Shark Story: Ms. Olshewsky

Madison Castello, Staff Writer

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Ms. Olshewsky, or as most know her Ms. O, has been vital to keeping our school library running smoothly and helping our students find any essential resources needed for them to succeed. She is well-known for her love of books and her devotion to making our school such a great place. If you have any questions on available resources or book recommendations, she’ll be there always ready to help.

What was your first impression when coming to Santiago?

“I first saw Santiago during registration/textbook check-out, which is a crazy time. I had already spoken with Mr. Bond and had a good impression both about the familial feeling at Santiago and about our commitment to supporting the information literacy needs of all of our students, from students with special needs to reluctant readers/learners to those students already committed to learning and self-improvement. My first impression was one of the vast size of the student body, staff, campus, and more. This is the largest high school with which I’ve worked in three decades in education. When I started, the need for someone to fill the teacher-librarian position was evident. The position had been open for a little while, and I started after the school year had already begun. We had to wait for my previous employer Santa Clara County Office of Education to be willing to release me. I was eager to get started and help connect students to the reading materials and research resources they need. It has taken a little longer for me to learn the many areas where we achieve and seek greater excellence. Frankly, I’m still learning about the many assets and endeavors across our school.”

What is your favorite part of being a librarian? What led you to choose this career?

“I love helping learners understand the information creation process, the value of information and the inquiry research process. When students begin to understand scholarship as a conversation and their role in it and become strategic with their inquiry – that’s a triumph! I love helping learners develop their skills to find the information they need, evaluate it, organize it, and use it creatively and ethically, not only for their classes but to find out more about what personally interests them. I also love sharing the love of reading. The more we read (anything), the more we can read everything – if students develop their ability and interest in reading, they will be able to accomplish more in their classes. We worry about not having enough time to read for pleasure, but reading for pleasure develops our literacy skills so that we can read to learn better. A number of years ago, I was running a Battle of the Books program in Tulare County. I had a parent approach me in tears. Her 8th-grade daughter had literally never read a book before participating in Battle of the Books. She had joined her school club team that year as something to do because a friend was doing it, even though she had never read a full book, cover to cover. Because of her involvement with her team, she read books for the first time. She had been getting Ds and D-s and was in danger of failing her classes on a regular basis. By the end of the year, she had a B- average and all of her teachers had commented on her improvement. Theoretically, she had less time to do her schoolwork, because she was reading a lot, for the first time ever. Instead, because she was reading and thinking about reading differently, she improved her literacy skills and was finding all of her schoolwork easier. I think reading fiction, as well as nonfiction, is also important. Reading about people with similarities to us can help us understand ourselves better and see new opportunities for ourselves, and reading about those different from us helps us develop our understanding and empathy for others and the world around us. Reading about how others overcome difficulties can help us build resources and strategies to overcome difficulties that we face now and provide insight when we encounter travails in the future.”

How have you seen libraries change since you first started teaching?

“Our tools have changed, but the intent has stayed the same, literacy of all kinds. When I started teaching in 1988, libraries were just beginning to be places that introduced digital tools along with print media to further learners information literacy. At that time, much of our early electronic media came on laser discs, floppy disks, and then CD-ROMs. Databases were being built in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but they were not as well developed as the databases that we have available for students now. When I was in high school, we had to use print indices to find which magazines or other reference materials had the information we needed. Then, we would use microfiche or microfilm or bound volumes of journals and newspapers and other media or find the volume we needed of Twentieth Century Literary Criticism or like resources. In 1985, I worked with the conversion of card catalog cards at my University to an online cataloging and circulation system, before that, I had only used card catalogs – so many of our tools have changed. Then we went through a period of time where we assumed that everything would become digital. Today, we realize that both are essential and work toward having libraries where the digital and physical media are used strategically together to meet learners’ needs. Libraries have always been places of inquiry, the inclusion of diverse ideas and perspectives, places of collaboration, organized to facilitate exploration and engagement; we just keep trying to do that better with whatever tools we have at hand. I do think there’s a new emphasis on libraries being places of creation, although we’ve always been places of scholarly creation. Researchers put together next steps to contribute to their field in a library, but now there is also the opportunity to extend that idea of scholarly creation to other creation, or at least extend the idea of what scholarly creation can be. Many libraries create Makerspaces, and I’d love to do that for our learners in the coming years.”

