Bridging the Gap: Collaborative Stewardship of School Libraries and Classroom Collections by Mallory Weber

In the landscape of elementary education, school libraries and classroom collections have tremendous power to shape student reading preferences and development. Classroom teachers and school librarians can partner to create rich reading opportunities for students. Let’s consider some of the dynamics of school libraries and classroom collections.

  1. The Perils of Abundance:

A generous budget for a classroom collection is a beautiful thing.  It can also occasionally be a double-edged sword. When teachers have an extensive collection within their classrooms, they may be less inclined to take advantage of the school library.  This can be especially damaging in schools with librarians on a flexible schedule.  Under-utilizing the school library limits the diversity of books available to students, as even the most fabulously well-stocked and current classroom library can’t have the breadth of a school library.  If the classroom collection books are only to be read at school, which is a common rule, students will also miss out on the valuable experience of selecting and bringing home books to share with their families.

  1. The Content Conundrum:

Teachers, with their keen understanding of their students’ reading levels, often curate classroom collections with high quality books at an appropriate Lexile© level for their class. A common challenge arises when the content or themes of these books do not align with the developmental stage of the students. Librarians, who read tons of children’s books and professional reviews regularly, should be well-versed in diverse genres and age-appropriate content.  Librarians and teachers can work together to strike a balance between reading levels and content relevance in the development of classroom collections.

  1. Navigating Trends and Best Practices:

    Librarian job descriptions generally include staying current with trends and best practices in collection management. Collaboratively, librarians and teachers can identify gaps in classroom collections, weed out outdated or irrelevant material, and curate targeted book lists that align with educational and DEIB-related goals.  At my school, we advertise these services to teachers at end-of-year and beginning-of-year faculty meetings, and they are used heavily!
  1. Partnerships for Diverse Literacy:

    Despite occasional challenges, the interplay of school libraries and classroom collections can create a rich tapestry of reading opportunities for students. By viewing these two resources not as competitors but as complementary elements in a broader literacy strategy, teachers and librarians can collaborate to offer diverse books for students to explore in various contexts—at school, at home, independently, or with a grown-up.

When we foster a symbiotic relationship between school libraries and classroom collections, we can offer students varied and enriching reading experiences. What is the relationship between your library and your colleagues’ classroom collections? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Written by Mallory Weber, Lower School Librarian at Packer Collegiate Institute

Thanksgiving Reflections on Reading Aloud

It was a Friday afternoon before a long weekend. I had my sixth grade library class last period. Students were chatting, exchanging Thinking Putty, applying lip gloss, and fidgeting but not doing a lot of listening. We have all found ourselves in similar situations when students have better things to do than engage their minds and turn their full attention to their teacher. 

When this happens to me, I open a book. Reading aloud has the quieting, calming effect on students that focuses their attention, engages their minds, and prompts an emotional response. In this class, we were reading Flipped by Wendelin van Draanen, published 2003, in which two teenagers give their perspectives, in alternating chapters, on their friendship, their families, and how they change over the years. Slowly but surely the perpetual motion of the class settled into a quiet stillness. Even the coloring meant to help students listen slowed and then colored pencils stopped moving, hands poised over pieces of paper, when a tense moment occurred in the story. Suddenly students were invested in the story and listening intently and that’s when it felt like I had cast some magic spell over them. I was conscious of the fleeting nature of this moment and almost observed it from a bird’s eye view. 

Switch gears to a kindergarten library class with twenty students and one teacher: me. Five year old students vied for the spot on the fluffy carpet closest to the teacher’s chair and tried to squeeze into too small spaces to be close to a new friend, still unaware how their bodies overlap with others and wondering why they don’t fit. Some students lied down and stretched out, some rolled  backwards and crashed into a neighbor behind them. Some were picking the loose carpet threads out of the rug and collecting them into balls of fluff and still others were chatting happily with whomever would listen to them in what was definitely bear voices (not mouse voices). 

After a few deep, slow, class breaths and a body check, I launch into the story of the day called Sunrise Summer by Matthew Swanson and Robbi Behr, a picture book about a girl whose family travels four thousand miles from her home to spend the summer in Alaska. Summers in Alaska meant waking up at midnight to be a part of the salmon fishing crew, taking on new challenges and responsibilities that are not a part of her life back home. The tasks asked of the girl seem daunting and frightening and difficult. Imagining themselves in that role gave the kindergarteners a thrill. Once again, the vibrating energy of the class settled into stillness as students made meaningful connections to the girl’s experiences in the story. Could they do this someday? Did they ever have to wake up in the middle of the night? They remembered how that felt and were able to imagine how the character was feeling. The kindergarten students were ready for a challenging story that engaged their minds and prompted them to feel empathy for the character. 

