Marie Michalek doesn’t want the library at Elk Lake High School to be just a room filled with books.
But when longtime librarian Kris Morahan retired, it looked like that might be the case.
Elk Lake’s faculty and administration felt concerned about the absence of Morahan, who had become well known in the Elk Lake School District for her devotion to students. Her aptitude for technology and keeping up with the latest library trends also left big shoes to fill.
“I wanted to foster a love of learning with the kids, and Kris Morahan was so integral in helping me do that,” said Michalek, who teaches seventh and eighth grade language arts at Elk Lake.
Michalek knew the school library would still exist, but believed it would be different without the personal touch of a librarian.
“They wouldn’t have that motivation or those programs that we were using to try to tap into everybody’s reading needs, from reluctant readers to kids that we know could read a book a day,” she said.
She approached the administration and volunteered to run the library alongside her teaching duties. Once Michalek fleshed out the idea to see what this would look like, the administration was on board.
Now she teaches five classes per day from a room within the library. Twenty-four student volunteers have also been working in the library on a regular basis.
“Without them, I couldn’t do it,” she said.
Principal John Warnero said the administration saw an opportunity to take a creative route with the school library by making these changes.
“It’s something we’re exploring and she’s doing a fantastic job with it,” Warnero said. “There’s some exciting things going on in the library.”
The student volunteers help with various library duties, including checking books in and out, shelving books and coordinating programs like “book tastings.”
Jillian Gustin, an Elk Lake eighth grader, saw how much responsibility Michalek was taking on between teaching and running the library and wanted to help out.
“It’s nice to help her out,” said Gustin, who enjoys reading books in the romance genre. “Mrs. Michalek is really good at suggesting books.”
The library offers shelves upon shelves of traditional books, but the app Sora also allows students to download e-books and audiobooks. Students could also access computers and printers, or use the library as a meeting or work space.
“We try to be all things for everyone,” Michalek said.
For Michalek, it’s necessary to keep the library relevant to modern times. Next year, she hopes her library classroom could transform into a multimedia lab as another way of staying up to date with current trends and technology.
Overall, she believes the library has been running smoothly under these changes.
“If the kids leave here with nothing else, I want them to be able to foster a love of reading,” she said. “A love of reading can’t be fostered if it’s just a room with books.”
Warnero agreed that implementing these changes in the library was a positive step for the district.
“We really value her input and how it’s going to work best for her,” Warnero said. “We’re feeling out how this year goes, what works and what we need to improve on, and what resources we can provide for our students.”