Visiting Stevenson High School Library

On Tuesday, April 26, 2016, my Management of School Libraries class was hosted at Stevenson High School in the northern suburbs of Chicago. Let me first say that this school is huge. As soon as I turned onto the road that leads up to it, the sprawling two buildings and decorative lake were enough to make my jaw drop. I found my way to the library, where my draw dropped again. The place was big, beautiful, and full of students at 6:15 on a Tuesday night. And this, we learned, was normal.

The library, or as they call it, the Information and Learning Center (ILC), was renovated in 2011 to expand to a two-floor layout with theater-style stairs connecting the two floors. The lower level has two classrooms and several small group study rooms, with tutoring stations filling up the bulk of the open space. The stairs are used by students hanging out, reading, studying, or even eating. Sometimes, classes are held there, and a remote-operated screen comes down at the bottom.

Upstairs is where most of the action happens. The entire space is lined with private study rooms the students can reserve through the library. The back of the space is dedicated to the physical collection, and the front of the space is open tables and chairs. The circulation desk, which looks suspiciously like a bar, is in the middle. All parts of the ILC are food-friendly and noise-friendly, with special materials used in the walls and ceiling to absorb sound. Students did desire a quiet work space, too, so the school established a smaller Quiet Learning Center (QLC) down the hall. This is not run by the library.

The ILC is staffed by two librarians, one secretary, and three paraprofessionals, and it services a student body of 4,000. This is a pretty impressive feat for merely two trained librarians. The head librarian, Lisa Dettling, who gave us the tour, mentioned that she has suggested switching to three librarians and two paraprofessionals pending a paraprofessionals upcoming retirement.

Lisa and her colleague focus their time on expanding digital resources with the library’s large budget. They see large success with their digital presence, thanks largely to Overdrive, NoodleTools, EBSCO Discovery Service, and LibGuides. Their print collection remains a big part of the library, but it is running steadily in the background, while digital demands more time and care.

In addition to desiring a larger number of librarians on staff, Lisa wants to increase outreach to different departments and continue to build and strengthen Stevenson’s digital library. She also wants to change the policy on eating lunch in the library, as many students book study rooms during lunch to host private lunches with their friends. Finally, she also wanted to provide more cohesion between the two buildings of the school. Sometimes, teachers who stay in the east building do not visit the library in the west building, and that is something Lisa would like to change. Though she recently announced she was moving to New York for another job, Lisa’s passion for the Stevenson community made her determined to ensure that the ILC was in a good place prior to her departure.