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Library Opens to Students

WISH’s wall in the library room, which is located to the right from the main Academy entrance (Hastings).

WISH Academy—On Monday, October 2nd, WISH Academy students filed into their campus library with their English classes for the first time in over a year. The library, located between the E Building and the Hastings parking lot, is now open to Academy students all day on Mondays, and during lunch and nutrition on Thursdays. The library serves as a quiet space for reading or study, and offers a wide selection of fiction and nonfiction books reflecting a great diversity in experience, style, and reading level. Students are welcome to come with their classes or during free time such as lunch and nutrition breaks, and can check out books from the library’s collection after submitting a signed permission form to the librarians. However, while the opening of the library brings many benefits to WISH Academy students, it remains to be seen whether the logistical issues of making the library a regular part of students’ class time can be solved.

The WISH library occupies one wall of the library space; the remaining shelves are occupied by the W.E.S.M. library and off-limits to WISH students. The library, which is shared with WISH Middle School, features a diverse collection of titles designed to suit students of different interests and reading levels while representing a wide array of cultures and perspectives. In an October interview with staff librarians Jen Scott and Allison Grover-Khoury, who run the WISH library, Grover-Khoury explained that “the minute I arrived and started even volunteering in the library, we began to expand it so that there are books for everyone, … there are books that can challenge everyone, and everyone can find themselves in a book.” Asked to provide recommendations from their fiction catalog, they pointed out titles such as Angie Thomas’s On the Come Up (a follow-up to The Hate U Give about an aspiring rapper growing up in the same neighborhood), and Firekeeper’s Daughter, a book about an Ojibwe teen who has to navigate increasingly high-stakes conflicts surrounding her identity and the complex histories surrounding her, with romance and action to boot.

The library also includes many non-fiction books, although Grover-Khoury acknowledged that “the library is primarily fiction, but we are building our nonfiction, particularly with high schoolers in mind.” She added that, in addition to more curriculum-focused books, “right now, we’re focusing on U.S. History, really expanding that to have a diverse and representative and more accurate set of books that can enhance what students are learning about American history. Because there’s a lot that isn’t in the traditional textbooks, but there are a lot of books that support that.” While the library raises money to buy new books through the Scholastic Book Fairs that take place at WISH Elementary School, it still relies on donations from students and families. The librarians are especially seeking donations of books in areas such contemporary fiction, history, science, and sports. Interested parties can contact the library at to discuss donating books, which the librarians pick up at the main office. Students are welcome to check out books with the librarians once their parents have filled out the digital permission form on their behalf; the form can be found in the Advisory Slides every week.

Academy librarians Scott (left) and Grover-Khoury (center) at a Scholastic Book Fair fundraiser at the WISH Elementary campus

Beyond its selection of books, the library also seeks to offer other benefits to WISH Academy students. When the library is open on Mondays, it provides a quiet and comfortable study environment, and work is ongoing to further revamp the space. This year, Mr. Howard, WESM’s newly-hired librarian, has been working to remove and replace the library’s outdated furniture. Longtime students will notice the absence of the ancient seats, shelves, and computers that had occupied much of the space in earlier years. Mr. Howard’s WISH counterparts gave him high marks on his collaborative relationship with them and his plans to make further improvements throughout the year. The WISH librarians are also planning other potential projects, such as working with the Los Angeles Public Library to provide library cards and research tools to students and potentially scheduling guest speakers later in the school year.

In the meantime, one of the greatest issues facing the library is student access. Currently, each of WISH’s three English teachers is allotted time to bring their odd-period classes to the library on alternating Mondays. However, English classes that only meet on even days are not yet able to go to the library, as WESM occupies the space on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and WISH Middle School does during class on Thursdays. Making matters more complicated, both WISH and WESM often hold events in the space throughout the week, limiting library time during classes. As Ms. Phillips, head of WISH Academy’s English Department, explains, “It’s all about space. Unfortunately, we don’t have enough space to hold [events], and since we have the free space in the library, they’re using that sometimes for, like, parent meetings… Originally, it was planned for us to go every three weeks; now, that’s changing.” Despite these challenges, she remains excited about the chance for students to use the space, saying, “I think it’s very beneficial … It’s nice to get a change of scenery.”

The library’s logistical issues are still under discussion among the librarians, school administration, the English department, and WESM. Students can also go to the library on their own every week during lunch, nutrition, or any other downtime they may have during the school day—on  Mondays and Thursdays, unless otherwise announced. The librarians will be happy to see them. Scott and Grover-Khoury have operated the library for over 10 years, since its inception at WISH Elementary. Of their favorite parts of being librarians, Grover-Khoury said, “One of the things I love the most is getting to know a student and their interests, and then introducing them to books, or challenging them by introducing them to something new that they might not have [thought] they’d be interested in.” Scott concurred, recounting one of her proudest moments: “So this girl came over, and she was like, ‘Can I have a card and a pen?’ … I was like, yes, here, have a card. And then she came running over and was like, ‘look at all the books I can’t wait to read.’ … Just witnessing the joy that comes with having unlocked that love.”

~ Nicholas Steinman

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