Do Libraries Matter?

Director of Ford Library, Ms. Barb Lazar
After a long, exciting, and full career as a middle school teacher and more recently as a teacher-librarian, I have learned that the journey itself is a glorious reward. Books and reading and writing have always been an integral part of my road as an educator. At times, we blazed a trail in the classroom, and at times, we pondered ideas and stories from characters. Sometimes we made mistakes and then learned to be and do better. From my first teaching job, I learned courage and to trust myself to teach my colleagues—who were much older than I was—that magic can and will happen when a book, the right book, is given to a student. Back in the late 1970s in Navajo, New Mexico, that was a pretty notorious act! One of the most effective books that year was The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. At that time, my school did not have a library, so I built up a classroom library—a routine I have since used in all my subsequent schools and classrooms. There were many years of this until I had the opportunity to actually BE a librarian!
 
"Libraries were full of ideas—perhaps the most dangerous and powerful of all weapons."
–Sarah J. Maas (author of The Court of Thorns and Roses series)

When the time came at Bosque School to consider transitioning from being a classroom teacher, with which I was very experienced and comfortable, to bringing life back to the library as the director of the Ford Library, it felt like the absolute right time in my career. It was the perfect way to integrate my passion for books with my care for students and inquiry—curating stories and books and community all in one space!
 
"When you absolutely positively have to know, ask a librarian."
–American Library Association
 
"Google can bring you back 100,000 answers, a librarian can bring you back the right one."
–Neil Gaiman (author of The Graveyard Book, American Gods, and Coraline)
 
"In the nonstop tsunami of global information, librarians provide us with floaties and teach us to swim."
–Linton Weeks
 
As I bid farewell to 45 years of being a school-based educator, the last 13 here at Bosque School, I realize how much libraries matter. Though I had a decent classroom library, the actual library is the hub of the school and community; the space and place where all are welcome and where we can lean into challenging ideas and come together as learners and thinkers. Curating and promoting a collection with windows and mirrors—windows into worlds, perspectives and experiences unlike our own; mirrors that are stories in which readers can see themselves—for our school community is something that gives me pride. Our collection has grown to meet our needs, interests, backgrounds, and questions.
 
“What a school thinks about its library is a measure of what it feels about education.”
–Harold Howe
 
“The truth is libraries are raucous clubhouses for free speech, controversy and community.” 
–Paula Poundstone
 
“A great school library becomes the heart of the school and the center of the larger community.” 
–Caroline Kennedy
 
Finally, I’d like to answer my own questions: “Do libraries matter? Do librarians matter?” Yes, they do. I would bet that each of us can name one of our first trips to a library as a child, when we got our first library card, and could name a book in which the characters found solace, refuge, and answers in a library. Many can recall a time when we also found solace, refuge, and answers in a library, I know I have. I am thankful to have been a part of helping our students discover meaning through reading and storytelling.

"Cutting libraries during a recession is like cutting hospitals during a plague."
–Eleanor Crumblehulme
 
"To ask why we need libraries at all, when there is so much information available elsewhere, is about as sensible as asking if roadmaps are necessary now that there are so very many roads."
–Jon Bing
 
 

"It is an awfully sad misconception that librarians simply check books in and out. The library is the heart of a school, and without a librarian, it is but an empty shell."
–Jarrett J. Krosoczka (author of Hey, Kiddo and The Lunch Lady series), pictured here with Ms. Lazar
 
 
The Bosque School community has given me the opportunity to learn, experience joy, and grow as a lifelong learner.  As a librarian at the Gerald and Betty Ford Library, and while developing a collaborative learning place, it became clear that libraries are the center of a school community and do matter; it adds academic richness to a learning community. 

I am grateful to Bosque, my colleagues, and the students who always challenged me to meet the needs of a dynamic learning community.
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    • Ms. Lazar sharing the love of reading and stories with the next generation, her granddaughter.