New Blair media center staff member welcomed after filling vacancy

Dec. 11, 2019, 2:49 p.m. | By Jasmine Ali | 2 years, 5 months ago

How Sandie Angulo Chen is helping Blair's library expand its outreach to students

Blair's school library is a safe haven for those looking for a quiet space to study or relax. For the first few months of the school year, the media center was understaffed with only three faculty members. This limited Blair students from doing things such as checking out chromebooks because there simply weren't enough adults to supervise. However, there is a new library staff member, Sandie Angulo Chen, starting just this month who will be helping out in the media center.

Media center staff are hopeful that with another staff member, many tasks will be able to be accomplished. "There'll be two hours where [Angulo Chen] can really help us with organizing and getting ready and paying bills and doing all the kind of stuff we need to do so that we can open the door for you," Lamphier explains.

Angulo Chen is an active Blair parent and chose to apply for the media assistant job based on her experience reviewing young adult movies and books in publications like "Common Sense Media" and the KidsPost section in The Washington Post along with her involvement in nonprofit "We Need More Diverse Books". "The fact that I can work in a library, even though it is just part-time, is ideal for me because I'm so familiar with young adult literature and books that are aimed at students this age," Angulo Chen says.

Before Angulo Chen arrived, some media center services weren't available, such as checking out chromebooks. "We have over 3000 students, so it's difficult to supervise and help the sheer number of students we have at the same time," Lamphier explains. Media center staff are ready to roll out chromebooks again, getting many students to sign chromebook contracts even before Angulo Chen started working. "We've already started giving students chromebook contracts and giving them their stickers to try to eliminate the long line at the very beginning," Lamphier says.

When Raul Caldas transferred to another Montgomery County school this past year, he left a vacancy at Blair's media center. Remaining staff members juggled much of the work required to run the library. Having limited staff makes it difficult to complete these administrative tasks in addition to running the library on a daily basis. "Instead of being able to do what we would need to do to keep things moving so kids could see lots more new stuff coming out, we were just hanging in there by a thread," Media specialist Andrea Lamphier says.

Student aides have helped media center staff balance both the managerial and over the desk work. "We have a lot of pretty dedicated student aides who helped first thing in the morning, which makes a real difference," Lamphier says. While student aides are valuable, the new library staff member will make the biggest contribution to running the media center.

Photo: A busy day at Blair's media center, with students checking out chromebooks, computers and focusing on schoolwork (courtesy of Sydney Hastings-Wilkins). Photo courtesy of Sydney Hastings-Wilkins.

Angulo Chen will be a welcome addition to Blair's media center, but even with her hiring, it still does not completely solve the Blair library's understaffing issue. Blair's media center has been understaffed for years. The Montgomery County Education Association and Board of Education of Montgomery County's school contract strongly suggests that there should be one media center specialist for every 500 students in a secondary school. However, Blair only has one media specialist for the whole school. Lamphier hopes that in the future, the Blair library will get more staff members. "I hope it will get better. I think Blair students and staff deserve better," Lamphier says.

While the media center's workload will continue to build, the staff are hoping to do more student outreach this year. In the past year, Angulo Chen worked on Blair's first Teen Book Fair, in which different authors held workshops and book signings. "I have helped with the students that started a teen book fair and then I hope that this year they get even more authors that can come and talk to the students," Angulo Chen says. Angulo Chen plans to work at Blair's media center for a long time, viewing it as her ideal job. "I don't have any plans to go anywhere else. It's a perfect job because I can work here, and then also do my freelance writing when I get home," Angulo Chen says.

The understaffing of Blair's media center is an issue, and while it will continue for the foreseeable future, with new staff member Angulo Chen hired, she hopes to bring her passion for literature to get more kids interested in books, along with the rest of the library staff. "There's a lot of great work out there that students this age could be reading, and authors that could be really meaningful to students," Angulo Chen says.

Last updated: Dec. 11, 2019, 2:49 p.m.

Tags: library media center Chromebooks

Jasmine Ali. staff writer More »

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