Eventually They Came: Writing in the Library

I don't know about you, but I am a librarian who loves to read and write. I have since my childhood. I shared that passion with my students on a regular basis. That means when assisting a student looking for a book, I would often talk about the writing style of the book and encourage them to reflect on the style of writing they most liked to read. I modeled reading and writing every chance I got. I talked about where I was in my professional writing, discussing deadlines, rewriting, and the power of an editor. Eventually, it began to make a difference.

Eventually, students came to realize that I would help them with their writing issues. Like many of us, I have additional degrees, in English and social studies and reading, so I felt fairly secure that I wasn't leading them astray. (Notice I don't say anything about helping with math and science!) Stressed out seniors who were working on their college essays, unprepared sophomores who just didn't understand the formal nature of a research paper, overwhelmed English language learners who struggled with sentence structure. These students would wander in and ask for help. Sometimes it was for just a few minutes while others came daily for a week or more. One student who was repeating English through an online course came running in one day to share the "A" he had earned on a paper!

Eventually, teachers began to realize what I was doing and asked if they could include me in the writing process. Happy times! The students realized that I could provide assistance and visited for support on a variety of writing projects. In fact, I often became the co-teacher for these projects, which became some of my favorite teaching times. I would go to the classroom when the teacher introduced the unit, help them think about topics, and even assist them in framing the essential questions to be answered. Then we would move to the media center to do the real work. The teacher and I would tag team working with students that needed the most help or fell behind. English, social studies, and even science teachers took advantage of this collaboration as they worked to incorporate writing into their curriculum, as suggested by the Common Core curriculum.

Eventually, I came to the realization that fictional narrative was not a writing practice cultivated by teachers very often but that there were students who loved to write creatively: stories, fan fiction, poetry, and more. What was needed was a venue for safe sharing and critiquing. I started with NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month (https://nanowrimo.org/). It occurs during the entire month of November and the goal is to write as much as you can. Participants set their target goal and do their best to meet it. Students were in charge. We would have a meeting in October to inform anyone who might be interested, then meet again on November 1st to kick things off. Weekly meeting times were held the rest of the month with a celebration on November 30th. The students involved loved that it gave them not just a time to write in the library, but also the chance to talk with other students who shared a passion for writing. I provided the space and supervision after school as well as snacks, then sat back and let them go. If this program interests you, check out the website; they have many free ways to support writers.

The second year, the students asked why they only had this one month and decided to start a weekly writer's club that met, you guessed it, in the library. This time it was during lunch and became a strong group who brought in work to share and ask for help. Sometimes I gave the writing prompts or had a group writing activity. In addition to visiting weekly for this club, these students became regular library visitors and strong supporters of the library program across the board.

Finally, writing happens naturally in the library. Wonderful, just wonderful.

About the Editor

Liz Deskins, MA, currently serves as an instructor in the School of Information at Kent State University and has been a teacher-librarian for more than 25 years. She earned her master's degree from the Ohio State University and is coauthor of the books LGBTQAI+ Books for Children and Teens: Providing a Window for All (ALA Editions, 2018) and Linking Picture Book Biographies to National Content Standards: 200+ Lives to Explore (Libraries Unlimited, 2015). She has served in numerous leadership roles within both the Ohio Educational Library Media Association and the American Association of School Librarians.

MLA Citation Deskins, Liz. "Eventually They Came: Writing in the Library." School Library Connection, March 2019, schoollibraryconnection.com/Home/Display/2193906.

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Entry ID: 2193906

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