What is one thing most students don’t know about the library?

“Wow! I’m not sure I can narrow it to one thing. Every day one or more students say that they didn’t know xyz about our library when they find out something new. There are a lot of tricks and supports for the databases linked from our library homepage, but that seems too particular. It’s a really simple thing, but I’d say that most students don’t know that they can renew their own library books, and put their own holds on library books they want, just by logging into Destiny Library catalog. Really, I think the most important thing for them to know before the summer is that there is a lot of our library that is available throughout the summer. They can use all of our ebooks and audiobooks and databases throughout the summer. If they forget how to get to them, they can always find them under MyCNUSD Destiny Library and choose Santiago. If the usernames and passwords are different than their school ID/email and password for a given database, the username/ password is listed right there. We just added a new database today, so unless I’ve told you about it or Mrs. Beyer has mentioned it, you definitely don’t know about it yet. It’s called Digital Theatre + database and it has videos of play productions and technical information for theater, so if you’re ever studying Shakespeare and want more, you could see a variety of performances of the play or read the play as a Manga comic online. There are many plays by many playwrights, not just Shakespeare. Check it out: https://www.digitaltheatreplus.com/user/  password= santiagohs. Again, you can find this and all of our databases on our Destiny library homepage through your MyCNUSD apps.”

What can you tell us about the eBook program? How does it work and is it available to everyone?

“Our eBooks and Audiobooks are available to everyone at Santiago High School, and you can use them during the summer. You can go directly to http://cnusd.lib.overdrive.com/ , but if you don’t happen to remember that, there’s a link on the school’s library page and also in Destiny Library on your MyCNUSD apps. You can read the ebooks and audiobooks on your phone, a tablet, or a computer. They’ve introduced a new app for phones and tablets that has fewer steps, so if you haven’t already started using the ebooks and audiobooks, I’d use the new app. It’s called Sora. You can add it to your phone or tablet to download the materials to use when you aren’t connected to the internet- but you don’t need to use an app at all as long as you are online. You can just stream the book straight into your browser. If you are logged onto a school computer, the system logs you in automatically. If you are not on a school computer, you use your school email [email protected] and your school password to log in. You can request books if we don’t have them yet, right through the app, and we purchase them, on a monthly basis, but if you are eager for something, and you tell me, I can often get it for you by the next day, sometimes even later that day, a lot faster than I can get you the physical book in our library. That also works if you are waiting on hold for something and it looks like it may be a while, if you let me know, I can often get a second copy. If you are on hold for that title, it will check out to you as soon as it is added. You don’t have to worry about checking these books in, they check themselves back in after the loan period, and if you want to keep it longer, you can renew it right through the app or online as long as no one else has it on hold. It warns you when you are close to the end of your loan period and offers a renewal option. Please let me know if you want more information about these. I’m happy to walk you through the process. Even when we’re closed for AP testing, if I’m not proctoring, I can come to meet you at your class if your teacher emails me. I’m always happy to do whatever it takes to support your reading and research.”

How often does the library receive new novels? Is there a way to request a certain book to be ordered?

