Library checks out, students in disbelief

Serena Lee

New policy shuts out students on seven period days.


The policy change leaves students in frustration during fourth period on Oct.16. Photo by Serena Lee.
Eleven students with unscheduled periods gathered around the whiteboard placed in front of the library entrance during fourth period on Oct. 16. It was a simple sign that explained that the library will no longer be open for unscheduled periods with the exception of block periods.
Frustrated students filtered into the academic court and sat on the benches along the library rail or on the library steps. Others trickled into the rally court and the cafeteria. One student even tried getting into a French teacher’s classroom, but was quickly denied. And some just stood in complete disbelief.
After eight weeks of discussion, Principal April Scott and Library Media Teacher Megan Birdsong made a compromise on Oct. 10 to open the library only during block periods, brunch, lunch, and tutorial, and before and after school. According to both Scott and Birdsong, students are calmer, focused, and less social during block periods; thus, there are usually less than 30 students in the library. During seven period days, however, it becomes a challenge for the librarians to manage the library, as it quickly becomes filled with noisy students.      
“We would love for all students with unscheduled periods to use the library,” Scott said. “The problem is we still have to use it as an instructional space.”
According to both Scott and Birdsong, the primary use of the library is to support instruction. For the past eight weeks, Birdsong and library technician Jodi Mitchell have had to focus on maintaining student behavior all day rather than other tasks such as ordering library materials, maintaining collection, and developing resource curriculum.
“We’ve been looking at the number of students in the library and in the previous years, it was more manageable to have unscheduled students in the library because there were fewer,” Birdsong said. “Now we’re running at a minimum of 30 [students], average of 50 [students], and high of 100 [students] in addition to classes, and it was disruptive to our work and disruptive to instruction.”

With 50 to 100 students in the library, the noise level naturally increases and it became an unworkable situation for Birdsong and Mitchell. Instead of solely focusing on studying during open periods, many students would sit around and socialized. Birdsong and Scott agreed that the socialization and working on projects could be in a different environment, like the cafeteria.

On the day the policy was implemented, Birdsong noted that it was “amazing to give instructions without having to yell over talking and to not have the management issue of quieting down everybody to teach the class.”
“I understand that it’s going to take some adjustment, “ Birdsong said. “ I think we have to look at who we’re serving, and we’re trying to do things that are serving all of MVHS students, not just a portion of students who have a free period.”
Students, however, were not pleased with the decision.  The day the new policy was implemented, the career center was closed. With no computer access and no textbook to borrow in sight, many students were frustrated.  
“What’s the point of the library if you can’t use it?” senior Stephanie Burward Hoy said.
“In my Government class, students were saying how it’s administration’s fault because they gave them these empty periods and that’s why there’s so many people in the library,” senior Il Le Kim, who has three unscheduled periods, said.  “These are the consequences.”
To accommodate students with unscheduled periods, the layout of the cafeteria will be adjusted so round tables will be moved closer to the rally court and rectangular table are moved toward the bus circle side. If necessary, the temporary wall divider will be used to allow students to respectively study or socialize.

“We’ve done the best we can with the situation,” Birdsong said, “and, we needed to make a decision. I would be open to getting student feedback and suggestions. I realize they weren’t involved [in the decision], but it really was not working and we had to do something.”