Reading aloud, as we know, is not only for the young. I still love it when someone reads aloud to me and though I like to think I am still young, my students will tell you otherwise. As long as (young) people will listen, we should be reading aloud to them. And let’s be realistic, not all read alouds work like magic. Some days still feel like a struggle but finding the right book at the right time is worth it. I am grateful for the opportunity to share stories whenever I can.

Feel free to share your reflections on reading aloud in the comments.

World Read Aloud Day is February 7, 2024. For information and resources, go to 

For read aloud recommendations from fellow HVLA members, go to the shared HVLA Fall Meeting Notes, section on Storytime Hits: Children and Librarian Favorites

HVLA Fall Meeting Announcement

HVLA Fall Meeting: Roundtable Idea Sharing

Date and Time: Tuesday, October 24, 2023, 3:45-6:00 pm

Location: Saint Ann’s School, 129 Pierrepont Street, Brooklyn Heights, NY 11201

Happy Hour: Custom House, 139 Montague Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201

Enjoy one free drink and savor delicious snacks over delightful conversation

Kindly RSVP here.

I know you have been eagerly awaiting the announcement of the HVLA Fall Meeting. It will be an exciting and lively exchange of ideas. Pick from a menu of choices for your two roundtable discussions. Topics range from our favorite read aloud stories to best practices related to databases to curriculum ideas on Banned Books lessons. Each roundtable discussion will have a facilitator who will guide the discussion but please come prepared to share about lessons and experiences that have gone well and those that may have gone not quite as well. We can all learn from each other. What I love about this group is how we are constantly seeking out ways to improve our practice.

Our membership meetings are valuable opportunities to meet with each other and share knowledge. We are a diverse, experienced, enthusiastic group with so much to offer. Whether you have been a member of HVLA for decades or you are a brand new member, I hope you will join us in Brooklyn to participate in thought-provoking conversation and explore the possibilities of collaboration.

See you there!



It’s Wild Out There!

Dear HVLA Members,

Welcome to the 2023-2024 school year! It’s hard to believe we’ve arrived here. After summer explorations, adventures, and relaxation, I am excited to welcome students back into our school and library. 

This past Labor Day weekend, my family and I went camping at Jabe Pond near Hague, NY in the Adirondack Mountains. We were without electricity and running water but we were in an idyllic setting at the edge of a pond surrounded by fresh air, bird calls, and wild animals. Hiking into our primitive site proved more eventful than we anticipated. We had to traverse a bog, navigate the path after the trail ended, and my husband even had to survive a standoff with a five foot timber rattlesnake. A scary and potentially dangerous situation. Once again we were reminded that nature, while peaceful and restorative, demands our respect. 

As educators, we ask students to do things that are challenging and occasionally scary for them. It’s important to remember how that feels in order to be able to guide them through it. On the first day of school, we will show up in our schools and libraries carrying our own unique feelings and experiences from this past summer and of course our lives. I hope HVLA can support all of your work connecting with your students, teachers, staff, administrators, and families. The work you all do to develop comprehensive library collections that reflect the communities you serve and show the diversity of peoples’ experiences, while advocating for intellectual freedom, is invaluable. Not to mention the safe and welcoming spaces you create so that everyone feels they belong in the library. Thank you for all your hard work and dedication. 

I wish everyone a smooth and joyful start of the school year. I know this is some people’s favorite time of year (new notebooks and pens and pencils!) and some people’s least favorite time (grieving the end of summer). How ever you show up on the first day, I hope you find connection and joy. I especially hope you’ll find these at our Fall HVLA meeting (October date TBA). It’s going to be a great year!


Amy Chow, President

Looking for a book recommendation? Here’s what the HVLA board enjoyed during the summer:

Dune by Frank Herbert. It was time to read the book that inspired the movies. I love both the 1984 film with Kyle MacLachlan, Patrick Stewart and Sting and the 2021 film with Timothée Chalamet. Now reading Dune Messiah while I await the release of Dune: Part Two. ~Amy Chow, President

This summer I read a book titled Glory: Magical Visions of Black Beauty. I checked it out of the public library and renewed it twice. I have since purchased a copy for my own personal library collection. The photos and stories are stunning. I also enjoyed that it is a book you don’t have to read in order; you can literally just flip to a page you like and read the excerpt written about each model.  ~Ayana Mbaye, Co-Vice President

