Thursday, February 2, 2012

If you don't like it, change it.

What is a rebel? A man who says no.  ~Albert Camus

Ft. Vancouver High School Library Media Center 14


I met with the principal of Vandyke Elementary School on Monday.  We had a good debate.  She didn't change my mind, and I don't think I changed hers.  Here are the things I walked away with after that meeting:

-Plan One was the only plan that had a school library.  They are now on Plan Four.  Plan One was the plan that parents saw when they came to the school for conferences in November.

-Each classroom will have its own collection of books.  These books would also be changed out periodically.  "Finger-tip access" to books for children at their reading level.  Students who are above or below the reading level of the majority of books in the classroom would be free to collect books from another classroom. 

-No official proposal has been made by the school district to the public library.

-The elementary school principal has met with the director of the Arrowhead Library System once. 

Mrs. Hoeft has a list of questions that need to be finalized.  Questions about funding and allocation of added job duties are on that list.  There are a lot of questions about the funding of various parts of this whole plan.  I don't know who else is working on getting these answers, but that should get done before the school board finalizes it's plans for the school. 

I was told that having a school library when there is a beautiful public library across the street is not taking advantage of the duality of these services.  Which I interpreted to mean: it's a waste of taxpayer money to have a school library when a public library can do the same job.  Having worked in a public library for 13 years, I know that these libraries play vastly different roles in the growth and development of students.  I believe that by closing the school library we are setting ourselves up for a backslide of the great progress we've made with reading in our district.  I've heard more than once from people entering the school for the first time about how impressed they are with the importance placed on reading, and the obvious love the children have for it in our school. 

Reading level materials in the room is a great idea.  For some kids.  Once my 2-grades-above-level daughter has read all the books in her reading level in the classroom, she can go get a book from a different classroom.  Somehow, I don't see her doing that.  If she did make an effort to go find a different book, when would she do it?  Would she be bursting into the middle of another class's lesson to find something that would interest her?  Would she be going on her own, with no guidance of any sort?  How about the kids reading below grade level?  I can't imagine a second grader with a kindergarten reading level going to the kindergarten room to pick up a book.  There go two kids who aren't challenged, and won't succeed they way they could have with a school library and its variety of materials.  There go two kids that the education system at Greenway failed.

For being on plan 4 and only the first having a school library, it sure seems as if the district has made its decision already.  There are a lot of unasked questions that still need to be answered.  There are a lot of people involved in this sort of undertaking, school staff, library staff, and city staff (someone has to clean up the dirt tracked in).  There are also funding issues that need to be decided.  When I asked Mrs. Hoeft what would happen if Jane Doe checked out all of the books on leaves a week before the second grade class would be using them, she replied that that is where modern technology; things like Kindles, would come into play.  Wow.  Those things aren't free.  Where is the money for that coming from? 

There are many questions that need to be answered.  Staffing issues: who will be switching out books from classrooms?  Sharing of wireless Internet: who picks up the tab for that?  Changing bar codes from the school's system to the system the Arrowhead Library System uses: who funds that, and where will the money come from?  Who is going to pay for the added work done by the public library staff?  I know that $8,000 was cut from the Coleraine Public Library's budget for the year, so it's not like they've got any extra cash laying around.  What happens if the library's budget gets cut so much that library hours need to be restructured?  It's happened in many of the libraries in the area.  What happens if they need to close for a day a week?

There are numerous studies that show the importance of school libraries.  They all point to access to books being a huge factor in how well students do in school.  Our students have done amazing because of how much they have been exposed to libraries.  Not just one, but two.  It would be a shame to cut that exposure in half.

In The Importance of School Libraries; a study conducted by
Keith Curry Lance, PhD, Lance states:

School libraries are a powerful force in the lives of America’s children. The school library is one of the few factors whose contribution to academic achievement has been documented empirically, and it is a contribution that cannot be explained away by other powerful influences on student performance.

It's a misconception that the public library and school library are the same.  Our school board members need to be aware that this choice is absolutely not a step in the right direction for our children.  I urge you to get in contact with them.  Talk to the teachers, principal, superintendent.  Click here to get the list of current board members for the Greenway school district.  If you're outside of this district, check and see how your school board feels about your school library.  Make sure this isn't happening to you. 


Ft. Vancouver High School Library Media Center 12


A love of books, of holding a book, turning its pages, looking at its pictures, and living its fascinating stories goes hand-in-hand with a love of learning. Laura Bush

36 comments:

  1. Thank you for the update! Great points were made and it answered a few questions I had about the issue at hand. I am, however confused as to the main reason for not having a library in the new school plans? Is it purely a financial issue? Do they not have enough space? So many fishy things about this, there has to be more underlying problems that go along with this. I wonder if the designers of this plan realize that this is a SCHOOL we are talking about here, what is a school without books?

