People tend to think of libraries as quiet, secluded spaces for reading, studying, or avoiding distractions. However, the M-A library is much more lively than your average library. This year, the library has been particularly busy, which could be due to the various services that the library now offers.
Although there isn’t data on the exact growth rate of the library, librarian Catherine Burton-Tillson said, “This year has easily been our busiest.” She stated that most students come at lunch and flextime, especially when it’s cold or rainy outside. While lots of students simply use the library as an area to socialize or work with other students on assignments, many visit the library for its variety of resources.
Burton-Tillson said, “I thought COVID-19 would kill reading and that students would constantly be on their phones all the time. Yet, the opposite happened. This year, we’ve had roughly 1,700 book [non-class related] checkouts and about 40 are repeat students.” Overall, this would equate to roughly 1600 students checking out books. In general, Burton-Tillson credits this to TikTok or online book-talk forums. She said, “I’ve had many students come up to me and show me books from TikTok or other online resources and say, ‘I want that book.’ I feel it’s my job as librarian to provide the books that people want to read, so I have a QR code where students can request books that aren’t already in the library.” Although many of the books in the library reflect the content within the subjects taught in M-A classes, such as Russian Literature and the Cold War, the books continue to diversify.
Another reason for increased usage of the library could certainly be peer tutoring, which started online during the 2020-21 school year as a way for students to get help during virtual instruction. Burton-Tillson said, “Once we came back in-person, many students asked why we didn’t have the same service.” There are now 24 peer tutors who each focus on certain subjects that they feel they are best able to help with. One student said, “The peer tutors are really helpful because I’m able to get help from people who have actually taken the classes I’m in, rather than relying on online resources which aren’t as knowledgeable about the particular assignments we’re working on.”
For many students, it may seem somewhat awkward to get help from a random student that is often multiple grades older than them. To combat this, Burton-Tillson said, “I put the student’s name on a sticky note and then let the assigned tutor know that the student has checked in.” After this, the tutor can greet the other student, helping them to feel more comfortable. Overall, she mentioned, “Once a student overcomes the initial hurdle, they usually return several times for more help.”
The library also provides the Project Lab. Burton-Tillson said, “It’s a quiet space where people can work at any point in the day. More notably, there’s a 3D printer, screen printer, and button maker, as well as circut-making technology and photoshop.” She said, “Although we’ve been advertised on M-A Today!, not many students use it yet. However, once they do, many of them stay.”
Burton-Tillson added, “A lot of students are starting to think of the library as a place where they can come to get what they need. We have chromebooks, textbooks, calculators, sports equipment, and a whole host of other things available to students.” Moreover, the library has recently shifted to allowing students to eat inside during lunch, which has most certainly led to more students coming by. After 28 years at M-A, Burton-Tillson said, “I’ve enjoyed getting to know many different students, finding out what they need, and providing them with the tools to be successful.”