Necessity is the mother of invention, and few things can shine a light on unmet needs quite like a global pandemic. Nearly two years of digital and hybrid learning forced everyone to adapt, and HISD school libraries were no exception. In year two of their three-year library improvement and refreshment project, HISD Library Services has adapted to the new digital needs of students and educators by establishing community partnerships and working to increase the equity of library education with digital and online resources.
“Libraries in general, and Houston ISD campus libraries in particular, are engines of equity,” said HISD Library Services Director Len Bryan. “We help level the playing field for students who might not have access to learning materials outside of their classrooms. Books, eBooks, academic databases, makerspace equipment and materials, and most importantly, a caring and professional library staff help our students realize their potential and follow their dreams, regardless of their zip code.”
Over the past 12 months and under the leadership of Bryan, HISD Library Services increased the available catalogue of eBooks and expanded use of remote databases such as Texas-based digital resource program TexQuest and Comics Plus, a digital collection of age-appropriate digital comics and graphic novels.
In the interest of providing equitable learning opportunities for all HISD students, Library Services has collaborated with other HISD departments as well as community partner organizations. They have worked to meet the needs of campus libraries that serve high ESL populations by assisting the Multilingual Programs Department in allocating grant funding to purchase thousands of non-English print and electronic books. Library Services also worked with the Astros/Oxy Literacy Bus and hosted the Name that Book and Read to the Final Four competitions, fun activities and campaigns developed to promote literacy.
In addition to digital media and online resources, Library Services is dedicated to helping students with hands-on technical instruction, and to ensuring that their school libraries are safe and nurturing environments that they associate with creativity, learning and growth. All HISD elementary campus libraries have received makerspace equipment which includes 3D printers and other such gear to encourage students’ interest in STEM subjects.
The success of the Library Services Department’s various initiatives speaks for itself with record-breaking participation in literacy events and over 10 times more eBooks checked out by March 2023 as there were at the same time last year.
In anticipation of the constant evolution of library systems and management, Summer 2023 will see a cohort of up to 80 campus media specialists, teachers and other certified staff members beginning their Master’s degrees in Library Science or school librarian certification at UNT with support from HISD Library Services. HISD librarians and Library Services staff are dedicated to improving the library experience for all HISD students, and with their department’s tireless mobility and their dedication to equity and technological advancement, they are placing that experience directly into students’ hands.