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  2. The library space will be used for the fourth grade classrooms, and EBD (Emotional or Behavioral Disorder) rooms have also been added in this plan.

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  3. Also what needs to be kept in mind, that this is a public library and by having an increase in students coming there, the older patrons will not be happy. Most of them see the library as a gathering point for them, but also a place where they would like to find some time to read the newspaper, work on the computer or check out some books in peace and quiet. But by the constant coming and going of classes, they will not feel like their needs being met. They might try to come back a few more times, hoping they will find a time, when there will be no children at the library, but will not be able to, since during regular school hours the classes will visit, and after school the students will also be there, because we all are aware, that there are to many latch key kids, that use the library as a safe place until there parents return from work. Eventually, the older patrons will not return, because there is never a time set aside for them.

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  4. Some good points have been made here...it's unfortunate that not all the facts have been put out there, and there is somewhat of a negative tone to what I feel as a teacher and a parent should be an exciting, encouraging time of change for the Greenway School District. First, I can't say this for sure, but I'm pretty sure the idea of the library being used for classroom space was one of the first ones out there. It very well may not have been in the designs put out at conferences, but it has been on the table for quite some time. I agree that a school library is a WONDERFUL asset to a school...one that is very different from a public library, however unfortunately we are in a place financially and educationally where some changes must be made in order to compete. We had experts come into all three buildings to analyze how space was being used...it is SAD how much space goes unused on a daily basis in the high school. Therefore, the decision was made to close the middle school and move the students into Vandyke and the high school. A move that I know a lot of people don't like, but a move that had to happen. The library space will house the fourth graders...I want to believe that a lot of time was put into the best place for them. Every inch of Vandyke is used every minute of every day. Our options were limited...those who are opposed to this, what are your suggestions? What other space could be traded out and used for our fourth graders? The students at Vandyke have a love for reading for numerous reasons. I don't see this going away with the library. I, too, have a child that is reading 2+ levels above her grade level, reading 250 words a minute and no, I don't see her interrupting other classrooms to get new books. What I do see is teaching syles, routines, procedures, and practices changing. Good teachers will have all the levels he/she needs to meet the needs of his/her students...I can tell you without hesitation every student in my reading class has access to and is reading books that are at their level. They have book boxes where the books are kept, I take them to the PUBLIC library every 3 weeks to change those books out, I know my readers inside and out so that if their books need to be adjusted I know their interests and reading levels so that I can adjust their books and my teaching. That's my job, not the students, and not the school library's job. I can't speak to the financial questions. But I want to believe great, big things are coming to Greenway despite the lose of the library...if that's the case in the end. I don't for a second doubt there is a lot of research out there that supports the importance of a school library. And, I would be up for a fight if we were to lose Chris Poore...she is an amazing educator and librarian.

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    1. Great points, thanks for the info!

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  5. Here's a little more... I also know there is a lot of research out there that says students must have a large variety of level appropriate reading materials...in their classrooms. Children's access to high-quality instruction is what matters, and high-quality instruction can be achieved within a variety of curriculum framework. We have known for at least 25 years that access to high-quality classroom literacy instruction with substantial opportunities to read and write is more important than curriculum focus. It is important that all children have substantial opportunities to engage in reading and writing activity. Another truth...in most American classrooms reading and writing activities occupy less than 10 percent of the school day! One of the biggest reasons children read so little in school seems to be the lack of anything much to read. No basal anthology has enough reading material for anyone to become a good reader, and yet in too many classrooms basal anthologies are just about the only reading material available. Even in schools with the LARGEST SCHOOL AND CLASSROOM LIBRARIES there was often still little variety in the reading material available. If we carefully examine the materials available in classrooms, the lack of a ready supply of diverse, interesting, and manageable material becomes readily apparent. Most classrooms still have a larger supply and variety of skills materials available than good books and magazines. Without easy access to comfortable, interesting material, many children go about their daily work without actually experiencing REAL reading. With all of this said, I go back to a great teacher will make all of the above happen...with or without a school library. The classroom teacher needs to be the one making sure students have access to books for extended periods throughout the day. As a teacher, a larger classroom library makes me excited to think about all the opportunities I can provide for my students each and every day...along with access to the library right across the street. As for the comment above mine, I hear your point. I don't for a second want to take the library space away from the older patons, however like you said it is a "public library." We, as teachers, probably need to do a better job of teaching the kids what a library looks and sounds like when we're there:) Whew...sorry for rambling! In the end, I don't like the idea of losing the library, but I also don't have any good suggestions to offer as an alternative.

