Christina Kover and the Misnomer of "Classroom Libraries”
Recently, on our own HVLA listserv, I caught a post that mentioned Chapin’s beloved Lower School Librarian, Christina Kover.
Michael T. Clark, the library director of The Stanwich School recalled an “amazing” comment Christina made over lunch during BookFest about “[moving] away from the misnomer of “classroom libraries” & start[ing] a clearer conversation about the expectations of what would be in the collection… and who put it together. “
Since it’s a topic that concerns so many of us, I thought I’d use this member spotlight entry to have Christina elaborate even more.
Christina, although you’ve been at Chapin for 12 years, you began your professional career as a children’s specialist at the New York Public Library. How has that influenced your understanding of what a library should be?
At the time I started, when things were becoming more privatized and less accessible, I was struck by what a genuinely altruistic institution it was. There was a sense that this was an institution that was really there for everyone. I loved that. It felt really good to be part of that. There was a genuine and sincere desire to think about how to best service New York City.
Could you clarify the unique position of librarians, who we are, what we do, and how it’s different from teachers?
Librarians are not only teaching their own curriculum but there is also the potential to be the supporting cast members of a production. The production values are not necessarily as good without our presence, support, and influence. A lot of us are generalists – we know a lot about a lot or at least know where to find it.
The classroom collections are usually developed with specific curriculuar areas and skills in mind. That’s fine, but if a child is interested in deep sea creatures and they just want to pore over the images, or if they want to get mulitple books on the topic that then branches out into biographies, or learn more about a specific animal, or if they want to read outside of their reading level, a classroom collection just doesn’t have that volume or breadth necessary to explore different avenues.
When it comes time to defend your library’s value over classroom collections, what arguments come to mind?
Libraries lend themselves to allowing the student to discover who they are thanks to their sheer variety. Some students feel restricted because a classroom teacher’s main concern is their reading level. A librarian’s concern is their interest level.
Many thanks, Christina!
--- Natasha Goldberg, Middle School Librarian, Chapin School