orozco has written a terrific article in Chron on the Pasadena High School Library's investment in giant games and their impact on their students.

Pasadena High School librarian Bonnie Alexander is old enough to remember when libraries were quiet. That’s not the case any more, and that’s a good thing, she said.

In an age where everything is available at the touch of a finger, the traditional library has turned up the volume all in the name of literacy.

“One of the things we’re trying to do is get kids to read more and get them in the library,” Alexander said.

As a librarian, Alexander, 47, wants to find new ways to make the library not only appealing to students but relevant to of their lives and interests. She recently successfully applied for $2,000 worth of community grants from Walmart that supplemented her efforts to turn the school’s library into a world that students can be interested in.

The $2,000 was used to obtain oversized game pieces such as giant Connect Four and Jenga games, mammoth dominos and a 5-by-5-foot MegaChess giant chess set.
The grant has also allowed the library to offer to E-books, and it conducts monthly contests in which the student who reads the most E-books wins an Amazon Kindle.
The modern library has become a place for discussion, engagement and often noisy activity, Alexander said.
“The library now is supposed to be a social place — not just place where you read but a place where you create and talk to your friends,” she said.

Alexander has watched the Internet become the source of information for young people but she wants to ensure it serves to foster them as readers instead of just being social media junkies.

“Yes, they text and Snapchat, but there is this whole world they miss out on, and sometimes it takes finding that interest a child has and that makes them a reader,” she said.
But first, the students have to come to the library, and a common response, said Alexander, is “I don’t like to read.”
“What are they interested in? It’s finding those things that they want to read and making that connection between the two,” she said.
Initiatives that push literacy have been proven to work, Alexander said. In 2017, the school developed a makerspace, an area that gives patrons/students a chance to be creative using computers, 3-D printers, audio/video tools as well as traditional art supplies.
The library’s circulation rose from 1,200 books in September 2017 to 2,200 this September.

“It was getting the kids in here, because that’s half the battle,” Alexander said.

The concept of a library is changing with the times, she said.

Alexander said that when she used to tell people she wanted to be a librarian, they would say, ‘So you want to shut yourself off the world.”

“People have this misconception,” she said. “I grew up in a time when you weren’t allowed to talk in a library. I think libraries used to exclude a certain type of kid, and the idea now is inclusion.”

The biggest challenge, Alexander said, is changing that perception.

“For one thing, its very loud in the library now,” she said. “You come in and the kids are talking, socializing and creating.”

The purpose of the library was always providing access to a world of information, answers and discoveries, Alexander said.

Those in the library science field like Alexander are simply updating the tools.

“The library has changed to meet the needs of kids today,” Alexander said.


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