“We receive 4-5 new books on a monthly basis. Additionally, we order books that are needed for a particular purpose or that students and teachers want intermittently. This year, funds for new books dried up before Christmas, but Mr. Bond is determined that we can do better to support our students’ needs and has committed to additional funding so that we can regularly order books, including those students, request on a regular basis, next year. You can tell me or Mrs. Filla or any of our TAs that you’d like to request a book. If you requested a book this year that we were unable to purchase because of a budget shortfall, please request it again in the fall. Mr. Bond asked that we start fresh with student requests for next year. It does take a little while for us to get the books requested into our library, because of the district ordering process. I want to make sure that all of our students know that, in addition to our library, each of you has access to the Corona Public Library. Your student number is also your library card CNUSD+your school ID number. They can even take your ID number verbally and confirm details if you don’t have your ID with you when you are at the library. If they don’t have a book you want in their system, they have a brand new program –  Zipbooks. If the public library does not have a copy of the book you want to read, they will order it and the book is delivered to your house, and then you return the book to the public library like any other library book when it is due. You have to place your Zipbook request in person at the public library. This would be a great service for everyone to use throughout the summer. Additionally, there are programs and events happening at the public library that you may want to use, both Makerspace programs and reading challenges.”

What can you tell us about the book club? How often do they meet and where?

“The book club started this year and was formed by students to discuss and share books and their enjoyment of reading. They have been meeting on Thursdays during Office Hours in the library, library classroom or the library conference room. We’ve had our last meeting in the library for the year, but we’ll be meeting again next year. This Saturday, (May 4th) we’re heading to a book festival in Santa Monica called Yallwest! where we will hear authors speak, get books signed, play games related to books, and more. There’s even a Quidditch match for Harry Potter fans. This year, the book club decided to discuss books they were currently reading or other books that they’ve enjoyed rather than having everyone read the same book at the same time. It’s up to the club to decide what they will choose to do in the future.”

Does the book club have a required reading list? What do they discuss at the meetings?

“The book club has not had a required reading list. While there may come a time when they all decide to read the same book, I think that’s as close as it would get. It’s not about reading for an assignment, it’s about reading for enjoyment. Usually, they discuss what they are currently reading, but they’ve also discussed books (not necessarily ones that they are currently reading) by genre, or author, etc. One meeting became a discussion of favorite/ memorable childhood books and experiences reading when they were young.”

What is your all-time favorite book/book series? And why?

“Oh my goodness, I can never choose one. I don’t even usually read one book at a time anymore, although for many years that was how I read. I love reading so many books. At this point in my life, I’m usually reading several different books (that aren’t too similar) at the same time, and I read the next part of the one I’m most in the mood for at a given time. Usually, I have some professional reading in the mix and a lot of books both fiction and nonfiction that might be of interest to students. Today, I was reading Archenemies by Marissa Meyers, which is the second book in the Renegades series – we don’t have it yet, but we will. I listened to it on my commute to work this morning, after reading some of it along with breakfast this morning (I have breakfast before the rest of my family is awake), and I may read some at lunch today, too. I will probably use the audiobook, ebook, and physical book of that title at some point during the day today. I’m also likely to pick up and read a graphic novel and/ or one of the nonfiction books I’m reading sometime this evening…but I almost never read nonfiction or graphic novels right before I fall asleep, and I always have to read a little something (not too disturbing) right before I fall asleep. I really am an avid reader, aka book geek. My favorite books from my childhood are mostly classics like Lord of the Rings, the Oz books, The Narnia Chronicles, the Prydain Chronicles, books by Louisa May Alcott, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Madeleine L’Engle, and others. Over the last couple of decades, I mostly read contemporary books with a smattering of older titles. In the last couple of years, some of my favorites have been: The Poet X, The Hate U Give, We Are Okay, Little and Lion, Strange the Dreamer and it’s sequel Muse of Nightmares, The March trilogy, The Scythe series, Refugee, The First Rule of Punk, The Children of Blood and Bone, The Edge of the Universe, Dear Martin, The Shadowshaper series, All American Boys, How It Went Down, The Sun is Also a Star, I’ll Give You the Sun, The Night Diary, anything by David Levithan or John Green or Becky Albertalli or Margarita Engle or Jason Reynolds or Neil Gaiman, and more…I really, really have a hard time narrowing to even a few favorites. Happy reading to all – I’d love to talk books with you or recommend a book that you might enjoy.”

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