Upon entering through the front doors of Old Rochester Regional High School, there lies what appears to be an average library for the average high school. But to the students and staff, the Library Commons is so much more.
Allison Barker, the school’s librarian, has been in that position for three years, and during this time she has transformed the library to the Library Commons. The year before Ms. Barker took over as librarian, there was a leak in the roof and the library was flooded. Bookshelves were wrecked, and a lot of books were damaged beyond repair.
In light of this destruction, Ms. Barker made some changes to the room. Instead of new bookshelves, she added tables, comfy chairs, plants, decorations, and various different creative corners that really enforce the ideas of community and comfort.
“It was always a goal of the previous librarian to have a ‘learning commons,’” said Barker. “With the commons ideology, you have open spaces that can easily be changed and there is lots of room for collaboration with students and staff members.”
One thing Barker is known for is her helpful and bright personality. Because of this, you can often find her doing some sort of presentation to a class or working together with teachers to enhance their lessons. Although she mainly works with the English and history departments, she is hopeful that in the near future she will find a way to relate her skills to the math and science departments.
Many students believe the library to be, not only a great hangout spot, but a safe place where they feel welcome and comfortable. The commons is very LGBTQ positive, and Barker is even the head of the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) as of last year. She also runs the Poetry Club, which started last year.
“A big part of the library, for me, is making sure that it’s a safe open space for everyone in our community,” said Barker.
To assist in the effort to create a safe space and to help in general, there are five library assistants. Their job is to put up decorations, arrange book displays, re-label books, barcode books, find books for students, and so much more.
One of the assistants, Nova Flynn, came up with a new system to identify Barker’s ‘little helpers.’ Each assistant has a lanyard with their name and the word “Library Assistant” written on the top.
“Everybody seems to really like them,” said Flynn. “I think it definitely helps people out because they know who to look for instead of bothering Ms. Barker.”
Now, if only the library could acquire more books.
“Our budget hasn’t been increased in the three years I’ve been here. While it’s remained the same, we’ve actually had to purchase more databases because funding was cut to the state,” said Barker. “While the price of databases has increased, our budget has not. The books have suffered because of that, as a majority of the budget for our books is not going to our books anymore, and is being devoted to other essential needs that we have.
“A rough estimate is around 7,000 books in this library, compared to other high schools who have 20,000,” Barker added. “We are considered a very, very small library.”
For Barker, the most important thing about a library is the people.
“In the library world you are called my ‘patrons,’ but you are my students, my staff, my community,” said Barker. “They are the most important thing to the library, because without people there would be no library. The library commons is a location where everyone can meet and come together. Because that’s what really matters.”
Although many don’t go to the library to read, it is a great place to study and do homework or projects, and Barker is always willing to help a student out to the best of her abilities.
“It’s a good place to go during study to do homework, but also to talk to friends,” commented Library Assistant Felicia Aguiar. “I don’t think a lot of them take out books, but they do sit and do homework.”
Most students believe the appeal of the library comes from the librarian herself, and the way she just cheers them up.
Flynn described Barker as someone with a “happy demeanor,” which is one of the reasons why Flynn enjoys her time in the library.
“If you’re having a bad day and you walk into the library, Ms. Barker just makes your day a lot better,” Flynn said. “She’s a very happy and friendly person.”
By Grace Mastroianni