Cherry Creek High School in Colorado has both Vision and Tradition.

Cherry Creek High School is like a small college campus.  They have 3600 students, four librarians, tech staff, and clerks.  The library runs like a college library too and the students like it that way.  Several times throughout the morning the students mentioned that they really appreciate that the library is clean, safe, welcoming, and quiet.  Quiet?? Yes, quiet.  One student said the library provided “a good state of mind to work.”  That was refreshing to hear as we are so often told that school libraries are no longer quiet places but noisy because they are filled with students getting work done.

I think the Cherry Creek students get work done too.  They have a good share of National Merit finalists and go to the most selective colleges in the nation. Their debate team is one of the top 20 nationally on a consistent basis.  Each day, about half of the student population (1800!) go through the library and the fiction circulation keeps going up and up.  There is a tutoring center run in one room of the library by the National Honor Society.  Students having difficulties with classes can drop in at any time for help. The grounding they have from an outstanding school library program follows them to the college level and as an alum noted, “my roommates are struggling and I’m doing well because I know how to use the library.”  Many alums come back and use Cherry Creek’s library while on their breaks.

Teachers too appreciate the library program.  One teacher called the library “common ground” and another said that with her classes she doesn’t have to start from the ground up on each assignment - the students know how to the use the information and the teachers are “always building.” I liked this quote too from a teacher, “I tell the librarians this is what I want to do and the library makes it happen - even better than I could have imagined.”

Both students and teachers remarked on the librarians’ involvement.  When Cherry Creek AP teachers go to conferences and institutes, the librarians go too to stay in sync.  Even little things, like changing the screen savers on the library’s computers to support school events such as homecoming, did not go unnoticed.

I enjoyed hearing what the distinguished guests had to say.  Colorado Senator Michael Bennett noted that he is the son of a school librarian.  Gene Hainer, Colorado State Librarian, also noted that Cherry Creek is not the norm and that there are only 500 certified full-time librarians in 1600 schools in Colorado, down from only 600 two years ago. Gene also reminded us of the studies that link student achievement to well staffed and resourced school libraries and that they originated in Colorado with Keith Curry Lance who worked in the State Library.

The Cherry Creek library has won numerous awards over the years, including the National School Library Program of the Year from AASL twice.  One thing I noticed is that consistency over the years even as various staff come and go.  Dawn Vaughn, a former AASL President was once a librarian at Cherry Creek. Dawn noted, “this library supercedes any one person, any one principal. There is a culture of expectations that goes on and on.  We have vision and tradition.” Former principal, Kathleen Smith for whom the library is named said, “you need to decide if you’re short term or long term.”  Indeed.

There are four librarians at Cherry Creek HIgh School!  Left to right are: Annie Campbell, me, Julie Hyde-Porter (coordinator), Evelyn Scott, and Mary Morgan. We happened to all be color-coordinated that day but didn’t plan it.

Colorado

April 12, 2011