On Tuesday, May 30th the Greenville Central School District Board of Education hosted a Community Engagement Session on K-12 Library Processes. Over 50 people attended the session moderated by Dr. Jennifer Bashant, from Building Better Futures. Participants were randomly placed into eight different groups to work collaboratively on two concepts: the utilization and monitoring of our library spaces and parental oversight of their children’s book selections. Each group had 30 minutes to talk and take notes about each topic, then a chairperson representing each group presented a brief share out of their findings. 

From their share-outs, administrators and Board of Education members learned that groups discussed the pros and cons of restructuring the organizational methods in the library, including creating a separate “Young Adult” section. They contemplated possible changes that could be made to the permission slip process and stressed the need for more communication all around. They also explored the positive and negative aspects of parents having access to books their children take out. However, the most agreed-upon topic of the evening dealt with staffing. Over 75% of the groups discussed the need for a dedicated aide/monitor in the library who knows the students and library processes. 

Below is a summary of each group’s shareouts, broken down by topic.  These summaries include suggestions, questions, and comments. Additionally, groups had the opportunity to share questions with the administration that they came up with throughout the process, those questions can be found below. 

At the end of the session, Superintendent Michael Bennett thanked the attendees for taking the time to provide feedback, offer new ideas, and share their viewpoints. He noted that after the administration has had the opportunity to reflect, condense, and make suggestions on the ideas over the summer they will communicate the results. Mr. Bennett ended with one final thought, stating “If there’s anything I’ve heard tonight it’s that we need to keep parents better informed of the processes in place, and that all goes back to communication.” And communicating is exactly what we will do. 

Topic 1: Provide feedback on the utilization and monitoring of the library spaces. 

  • Consider making the library a cellphone free zone

  • Enjoy the makers space, see it as a positive 

  • Consider creating a separate section for YA novels. 

  • Address the staffing concern - more aides in the library to handle the situations that can arise in the back of the library. 

  • Do students have access to books NOT in the library? I.e. at other libraries.

  • Could the permission slip be conditional? 

  • A full-time trained monitor that knows the kids needs to be in the library at all times. 

  • Do all kids have access to ALL books in the library, online? 

  • Could we move “mature” books to online only? 

  • Consider having an extra sticker on books with sexually explicit content, etc. 

  • How should access to books look in the physical space? How to we determine which books are in a separate space - if that’s what we want to do? 

  • Library access for study halls, especially for MS students is very limited. How many kids does this actually affect? 

  • YA is a broad category. Could we subcategorize by age? 

  • Marking a book/section as “middle school” reading level or by age can further damage if a high school student has a lower reading level and has to read “MS” books. Do not categorize by reading level/ability. 

  • Move the romance section to a less prominent shelf.

  • Categories exclude people. Don’t further categorize. 

  • Pushes people in separate boxes. 

  • Access for 6th graders? 

  • Need more adequate staffing. 

  • Should be a separate MS area for students, but understand the challenge (financial)

  • The group is split on moving YA books to a different section. 

  • Need a full-time monitor who knows kids

  • Send permission slips home at the beginning of the year

Topic 2: Provide feedback on the parental oversight of their children’s book selections. 

  • Communicate the library policies better, and send them home at the beginning of the year with a permission slip. 

  • Parents should have access to a list of books that their kids have checked out. 

  • How are books currently taken out of the library? 

  • Can parents see the books their kids check out? In real-time or as a record? If not, will Synergy allow for this? 

  • Parents have a right to know what their kids are reading.

  • Could permission slips be exclusionary? I.e. parents can give specific titles students can’t take out. 

  • Can the high school have an “opt-out” option for all YA books/certain age books? 

  • Have more dedicated personnel in the library. 

  • Implement a system to see what a child is checking out. This can help because books can tell us what a child is thinking. If they are repeatedly taking out self-harm books, maybe something is going on where they need help.  

  • Parents are responsible for what’s going on with their kids. 

  • Permission slip should be sent home right when students want to take out a book. 

  • Opt-in for HS students by age, not by grade. 

  • 9th grade should be an opt-in/opt-out permission slip (not sure which)

  • Communicate permission slip better. Make it mandatory and be persistent. 

  • Parents should know what are kids taking out until a certain grade (from a practical standpoint for returning books/not being late). 

Below are groups who combined topics one and two in their share-outs. 

  • Communicate the resources already available to parents 

  • Have a full-time monitor to keep track of permission slips/checkouts

  • YA is a broad topic, can we further categorize this? I.e. Sexually explicit content, controversial topics, etc. 

  • Parents want to protect access however they see fit, and we need to give parents the tools to do so. 

  • Have a trained library aide, not just random TAs filling positions. 

  • Create a student lounge to get juniors and seniors out of the library. Using the space as a hangout, not as a study space. 

  • Clarity of what the library media center is at the beginning of the year. 

  • Define what YA is, what it includes, and some example titles. 

  • The group was not consensus on opt-out vs opt-in. 

  • Communication - invite parents into the library during an open house

  • Keep YA novels mixed in 

  • Don’t use stickers to further categorize YA books, they put people in boxes. 

Parking Lot: A space for participants to share questions, comments, and concerns that didn’t fall within the two topics. Click here to see a photo of the parking lot stick notes. 

  • When checking out, if MS not allowed to check out YA - can we prevent this identification from embarrassing kids? 

  • Procedure leaves out application to the classroom library

  • Concern: If there is more individual monitoring by parents, do we protect negative repercussions for kids with difficult home situations? 

  • Cell phone access to wifi. Is there a tracking program for internet searches? (for anyone on the school wifi). 

  • How will future books be chosen and purchased by the District? 

  • Book selection process should include parental input. 

  • Who decides which books are “education”?

  • More religious fiction added

  • When a student uses the online available books how are the YA titles monitored? 

  • Concern if our students have access to interlibrary loans that may give access to books in our library. 

  • Kids have to scan the book even if staying within the library. Parents have access to all things scanned. 

  • Possible permis. Slip cut off for junior/senior 

  • Who exactly picks out the books? 

  • How do we make sure that we are protecting the privacy of our students? 

  • I thought the way they selected the Superintendent was excellent. How about different groups of all walks of life to be able to look at the books being selected.

For photos of the group notes sheets, please click here.