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  6. Much of my rambling came from reading researcher Richard Allington:)

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  7. I'm sure I can come around to this idea, Julie. Good teachers can make something out of nothing. However, to join a public library with a school takes a collaborative effort, and so far there really hasn't been much collaboration.

    One of my biggest concerns is the funding. Before this gets to be a done deal, there needs to be a close examination of the responsibilities of each entity. Coming from a public library standpoint, there is more going on in the library besides people shelving books. Most of the work is done behind the scenes; and if done correctly, no one even realizes it's getting done.

    It seems the school district decided to push forward with this without much forethought. What happens if the Magnetation takes off and our enrollement increases? Vandyke will be packed next year, where would extra students be placed? What happens when the grant funding they were relying on to fund this project falls through? There are a lot of parts to making this a complete package, and so many of those parts are question marks right now.

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  8. The robust conversation about the library and the impact it has on the community and students is great! Being very close to this situation that Vandyke Elementary School is going through and looking at the betterment of the schools face with declining enrollment throughout rural Minnesota, it is evident there is no clear resolution. It is very easy to start pointing fingers when toes get stepped on. When looking at the above stated points it is quite obvious that there will be the same amount of books available for students next year as there is now, so clearly Vandyke students will have books to read. The opportunities that are available for students (looking into the future like Magnetation creating this big boom) one could also state that books are a thing of the past and there could be "kindles" or "iPads" that take place of the physical environment of a library. It is clear that students with disabilities are becoming more apparent and the increase in classroom space dedicated for those students is a priority for schools that was not planned for in the past. Looking at other schools in the area, for instance right down the road in Nashwauk, this is not a new circumstance. Nashwauk houses a community library in the high school. Is this ideal? Probably not. However, with a small community trying to survive, there has to be a little give and take. In this instance of the library and school, proper communication of when students may be using the library to give the patrons a heads up would likely be helpful. To my understanding, the elementary school uses the school library once a week per class for specialist time, which is around 7 hours out of the week. Is there a huge back-lash from the patrons that are actually in the Coleraine Public Library right now when students and educators take the opportunity to use it? It has to be noted that times are changing around the area; the love of reading is not going to go away because the library in a school is merging with a public library across the street. Do the students currently have open access to the elemtary school library to check out books that are 2 grades above or below grade level? Or do they need to wait until they have sceduled library time to check out a book? This seems to be a key advantage of large classroom libraries. Convenience. As a former Special Education teacher I understand the difficulty in the search to find books for students that are below grade level but high interest. I also know that the student that is reading at a 1st grade level doesn't need to go to a 1st grade classroom to find a book at his/her level. It is probable that most teachers in the nation have books that are below, at, and above grade level. When a student runs out of books to read in his/her classroom, there is usually a time to switch in most grade levels where they can browse for a new book to read. I have the understanding that students have access to an abundance of books throughout Vandyke. It seems that the movement of the school library out of a large, slightly used portion of the school into each individual classroom and making greater use of a wonderful, historic resource is a minor adjustment to the huge transformation Greenway School District is going through. Change must happen and posivitive community members and adults lead to positive outlooks for children.

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  9. The Greenway Public Schools were included in a grant written by the Director of North Country Library Cooperative in 1998 which provided $74,745.00 for equipment, record conversion of their paper card catalog to electronic records, barcoding of their materials and joining the automated library system of the Arrowhead Library System to simplify circulation and enable access to library materials owned by other Arrowhead Library System libraries, which greatly increased the materials available to students and teachers. The only stipulation was that they would need to pay the ongoing cost of operating the system for three years. Once the three years ended, they dropped out of the system, kept the equipment, and changed to a stand alone system which only included their holdings. The school district never paid one penny of ongoing costs and it would seem that the money provided by the state was simply wasted. Why should anyone consider giving them more money to duplicate something they already had, and decided to withdraw from in 2002?

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  10. Those were decisions made 10 years ago...different people...different times...different needs.

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    1. Actually, different people and different times, but still the need to have a well organized efficient system of cataloging and circulating precious books. That our taxpayers have paid for and value.

