Library goes virtual with new tools for students

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Photo courtesy of: Acacia Moraes-Diniz

The WHHS library sits empty while students learn from home. Librarians Acacia Moraes-Diniz, Ellen Wathen and Margo Fisher-Bellman have created virtual alternatives for students to use.

Students crave a peaceful environment where they can work on projects, homework, ask for help, or just read a book. The WHHS library has been providing a place for just this and more since 1895.

Many students spend time before school, during study hall and after school in the library. However, due to remote learning, going to the library in person is no longer an option. 

Librarians Acacia Moraes-Diniz, Ellen Wathen and Margo Fisher-Bellman are facing the challenge of helping students with everything they would come to the library for, virtually. Preparing for the 2020-2021 school year was not easy between COVID-19 precautions, family life and arranging virtual resources. 

New to the WHHS library this year is Margo Fisher-Bellman. After 19 years of teaching English, Fisher-Bellman made the switch to being a librarian.

 “I actually used to play library when I was a child, my mom still has some of the books, I used to catalog children’s books, and I made little cards and stamps. So I’ve always been a book lover, I’ve always loved being around libraries,” Fisher-Bellman said about her switch from being an English teacher to being a librarian. 

Returning librarians this year are Acacia Moraes-Diniz and Ellen Wathen. Diniz has been at WHHS for six years and Wathen for 20 years. Sallie Barringer retired this past year after working at other libraries and WHHS for 35 years. 

“That’s a big change but changes are good. I think for sure Mrs. Bellman will be wonderful for the library. She’s already done so much. I’m just amazed how much she’s done. It’s unbelievable,” Wathen said.

Right now one of the biggest challenges the librarians are facing is knowing if students need help and how to reach those who do need it. 

“We don’t have that study hall, every day [in] contact so obviously, for the kids who maybe are feeling a little hesitant to reach out and ask for help, it’s harder for us to tell whether [they] need our help,” Diniz said. 

When WHHS switches to a blended model another concern is making sure everyone has access to the library. Due to the limited number of seats available, there will be fewer students coming in each day. 

“I worry about making sure that everybody gets a chance to come here in and get the help that they need and the space that they need,” Diniz said. 

In the meantime students can meet with librarians from 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday through Google Meet by entering the code “libary_office_hour”. 

Another new resource this year is the website Destiny Discover which has links to class assignments and databases. The library website also contains information about projects and provides technology help.

Students can also connect with the library through their new Instagram page, @walnuthillshighschoollibrary and Youtube channel, Walnut Hills High School Library.  

“We established an Instagram account in order to provide book reviews and offer opportunities for students to engage with us in social media.” Fisher-Bellman said.

Despite all these efforts, this school year is nothing like what students have experienced in the past. 

“My advice would be to find the helpers, you know. We are a significant source of help right now with our Google Meet that’s available every day so I would just keep reaching out to people. Don’t let yourself get too isolated. It’s not good for your brain, it’s not good for your heart,” Fisher-Bellman said.

“Keep reading books for pleasure and for class of course. And if you have to read ebooks. That’s okay. Just because the books aren’t around and available as much. Don’t neglect them and spend too much time watching the screens, instead of reading a book,” Wathen said.