Creating a Vibrant Learning Community

Manny Navarro, District Librarian.

Manny Navarro, District Librarian.

Haven’t made your annual campaign donation to BCE yet? Silicon Valley Gives Day is the perfect time to do it, and our district librarian Manny Navarro is yet another a great reason to donate. 

The 2015-16 BCE grant helps fund a specialist of Manny’s caliber in our district, enriching our children’s education in vital ways. On a macro level, Manny focuses on the important job of getting our kids excited about going to their school library. He’s recently had a key role in designing the new BIS library space so it inspires the kids, promotes free thinking and collaboration.

Sari McConnell, BCE VP of Marketing, recently caught up with Manny to find out what it means to be a school librarian in this day and age…

S: Manny, it’s great to meet you in person and find out more about you and your role. Tell me about it.

M: I oversee all libraries in the district including the library staff in the elementary schools.  While I’m primarily based at the BIS library, I check in on all the elementary schools on a regular basis. I am also lucky enough to decide which new books to order and I work with the principal of the five individual schools on the library budget.

S: Why is it important to have a district librarian?

M: Our part-time library aides are generally very busy with the day-to-day work: checking out books and interacting with the kids. The district role is important if the schools want to introduce new online research materials and tools and then teach the students how to use these tools. I also manage the book reading program where I run organized book clubs and BCE Read-a-thon coordination, as well as the new digital citizenship program.

S: I can see how online research is an area you must be deeply involved in with our kids. Tell me more about the digital citizenship program.

M: Superintendent Maggie MacIsaac and Ashley Sullivan (Integrated Technology Specialist) asked me to build a curriculum on digital citizenship, using the Common Sense Media Program for Educators. The cool thing about the Common Sense program is that it is tailored for each grade level. We adjust some of the programs that we think are not quite on point for our kids, but for the most part it works well for the grade levels. This is the first year we’re rolling this out. I gave my first lesson at Lincoln with librarian Brandy Fleming earlier this year so it’s really fresh. It was interesting that the students were already way more aware than I thought. They were fifth graders and basically knew not to use their real name on the internet.

We have two main goals for the program: 1) privacy, security and safety — kids can learn how to be more responsible online, and conscious of what they are doing on the internet. We’re also giving them tools to recognize cyberbullying.  2) Information ethics — how to research online, how to cite research they find online and how to know if they’re plagiarizing. I’ll be teaching the program to the library aides for the elementary schools and I teach the class directly to BIS students.

S: Where are you from originally?

M: I’m from Weed, California, right by Oregon border near Mt. Shasta, population 3,000. I’m a small town kid and love nature, naturally! After school I went to Chico State. I’ve always loved the Bay Area — my dad is from Oakland — the weather, the people, the Raiders, the vibrant lifestyle — but funding and jobs for school librarians are hard to find. I’m really lucky to be here in Burlingame. I got my first librarian job at Napa Valley Unified, but they didn’t have the funds to sustain that position the following year. So then I found a job at Burlingame School District and this is my third year. I’m really lucky to be here.

S: What do you love most about your job?

M: I love talking to kids about books, the themes and morals in books. We have a very accepting culture here in the Bay Area and it’s rewarding having conversations about these life themes. I have never worked at a school that is so open-minded and accepting. We are very driven as a district…it’s definitely a learning culture. I think this is why you don’t see the problems that the other schools see.

S: So, how do you get kids excited about using the school library?  

M: We want to motivate kids to visit the library and read, so I like to make sure it’s a fun and happening spot. At the BIS library I’m always approachable and we have a few laughs – that way they’re more likely to visit again.  hey don’t need to be quiet in the library – they aren’t in college yet. We now have over 100 kids showing up over recess and lunch when the library used to average 30!

The library is the one place on campus where everything they learn in their classes comes together. The library is also a safe place and it’s fun: kids get together, let loose and don’t feel judged. We talk about our successes and our frustrations and the things that make us happy. If the kids didn’t have that, I don’t know where they would go.

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