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  11. In my opinion, Greenway is taking a giant step in the wrong direction. I agree thet classroom libraries are a good thing. But they should not replace the elementary school library with its catalog and circulation system. With mini-libraries in every classroom, who is going to keep track of which books are in which room? Who is going to help the student find the 4th Wimpy Kid book when he has read all the others? Who is going to keep track of which student has what book out and hasn't returned any since last November? Yes, there are amazing educators who are organized and might be able to keep track of most of the books. But most of the teachers I know are so swamped with all the other tasks and duties of teaching and managing a diverse group of students there isn't a spare minute to add "librarian" to his/her day. Classroom libraries are a great way to offer "random" reading materials for student to experience reading practice. But for all the students looking for books on specific topics Or by certain authors, a classroom collection of books just will not meet the needs of students. Most school libraries are open daily for students to have access. I don't think students should be allowed to run across the street to get that "gotta have it" book. We are in a changing world with technology. This is true. But until ALL the bugs are worked out of the alternatives, let's not abandon school libraries. They work. They support teachers, and the curriculum and literacy.

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  12. "It takes a whole village to raise a child." At what point is our village going to come together? Decisions will always be made that are out of our hands...some we will agree with, others we won't. I've worked with enough kids long enough to know that THEY are RESILIENT. We, the adults, are the ones that have the hardest time with change. My hope is that we can come together as a community and make the best of what we have...thankfully we have something (a school district) to work with. “Never too old, never too bad, never too late, never too sick to start from scratch once again.” -Bikram Choudhury.

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    1. In my opinion, I don't think it's fair to blame the village when the village wasn't even aware of the situation.

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    2. Not blaming anyone...just saying we all need to come together. It's pretty clear there is a negative tone to some of the comments. There have been and always will be decisions that are out of my hands...my attitude is positive for my own children and for the rest of the children in the district. I will do my part to make the best of whatever situation is thrown at me. And, I could be totally wrong, but I wouldn't say that anything has been engraved in stone.

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    3. Yes, Julie, but here is why we might seem negative. Everything seems hush, hush, again; just like it was when the Marble Elementary school was closed. That does not bring back good memories for us.
      Also what is upsetting is that the lack of forthought. To accomadate the increase in students, the library will need to purchase more books, budgets for libraries are tight, where will that money come from? If the District decides to pay some money to the library, will that affect the future funding for the library, if the district decides not to use the library anymore? What I mean is, will the taxpayers of Coleraine have to pay the amount later on that the District was paying? (Since they are the ones funding the library, not Greenway). It would just be nice, if the schoolboard would show, that these kind of concerns are on their mind.

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    4. Thats right! Nothing is engraved in stone, this is the School Districts 4th plan!!! Hmmmm they have thought this all out!!!!????? But as long as this in NOT engraved in stone, there is still time to change the "no school" library plans. I might be wrong but are they not re-bidding for the 2nd phase? WHY? I thought it was all given alot of thought? What are you elected school board members doing???? What leader are you listening too? What is best for our future leaders (children)? Why hasn't there been anything in the paper or Tuesday folders letting the parents know WHAT is going on when we are the taxpayers?

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    5. Increase in students, with the mess the district is creating??? What a joke, I believe it will be a DECREASE in students. How many houses are for sale in the City of Coleraine? I thought we wanted to bring people in??? Not with the increase of taxes the district is putting on all of us.

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    6. I would rather pay to educate the kids now than pay for their stays in prison in the future.

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  13. First I would like to thank all for their time and comments w/ the exception of those posting anonymously. As a school board member I take issue w/ the suggestion that we lack " forethought " or have fallen short on our efforts to collaborate. These are crucial components to our mission as we move into a new era for Greenway Our future is filled w/ opportunity but requires change.To quote author Daniel Pink " The peril is that our world moves at a furious pace... and will be as unkind to the slow of foot as it is to the rigid of mind." Julie, it too is my hope that while there will be differences & sacrifices we can join together for our kids and community.

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    1. According to dictionary.com:

      fore·thought   [fawr-thawt, fohr-] noun
      1. thoughtful provision beforehand; provident care; prudence.
      2. a thinking of something beforehand; previous consideration; anticipation.

      col·lab·o·rate  [kuh-lab-uh-reyt] verb (used without object), -rat·ed, -rat·ing.
      1. to work, one with another; cooperate, as on a literary work: They collaborated on a novel.
      2. to cooperate, usually willingly, with an enemy nation, especially with an enemy occupying one's country: He collaborated with the Nazis during World War II.

      The school board may have some exaggerated ideas of their forethought and collaboration.

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  14. I would like to thank everyone for their comments. Even those who spoke anonymously; as I know that not everyone has a google account, and it's easier to post that way when you don't have one.

    Bill, I would like to know how many times the board and/or superintendent have met with the Arrowhead Library System director. How many working sessions have you had with the city council or library board? Do you feel that the library board is comfortable with the added responsiblities that will be placed on the public library?

