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Beyond books: The evolving role of school libraries in Manteca Unified
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In Manteca Unified, the school library isn't just a place for books – it's the hub of information for the whole campus.

“The library plays a vital role in promoting academic success, nurturing a love for reading, and fostering the skills necessary for lifelong learning,” explained Jennifer Spellman, the teacher librarian at Lathrop High.

That’s why it's essential to make the library a welcoming space for students.

MUSD’s librarians use different strategies to create a friendly environment.

“I make sure to have a diverse collection of books that represent various cultures, backgrounds, and identities,” Spellman shared.

Elyce Smith, the teacher librarian at Manteca High, agrees. She believes books should be like mirrors, windows, and doors for students—to see themselves, get a glimpse into the lives of other people, and enter and explore new worlds. 

The library at Manteca High was recently remodeled to be more student-friendly, with comfy seating, games, charging spots, and fun activities during lunch. “

We want every student to feel like the library is their space,” Smith emphasized.

Spellman also understands the importance of connecting with students.

We promote friendly interactions with staff and make sure student voices are heard,” she said. “It makes our school culture more positive and inclusive.”

Both Lathrop and Manteca High also use social media accounts, like Instagram, to reach students who may be more introverted while at school.

“The school library is crucial for creating a resource-rich environment for students,” Spellman shared.

We’re here to help with all information needs,” Smith added.

 They assist with everything from job applications to printing and finding information on any topic.

Mary Buchanan, a library media technician (LMT) from Manteca High, shared that LMTs work as a team with teacher librarians to support the needs of the library.

LMTs, who are stationed at every school site, oversee many of the technical aspects of running the facility, including ordering books, cataloging, circulation, book repairs, and more.

“The library is the heart of the school,” Buchanan said. “Library staff work together to ensure the facility is a hub of information and culture where everyone is always welcome.”

Teacher librarians, including Spellman and Smith, are stationed at high schools and have both teaching and library credentials.

They collaborate with teachers, teach students information literacy skills, and ensure library resources align with grade-level curriculum.

At all five comprehensive high schools in MUSD, libraries serve as intervention centers where students who have fallen behind in classwork can make up missed credits and get back on track for graduation without having to leave their campus. 

Of course, literacy will always be the primary focus of school libraries.

 In addition to the physical books and other materials in circulation, MUSD offers both Destiny (educational links, book reservations, and more) and SORA (an online library with access to thousands of grade-level appropriate eBooks and audiobooks), which are free resources for all students.