Piedmont’s school libraries a rich resource for students

PMS Teacher Librarians Carolyn White and Jennifer Gulassa

Beyond the books, Piedmont’s school libraries offer students community and connection.

Due to California’s ongoing school funding crisis, many school districts have cut the hours of their libraries or closed them altogether. But due to the Piedmont community’s support of the Giving Campaign, the Piedmont Unified School District (PUSD) libraries are stronger than ever, serving as hubs of literacy, interactive learning, and connection for students. These active, multi-faceted spaces and the librarians and aides that run them depend in large part on support from the Piedmont Education Foundation (PEF) and the Giving Campaign.

At every school within the PUSD, dedicated teacher librarians and aides help students develop their love of reading along with critical thinking and research skills. A significant portion of the funding for aides in PUSD school libraries comes from funds raised by PEF and the Giving Campaign. “The tri-school elementary teacher librarians are so grateful to PEF for its ongoing library funding,” says Havens Elementary teacher librarian Laura Remer. “We couldn’t do our work without having the support of our library assistants; they take care of some of the nitty gritty so that we can focus on teaching and helping our students find just-right books for their reading level, for their personal interests, and for supporting who they are as individuals.”

Beyond encouraging a love of reading, PUSD libraries and librarians provide students with the tools they need to develop critical thinking skills and develop information and media literacy. In a recent middle school project led by teacher librarians Jennifer Gulassa and Carolyn White, students selected one amendment from the bill of rights. Using online databases, they researched and read three news articles about current events and considered how they impacted their chosen amendment. “This project helped students understand how our founding documents still impact current events and their own lives,” says Gulassa. “It integrated the use of keywords for database searches, citations, extraction of key ideas, reflection, and collaboration.” 

Piedmont’s school libraries also serve as calm spaces for students during lunch hour, though this facet of the libraries role was recently put at risk. When previous library staff retired, PUSD lacked the budget to replace them, so all three elementary schools were forced to close their libraries during the lunch hour. Last year’s Giving Campaign prioritized funds for library aides to allow the district to continue to offer students the respite and opportunities the libraries provide.

With the new funding, the PUSD has reopened the libraries during the lunch hour. “We are so happy to now be able to serve our students nearly every recess of the week,” says Havens teacher librarian Remer. “We know that for some students, the yard can be a lot during recess, so a quiet and safe space to come to relax, read, and do a variety of activities is so important to their social-emotional well-being.” During lunch, elementary school library staff offer activities like Legos, puzzles, coloring, origami, board games, and chess.

Havens library aide Christina Wagg knows firsthand the value of having a welcoming library in which to spend free time. “I lived in the Montclair library as a kiddo,” she says. “Going there every day after school, I knew I would always be welcome. It was a godsend for me.”  

Funds from the Giving Campaign cover between 10% and 15% of the costs of librarians at each school in the PUSD, increasing the number of hours that the PUSD’s libraries can operate. “That funding is the difference between librarians being able to teach five versus six classes,” says PEF director Heather Frank. “Our librarians make these libraries into places kids want to come and learn.” 

Thanks to the Giving Campaign, Piedmont’s school libraries will continue to be a space for learning and growth. “I believe libraries are a safe haven for all, where we make connections, learn about our world, read, write, draw, create, and take a break from the busyness,” says library aide Christina Wagg. “I’m so glad the Piedmont community values its beautiful libraries.”

PEF’s mission is to provide sustained financial support to Piedmont schools through fundraising and community engagement

To learn more about the Piedmont Education Foundation’s Giving Campaign or to donate, please visit www.piedmontedfoundation.org.

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