Authored by Hannah Gutzwiller
The school library acts as a central hub for a number of things. Classes, club meetings, budget forums, holiday parties, leisure space, and an important setting for forming social capital (Larsen 2019). What is the one constant that makes Cosby High School library different from other school libraries across the country? Page Turner. Page is the name of the library mascot, a life sized mannequin rescued from the dumpster and installed in the library in 2010. Page, pictured above in her Valentines regalia, is lovingly dressed for each season by a team of dedicated student library aides. Manufactured by Tero Inc. at a date that has been lost to time and wear and tear, she is a library staple. When graduation comes around, students line up to have their picture taken with her, a happy memento of their school years. Page represents community engagement in school libraries and exists to bridge the generational gap between librarians and students.
In school libraries, where reading is chronically uncool and shunned, there must be alternative ways to build social capital outside of the pages of a book. Meeting students where they are and experimenting with new ways to make the library fun is far more effective than sticking to traditional library engagement strategies (Jensen 2019). With her seasonal outfit changes, Page acts as a visual advertisement for the library that has the ability to bring people in without relying on literature. Having a draw that meets students on their level is important for school libraries in particular, but Page has lessons to teach libraries across the country.
When it comes to viewing libraries as a space, we may think of the library as exclusively a learning space. Page emphasizes that the library is for fun and community by being an interactive component of the setting. In designing the library, the focus is always on the patron (Mei 2014). School libraries cater to a very specific kind of patron, but too often try to function like a public or academic library. It is important that students see the space as welcoming and comfortable in order to reduce library anxiety (Mellon 1986).
Page Turner represents a unique way to create social capital within libraries, which is becoming more and more important in an increasingly polarized culture (KNC 2019). As it gets harder to achieve social capital, we must work on new and interesting ways to make the library a welcoming space. Page bridges the gap between librarians and students, an element that is direly important for community engagement in school libraries. All libraries should aspire to have a Page, an interactive space that welcomes and draws in patrons from all backgrounds.
Jensen, K. (2019). “Get With The Programming: Nine ways to drive teen turnout— and four ways to lose their attention.” School Library Journal, 65(12), 24. https://jerome.stjohns.edu/login?url=https://www.proquest.com/trade-journals/get-with-programming/docview/2328041348/se-2
KNC. 2019. “Populism Can Be Beaten Back by Libraries. Really.” The Economist. The Economist Newspaper. https://www.economist.com/open-future/2019/05/31/populism-can-be-beaten-back-by-libraries-really.
Larsen, Dale, Shane Wallace, Adriana Parker, and Lis Pankl. 2019. “From Cubicles to Community: Reducing Library Anxiety through Critically Reimagined Social Spaces.” New Review of Academic Librarianship 25 (2-4): 408–23. https://doi.org/10.1080/13614533.2019.1615966.
Mellon, Constance. 1986. “Library Anxiety: A Grounded Theory and Its Development.” College and Research Libraries, vol 47, no 2. 160-65. https://crl.acrl.org/index.php/crl/article/view/14195/15641
Mei, Xinya. 2014. “To Create a Happy Reading at Library.” Quality and Quantity 48 (2) (03): 1143-1147. doi:https://doi.org/10.1007/s11135-013-9917-2. https://jerome.stjohns.edu/login?url=https://www.proquest.com/scholarly-journals/create-happy-reading-at-library/docview/1493103828/se-2.