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Librarian Talk - Toni Vahlsing - Director of Libraries

We spoke with Toni Vahlsing – Director of Libraries – Abington Friends School about ‘The Great Pause’, her Library and the challenges that she’s facing with the ‘New Normal’.

I’ve been a librarian for 20 odd years. Being a librarian is the perfect job for me as I love books, young people, and thrive on jumping from project to project, being interrupted to help people whenever they need me. I love to make things and have channelled that energy into making book displays in a beautiful space that I have at the entrance to the library. I read about 120 books a year and love talking about book with my students and colleagues. I’m learning to adapt to emergency distance learning during COVID-19 by not only providing resources but remote library programming like trivia games and reading challenges.
Toni Vahlsing

Director of Libraries, Abington Friends School, USA

If you were a superhero, who would you be?

Elasta-girl (but I would use the term Elasta-woman). She can adapt to help in any situation.

Tell us about your library! What makes it unique?

My library serves grades 5-12 and it is gorgeous. It has a lot of windows, so it is always easy to tell what the weather is outside. The metal roof lets us know how hard it is raining, too. We have a lot of books, over 25,000, with a smallish student population. I feel really lucky to be able to work in such a resource rich, beautiful space. (I miss it terribly during quarantine.)

The library also has its own personality and plays tricks on me. Sometimes it can be helpful. One time, a small book fell from a high shelf and hit me on the chest. It was a book I didn’t know we had but fit with our theme for our school year. Another time the book “Fallen” was sitting on the floor open. There are many more stories about how the spirit of the library has helped me or made me laugh.

What is a challenge that you faced in your library recently?

The governor of our state has closed our school for the remainder of the school year. We face two challenges. How to get our current loans back, and how to get books to students who might want new reading material.

We are considering a curb-side drop off and pick up of requested materials.

How did Accessit Library help you solve this challenge?

Accessit Library will help us manage our holds. Single sign on (SSO) is so easy for our students that they will be able to sign on and request materials by just dragging the photo.

How has your attitude changed towards the challenge you solved with Accessit Library, now that you’ve worked through it?

I feel more confident that this will work. In our old system, students had to log on with a student ID, which they did not know, and a PIN. If the crises, and our administration are open to our curb-side pick-up, Accessit Library will make this so much easier.

What do you like the most about Accessit Library?

I think truncated searching. The students and I can search for resources with only parts of the words we are looking for is so helpful, especially for items that we are not sure of the spelling for. Also, the fact that I can search for students’ names with just part of their name has really saved me time and embarrassment.

What tips could you give to librarians to help improve their remote learning experience?

Try to be as visible as possible to your students. Now that we’ve gathered lots of e-resources for teachers and students, we are offering social events in our “virtual library” to help us connect with each other. The first three we are trying are trivia games, read-a-louds of picture books to high school students, and a place for students to recommend books to each other. We also issued a book challenge. Students are sending in photos of themselves reading aloud to their pets, reading upside down, among many other choices.

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