I’ve been a college professor for 17 years now and it’s a pretty nice
life. Sometimes I fantasize that maybe I could go back and be a school librarian again to get
grounded. After my visit to Lincoln High School in Lincoln, Nebraska, I’m doubting if that could
happen. I spent the entire day at the school and even though all I did was talk, eat, and observe, I
was exhausted at 3:30!
Librarians Pam Gannon and Paula McClung work in a school library built over a swimming pool.
They tell me it’s still there but you’d never know. After four years of phased in renovations, the school
library is a beautiful, state of the art facility that is housed in an old time high school which although
old, is clean and well maintained. Lincoln High has some pretty impressive alumni too - Ted Sorenson,
JFK’s speech writer, actress Sandy Dennis who starred in “Up the Down Staircase” and “Whose Afraid of
Virginia Woolfe”, and talk show host, Dick Cavett. Although the principal said that Dick’s father, Al,
was a former librarian at Lincoln High, I couldn’t verify that. But I did verify that he and his wife
Dorcas were very popular teachers and that an elementary school in Lincoln is named after them.
Lincoln is another school on the Vision Tour circuit that had previously won the AASL School
Library Media Program of the Year Award (district) in 1999. The excellence is maintained. I got
to meet some of the other district librarians later that evening when Pam hosted them all at her house for a
dinner. They are a great group and very supportive of each other. Other school library
dignitaries came to the celebration - NEMA President Karen Buckley, Deb Levitov who now edits the journal,
Crinckles and School Library Monthly, Nancy
Larrimer and Dr. Rebecca Pasco from the University of Nebraska Omaha, and the public library coordinator.
However, for the first time in Vision Tour history, the Commissioner of Education, Dr. Roger Breed, was in
I had several opportunities to interact with students there. For the celebration, the
Culinary Arts kids made beautiful fruit displays and baked goods. The Jazz Ensemble played music
before and after, including an original song about the library called “Possibilities.” I had lunch
with two sections of the book club and I even taught a short lesson to ELL students on Florida explorers.
One unique aspect to the school library program was their interaction and support of the student
parents and their babies in the school. There are special parenting classes for these students and day care
for their children - right within the school. Paula in particular works closely with them on family
literacy and raises money for care packages on special occasions such as Christmas.
Paula is also the one who has scoured boutiques and yard sales for a variety of decorative items
that make feel students feel at home. There are all types of pottery, baskets, and wall hangings that
reflect a world theme. Students noted they liked the library because it was “peaceful, homey, and
helpful.” Many of the students are from different countries. I hadn’t known that some areas of
the midwest are relocation centers for refugees from Africa and Asia - both Lincoln and Sioux Falls had a
very multicultural population.
Pam and Paula noted in the local newspaper article that they were really happy for their
students because Lincoln, one of four high schools, is often referred to as the “ghetto school” and put down
by others. Their library program has proved that label so very wrong.
Pam Gannon (left) and Paula McClung (right) librarians at Lincoln High School teach hundreds of classes each year and are thoroughly involved in all aspects of their school.
April 27, 2011