Congress theme: “Libraries beyond libraries: Integration, Innovation and Information for all”

Let's talk about Puerto Rican public school libraries

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Loida Garcia-FeboPuerto Rican public school libraries are welcoming oases where students can read, watch movies, listen to music, research, and use computers.

Innovative librarians have established sister library programs with other schools. The students exchange emails and information with peers in other cities in the United States. Other school librarians teach library instruction using numerous online research resources. Some high school libraries  are using computers to help students look for colleges and potential summer jobs. Those libraries with numerous computers have established systems to schedule time for students to type papers.

Collection development is centralized at the Puerto Rico Department of Education level, but local school librarians are at liberty to select works requested by teachers and students as well. Anyone should be able to find reference resources such as world-themed encyclopedias and encyclopedias focusing on local topics at a school library. Biographies, best-sellers and innumerable fiction and non-fiction are also included in the collections. Some libraries offer specialized archives with newspapers and news by topic. Other libraries also provide picture-archives where students can borrow pictures to use in their class presentations. In recent years DVDs and CDs have started to arrive to a number of libraries. Students can check-out books and multimedia. All services are free.

All libraries' architectural designs include reading spaces for students to complete homework, read and meet with classmates to work on projects. A most beautiful space found in most elementary school libraries is the storytelling area. This usually features rugs, pillows, colorful posters and small chairs for the little ones.

Libraries also host the 'Library Assistants Club' whose members help librarians with various tasks such as preparing books when these first arrive to the library, shelving books and answering questions from fellow students. This club is very popular and almost every school library has one. Librarians take care of planning a club initiation and the school principal includes the club in many of the events programmed for the entire school. The colors of the club may vary, but usually they are blue and yellow, and the students wear them with pride.

For instance, members of the Library Assistants Club from the Nemesio R. Canales II School have their own page within the library's website which features a presentation (see above) explaining their activities and include photos attesting to their efforts.

Generally, school librarians are well known by the community and neighbors trust that they can help them to access needed information. In some instances, school libraries in Puerto Rico could be compared to some public libraries in other countries.

Loida Garcia-Febo is Secretary of FAIFE and co-established IFLA New Professionals SIG. She is Coordinator, New Americans Program at Queens Library.