School librarians are masters degree holders, former educators

By Chris McGuinness

Killeen Daily Herald

No matter where children in Killeen go, they are never far from a library, thanks to the staff of librarians at the Killeen Independent School District.

The district currently employs 48 librarians, who work in one or sometimes two of the libraries located in each one of KISD’s elementary, middle and high schools.

While some parents may think the school library is just a place their children go to listen to the occasional story and check out a book, the reality is that KISD’s libraries have become an integral part of a student’s academic life.

“There’s definitely a shift from what a school library is traditionally considered to be,” said Lisa Cockrell, Hay Branch Elementary School librarian. “Its becoming much more, and we are trying to branch out to keep kids excited and engaged.”

Like other librarians at KISD, Cockrell holds a master’s degree in library science and is a former educator. Cockrell said she was a special education teacher and later a reading specialist before she became Hay Branch’s librarian.

“That experience helps you to tie-in what you are doing in the library to what students are learning in the classroom,” she said.

In her first year as Hay Branch’s school librarian, Cockrell has already implemented new ideas to help the students who visit her.

This year, Cockrell began “stations,” which ties into the curriculum the various grades at Hay Branch are studying.

For example, Cockrell created a station that uses a Marble-Works play set to teach the school’s kindergarten, first- and second-graders about motion.

“It ties in to their science curriculum,” she said.

For the school’s third-graders, who are learning about genres in their classrooms, Cockrell created a station where the students must select a book, then match it to a genre using cards.

In addition to the library’s 20,000-plus books, Hay Branch also has 10 computers that allow students to conduct research.

At Killeen High School, Librarian Del Krasusky said the school’s library has 80 computers that students use primarily for research and homework.

“Technology has really come into play,” said Krasusky, who has worked in the school’s library for 35 years. “What (students) used to have to look up out of reference books is now all available to them on the computer.”

In addition to the computers, students and teachers can choose from more than 27,000 different books, magazines, newspapers and other media at the library. If they can’t find it at their school site, students can take advantage of the district’s interlibrary loan system to access nearly any item in the district.

Students can also view resource materials from their home computer via the district’s website, Krasusky said.

“It’s really all at their fingertips,” she said.

Krasusky said more than 100 students come through the library each day, but few check out books.

Krasusky said she has to stay on top of books that are popular among high school students to help keep them reading.

“If it has a vampire or a werewolf, they are all over it,” she joked.

Krasusky also said Killeen and other high school libraries have also started stocking selections of Manga, or Japanese comic books, which are popular with many teens.

“It has really become about trying to give (students) what they want.” said Krasusky. “It may end up looking a lot different from the way it used to be, but I think there will always be school libraries in some form or another.”