    I don't believe all the kinks have been worked out of this plan. I'm truthfully not even sure if the kinks have been looked at. How closely has this been looked at from the public library's standpoint?

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  15. Question...is there still a highschool library, librarian and computer lab? Or will that be eliminated as well?

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    1. And will those classes 5-12, also being accessing the Coleraine Library daily??

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    2. It's my understanding that the middle school and high school students don't access the libraries they have right now.

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    3. Actually,my daughter is in fourth grade and she is able to access the middle school library. And she loves it. My 7th grader isn't able though.

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    4. I just asked my middle schooler, and they go to the library with their class--every two or three weeks. "I've had my book a loooong time."

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  16. Good question. Call you school board members and post your findings.

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  17. I don't know. I'd hate to unknowingly spread false information, so I'm going to leave that question for someone who actually knows.

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  18. Interesting points have been made by Alicia and Julie. It is disturbing to me that the School District is even considering not having a library at the elementary school. This should be a must for young children: an in-school, hands on, ready to use, part of their daily curriculum. Materials that are used in school libraries are not available at the public library and in the case of the Coleraine Public Library, it does not have the space to absorb these materials from the VanDyke or Middle School libraries. It (Coleraine Public Library), should be considered an additional library to a School library, not instead of!! The Librarian at the Coleraine Library has had a program since 2001 for teachers at VanDyke to schedule visits to the library. Not all the teachers choose to do so and that is as it should be. This program has worked well for all and will be continued as before. The library is open to all students as it is to the public at large during the hours as posted. The school does not provide after school time for students who must wait for parents to pick them up and are welcomed at the Library. Some of this is due to sports events at the Scofield Bldg. where they can't go until the time of these events.
    When the public was informed of the plan to for "One Campus" they were told there was room for EVERYONE AND EVERYTHING' Plus, at Greenway High School and VanDyke. Now they want to encroach on the Public Library and possibly other local facilities for space. From Plan 1 they are now at Plan 4 and no one seems to konw what any of these plans involve. The School District should reconsider and make room for a library at VanDyke elementary school.

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  19. How can one even think of not having a library in the public school? How awful! My oldest son was reading two grades above his regular grade thanks to the wonderful, entertaining books that he read in both the Calumet and Marble school libraries, and still loves to read. What are our schools becoming? Not everyone has access to a computer.

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  20. I have been rereading some of the blogs and must write in rebuttal to statements in Julie's blogs. First, the plan for using the Coleraine Public Library was never in any plan. Sue Hoeft was invited to come to a Library Board meeting to run the plan to them. The first time she was there she stated that this was her idea as she wanted to use space at Van Dyke for other purposes. She came to one or two other meetings with no decision being made by the Board. I had previously called Fred Tanner to ask about the plan and he apparently had heard about the idea but otherwise knew nothing about it. He also attended a Board meeting as an observer. Supt. Adams had also been invited several times to attend a meeting but has never been to any. I should add that the first time the Library Board heard of the plan was from the Librarian as she had been approached by Mrs. Hoeft with the idea and was told she would have to bring it to the Board. As I wrote in a previous blog, the Coleraine Library does not have the space to absorb the materials used by a school library. The building is not that large. A Councilperson from the City of Coleraine acts as liaison for the Board but has no authority to make decisions for the Board. The Library Board has never had any meetings with the City Council. There are so many stories abounding of what is or isn't going on with so many plans at the school it is difficult to separate the truth from hearsay.

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  21. It occurred to me this morning that we're all going through a grieving process with the loss of the school library. When I first wrote this posting, I was at stage ANGER. I've moved past that and am looking to the future.

    The people who knew more about this are far past the stage of ANGER, the stage where many of the people who are just finding out about this are at.

    Knowing this is a good way to help us remember that it is a process. We will get through it. We will come out the other side knowing more than we do now. It's a learning process. It may not go the way we want. We give ourselves time to cry and bargain, lament and sigh; and then move on and see what lies ahead.

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  22. I have not yet posted any remarks on this site but feel the need to now. I have worked with the public and school to best meet the needs of everyone. I enjoy my weekly patrons that come in to get books and to talk and listen to what is going on in their lives. I also look forward to the classes and the children that come through the door, excited to grab the book they have been anxiously waiting for. Things are changing for all of us in the district. "I" am working, thinking, laying awake at night wondering how we can work together as a community to do what is best for everyone. It will all work out in the end if we keep the "positive" communication open. The door to the library is always open if you have ideas as to how we can best serve you and our community as a whole.
    Jo Anne Mikulich, Coleraine Library Director

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