Like many of you, I view summer as an opportunity to read as much as time allows. Amy asked us to write about one book that we liked for the blog post–too hard! My favorites this summer include Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson where I traveled to 1926 London and spent time with Nellie Corker and her seamy entourage in a variety of Jazz clubs. The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris was also a favorite. This novel takes place in Georgia in the days after the Emancipation Proclamation–it follows two formerly enslaved brothers, Prentiss and Landry, and the white man who encountered them camping on his land. Lastly, The Last Animal by Ramona Ausubel was a great read featuring a woman and her two daughters grieving over the death of their husband/father. A lot happens, but the most exciting part involves a wooly mammoth. ~Ragan O’Malley, Co-Vice President

Passport by Sophia Glock ~Gwen Kaplan, Membership and Financial Coordinator

Girl Woman Other by Bernadine Evaristo ~Mallory Weber, Communications Coordinator

To find out what Elaine Levia, Secretary, read during the summer, you must seek her out at the Fall Meeting and ask her!

Introducing the 2023-2024 HVLA Board!

Thank you so much to those who stepped up in the board search! As we move forward as the Hudson Valley Library Association, the Board of Directors is here to help. Learn a little about us them below.

Amy Chow, President

Amy Chow (she/her) is a librarian at The Brearley School serving kindergarten through twelfth grade students. Amy was born in Taiwan and grew up in Canada. She has a Bachelor of Music from McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, and obtained her M.L.I.S. from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She has been a young adult and children’s librarian at The Toronto Public Library and The New York Public Library. Her interests include dragons, camping and, of course, books. When she’s not reading fantasy novels, she enjoys playing with her dog and two guinea pigs. She lives with her family in Brooklyn, NY. 

Ayana Mbaye, Co-Vice President

Ayana Mbaye is a 6-12th grade librarian at Professional Children’s School. She obtained her MLIS with a specialization in school librarianship from Pratt Institute. She began her library career at the NYPL for the Performing Arts library at the age of 17. Since then, she has worked in an academic library and various independent schools in NYC. She has even taken her librarianship skills abroad to teach students and collaborate with educators in the Samburu region of Kenya. She loves the Wizarding World, wildlife, visiting museums, traveling and her 12 year old mainecoon Brooke.

Ragan O’Malley, Co-Vice President

Ragan O’Malley has been Head Librarian at Saint Ann’s School longer than she cares to admit. The likely reason for her long tenure is that it’s the perfect job–spending her days surrounded by children and books in a school with no grades is hard to beat. She first obtained a Masters in Comparative Literature from Rutgers University and then followed up with a MLIS from Pratt Institute. She is the mother of three grown children (the last time she served on the board of HVLA she had three young children). She is an avid reader and crafter and has been known to do both at the same time (yay audiobooks!).

Elaine Levia, Secretary

Elaine Levia is a High School Librarian and House Advisor at The Dalton School. A native Californian, Elaine majored in Feminist Studies at UC Santa Cruz and completed her MSLIS at UCLA. While interning at the Windward School, she became enamored with ~*the teens*~ in all their joyful, determined glory and decided to pursue a career in progressive education. Out of the stacks and classroom, Elaine enjoys biking, baking, Pilates, and keeps up a sporadic writing practice. She’s getting into hiking and backpacking, and will most likely take a memoir, chapbook, and novel out with her wherever she ventures.

Gwen Kaplan, Membership & Financial Coordinator

Gwen Kaplan is a Lower Division Librarian at the Horace Mann School. As an undergrad at the University of Pennsylvania, she was interested in so many different topics that she realized the library was the place to be! Since completing her MSLIS and School Library Certification at Drexel University, she has served as a librarian at Abington Friends School and Saint David’s School. She loves it when children ask “why?” and she is usually reading at least a couple of nonfiction books and mystery novels. A graduate school repeat offender, she is currently indulging her curiosity by working on a M.A. in American History, which means she has deep empathy for every student up against a deadline. In between parenting, teaching, and studying, she uses a time turner to make opportunities for quilting and baking.

Mallory Weber, Communications Coordinator

Mallory Weber is a Lower School Librarian at Packer Collegiate Institute.  She has a BA in Sociology & Philosophy from Smith College and an MLIS from CUNY Queens College.  She is also a Summer Immersion Program Instructor for Girls Who Code, a member of the NEIT organizing committee, and a reviewer for School Library Journal.  In her free time she really enjoys NYT crossword puzzles, playing basketball, running, biking, and hanging out with her cat.