Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in “Progress 2022: Centers of Community.” Copies are available at The Clanton Advertiser office, 1109 Seventh Street N.
STORY AND PHOTOS BY JOYANNA LOVE
Cheerful and kid-friendly.
That is what Verbena High School librarian Shelly Bice wanted to make the Verbena Annex library when she became the school librarian for the 2021- 2022 school year.
The room had not been used much in the previous year because of the COVID-19 pandemic and looked more like a storage area than an elementary school library.
Bice began the conversion back to a functional library by sorting through everything in the room and cleaning with the help of some school staff and friends.
Now, two large chalkboards with drawings by Shannon Maddox are centerpieces of the décor.
The chalkboards had been covered up by pieces of corkboard. Maddox and Bice stripped off the corkboard to restore the chalkboard and painted them with chalk paint.
There were also multiple markerboards in the room that Bice reconfigured.
A structural improvement to fix a hole in the ceiling was also needed before the room could be fully functional.
New shelves have been installed and the books are being organized.
“I’m trying to make it more kid-friendly,” Bice said.
The improvements were important to Bice, so her students would “see what a library looks like.”
“Kids can not be good readers, if they do not get exposed to good books,” Bice said.
The improvements seem to be appealing to students as several third-grade students enjoy coming by multiple times a week.
Zaiden said he stops by the library almost every day. His favorite series is Dog Man.
He said he likes it because it is a chapter book. Jimison, who is in the same class, also enjoys the Dog Man series. He said he usually comes multiple times during the week to check out books. He likes the selection in the library and the atmosphere.
He also likes talking to Bice about the book he is reading.
To Zaiden, the school library is “very, very big and has a lot of books,” and that is why he likes it.
Coming to the library has increased his enjoyment of reading.
Antonio said he enjoys coming to the library to read books. His favorites are by Dr. Seuss, especially “The Cat in the Hat.”
As a school librarian, Bice also has a favorite children’s book.
“I think my favorite book is ‘The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything,’ and I read it around Halloween,” Bice said.
The story is about a woman who finds articles of clothing that are trying to scare her, but she is not afraid. The story is one that can be interactive when Bice reads it.
“I love acting out my stories,” Bice said. “I’m very dramatic, especially if it’s a story that I really love. I like to do different voices. I like to make funny faces. I like to dress up in costumes, just to make it fun. ”
Coming to the library gives students more opportunities for things to read.
“They love coming in here,” Bice said.
She said she wants to do everything she can to have students wanting to come to the library, and, more importantly, reading.
“I try to make it a very exciting welcoming place, and try to get a lot of different kinds of books, so that I can find some that are just right for everybody,” Bice said.
Much of the fiction section is organized by character with a picture of the main character in front of the plastic book holder housing the books.
“The shelves are so deep that the books just kind of disappear if they aren’t inside those,” Bice said.
Funding the school receives from the state for the library and funds from previous year’s book fairs paid for the improvements.
In addition to running the library at the annex, Bice is also the librarian for the high school. Making the funds stretch to accommodate both libraries can be a challenge.
“I’m trying to be wise with how I spend it,” Bice said.
In addition to the cosmetic upgrades, Bice has also upgraded the books available to students. Library Enhancement funding from the state was used to purchase $ 6,000 worth of new books.
To determine what titles to add, Bice started by looking at what the school already had and compiled a list of what students might like.
“I tried to focus on nonfiction first because those choices were so few,” Bice said.
She also gained inspiration from what students had liked at the previous school she worked at.
Bice was the Clanton Elementary School librarian for seven years. Before
that, she had taught first and second grade at Clanton Elementary.
“I thought about what the kids there really liked to read, and I tried to order some stuff like that,” Bice said.
She also purchased more books that were written for boys.
“To me, there were just more girly books than boy books,” Bice said.
Each class has a designated time to come to the library.
“Typically, when they come in I read a story first,” Bice said. “Sometimes depending on how long the story is I will have an activity that goes along with that story that they can work on while they are waiting on their turn to get a book. ”
Students select a book from the shelf then find their card on Bice’s desk, so she can scan it and check the book out for them, just like at the public library.
Fun colors, a reading rug and tables to sit at help make the Verbena Annex library a welcoming place to discover a good book.