Forest Grove elementaries turn page toward change

by: COURTESY PHOTO - Library clerk Jesse Castellanos reads to kindergarteners at Joseph Gale Elementary School. She said shes always wanted to be a librarian and has two years of experience as a library assistant at the Aloha Community Library. Jesse Castellanos knew the Forest Grove School District’s elementary school libraries were in sorry shape when she found the book referring to Dwight D. Eisenhower as the current president of the U.S.

But Castellanos is now part of the district’s effort to rebuild those libraries.

She’s one of two part-time library clerks recently hired by the district, thanks to $40,000 from this year’s general fund budget. The money will help Forest Grove’s six K-4 schools expand their library services.

“Because of budget restraints in 2010, we had to eliminate our full-time media specialist/librarian and reduce library services to our lower grades,” said Melissa Carter, Joseph Gale Elementary School principal and the district’s library supervisor. “But with funding provided for the 2013-14 school year, not only were we able to reinstate library staff, but we also have $25,000 available we will use to add more than 1,600 new titles to our collection.”

The new library clerks are Castellanos and Maudys Hernandez. Castellanos will spend two days of her 25-hour work week at Harvey Clark and Joseph Gale, as well as one day at Dilley. Hernandez will spend two days at Cornelius and a day-and-a-half each at Fern Hill and Echo Shaw.

“We had to write a new job description for these positions,” said Carter. “During the week, the clerks will be spending time in the library with students and providing normal library services such as shelving and checking books in and out. They will also help organize, maintain and repair books.”

Castellanos, who will earn her master’s degree in library and information science next year, said their goal is to have all the books ordered by Thanksgiving, then delivered and ready for processing and cataloging by the first of the year.

“We will be using a software program called TitleWave that will catalog our current collection and help us analyze where our needs are,” she said. They’ll also gather book requests and interests through a student survey, added Castellanos, who pointed out that the current average age of the district’s collection is 22 years.

“There’s even a book that lists Dwight D. Eisenhower as the President of the United States. So what we will be striving for is shelves with what I call ‘browse-ability.’ That means eye-catching books with interesting covers and titles that make students want to read them.”

Carter added that a lot of books are never checked out or are beyond repair. Outdated books will go to the district’s warehouse for possible sale or to any classrooms that want them.

“Even though there is a successful iPad pilot program here in the district that gives the kids access to the Internet and full digital libraries, we feel students still need to hold, read and look at books in their hands. There needs to be a balance.”

Carter said the district’s five-year goals will be to decrease the average age of books to 15 years; have at least 10,000 circulating books in each school’s library; build the Spanish collection at Fern Hill and Cornelius; maintain and improve the classics collection; update the nonfiction collection; and add popular series and titles that will grab students’ interest.

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