My JSEC High School Library “event,” Collection Development!

Above image taken from Juanita Sanchez (JSEC) High School Library Facebook page:

Peter Quesnel, the librarian at Juanita Sanchez High School (JSEC), and I have been working together to bring students and faculty at the school to Brown University for several years now. He and I meet frequently throughout the school year (and sometimes do some summer planning), and he is one of the people I’ve talked with about becoming a school library media specialist. He is, without a doubt, a true professional, engaged and joyous in his work, and a person who truly loves his job. For these past several years, he has shared his passion and knowledge generously, and has always done so honestly and with the humility of a lifelong learner.

Peter and I have brought JSEC students to Brown several times this past year, and on a few occasions I (or my colleagues, as appropriate) visit and teach at JSEC. We work to match the educational objectives of JSEC classes with Brown University Library’s strengths in expertise, spaces, and collections. We are also interested in offering students a unique experience tied with both college awareness and readiness, and always infuse some information literacy in our visits– we give them a sense of the kinds of research students do at the university level, and what resources are available to them.  Because I’ve done numerous programs with him, I asked Peter if there was anything else I might assist with as the school year wound down.

There wasn’t much going on at that point, he said– but would I be interested in working on collection development with him? Because I have very little practical experience with inventory, shelf reading, and developing collections at the high school level, I jumped at the chance. I spent three hours on June 22 talking about his work managing collections, as well as doing some inventory and shelf reading.

Working directly with the ILS by doing inventory, getting more familiar with the organization of books in his library by shelf reading, and discussing the decisions he makes when collecting and shelving were invaluable. Should he shelve the Spanish language books separately, or among others similar in content, he asked. What do I think he should do with this [very large, very heavy, boxed] volume we received as a donation from a branch of the armed services? Peter is just so collegial, and he was very interested in hearing my ideas, as well as sharing his own. He discussed his process for inventory, how he purchases books, the realities of book budgets, and some issues around weeding.

Peter also shared with me some of the practical issues surrounding the school’s imminent merging (in a physical building, at least) with another high school, and what that means for library services. He will soon be librarian to a new group of students at a school where most things are done very differently than they are at JSEC– even down to the bell schedule. What will that mean for him, his collections, and scheduling classes and events? How might he approach this new set of challenges? Talking and listening was an extremely valuable window into the realities of being a public school librarian.

And of course, the most valuable thing I learned in working with Peter on this project is what always strikes me when I visit his library during the school day: how incredibly central he and his library are to students, faculty, and administration. Students come into his library seeking information, seeking a quiet space to study, seeking assistance and sometimes seeking an ear. Faculty come into his library to get ideas for enhancing their lessons, for engaging their students, and sometimes seeking an ear. And administration come to his library for a central spot to meet both students and faculty on common ground, as an invaluable resource to build on the school’s successes… and sometimes for an ear.

But, really, they’re all coming to see Peter.

And so, while I learned much about collection development in policy and practice, my greatest takeaway was just how invaluable an engaged, enthusiastic, passionate librarian can be in a school.

Thank you, Peter, for mentoring me these three hours AND these past four years!


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