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Interview with Kathleen Niederpruem

Kathleen Niederpruem is a former teacher who has long served as the chair of her department and as head librarian at Fayetteville-Manlius High School, where I currently teach English. In fact, it was due to Kathleen’s influence and encouragement that I decided to apply to the MSLIS program at Syracuse University

In our school, the Library and Media Center (LMC) is both a virtual and a physical space, but the physical nature of the library is frequently an issue. In 1998, the library was renovated and expanded by 700 square feet. While Kathleen was consulted during the planning process, the district office eventually made nearly all of the decisions, including the design of the space, and even color and furniture choices. This was frustrating, especially since Kathleen had specifically asked for—but did not get—a classroom within the library. The public space of LMC includes a college counseling center, an enclosed computer lab, an unenclosed computer lab with a Smartboard, and stacks, which run along the perimeter of the room. With almost no other social space available students, the LMC has also become contested space where nearly every seat and computer is being used for significant portions of the day. Thus, the biggest frustration Kathleen deals with is disciplining students and managing the space.

Even with a $5500 cut this year, Kathleen praises the district for her healthy budget of $42,000, which she considers essential to maintaining a first-rate library. In her 18 years as a librarian in the district, she has only had two books challenged by parents; in both cases, the district supported her, and the parents acquiesced. The only ethical issue she faces on a regular basis (other than the occasional plagiarism incident) is students breaking copyright laws when copying music for the school’s music program. She has to sometimes look the other way, because the students are making copies for their music teachers.

Kathleen is committed to maintaining a library that serves students’ current needs. She attends conferences, reads extensively in her field, and frequently visits the Bird Library with Project Advance classes to stay in touch with academic library issues. She subscribes to an ever-expanding list of online databases, acquires many new books each year, frequently updates our excellent library homepage, and works collaboratively with teachers to create multifaceted research and learning opportunities through the library, to which our students have nearly 24 hour access (due to our Citrix remote access). She feels that through Citrix, our students use the library much more than in the past; students often meet at the Manlius Public Library after school hours to work on class projects, but they are often simultaneously accessing LMC resources and subscription databases. Kathleen feels technology has actually brought more kids into the physical LMC, too. Students may visit the library to use the computers, but they often end up browsing the stacks. Circulation of print texts is actually up, and only print reference texts seem to get a little less use than in the past.

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