The Library at Liberty

The library plays a very important role in the Liberty community. However, many students don’t know much about it or its staff.

Ella+Gilbert%2C+sophomore%2C+searching+for+a+book+to+check+out+from+the+library.

Taya Zapf

Ella Gilbert, sophomore, searching for a book to check out from the library.

Most Liberty students will recognize the welcoming faces of Jan Smith, Ryan Swails, Greg Vraspier, and Kurtis Watts, four individuals who make up the Liberty library staff. However, many students are unaware of all that the library does and offers. When many students think of the library, they think of checking out textbooks for class, printing papers, and maybe even checking out books for pleasure reading. Many are unaware of the myriad of other services the library offers and all the staff does.

The Liberty library is a central part of the Liberty community. However, oftentimes the staff’s work is “behind the scenes,” seemingly ambiguous to students. Thus, many students are unaware of the magnitude of the library’s impact. Each library staff member plays an important role in making sure Liberty runs smoothly on a day to day basis and cultivating a positive culture at Liberty.

Kurtis Watts is Liberty’s tech support specialist and has been since the school’s first years.

“I am the only contact point in the building for tech issues. I help with any issues with chromebooks, classroom tech, or really anything tech related in the building,” said Watts.

Though he helps students, teachers, and administrators around Liberty, his home base is in the library. Watts believes one of the best parts of his job is the people he works with.

“It’s a great group of people and the library has a great culture,” he said.

One of those people is Swails, the library’s media secretary. Though he didn’t always know he’d end up working in a library, Swails has always had a love for books, especially graphic novels.

“I’m the graphic novel guy. I’ve really been building up [the graphic novel] area of the library… We’re trying to show kids that there is a different way of reading,” said Swails.

His position is somewhat all encompassing.

“… anything pertaining to books, posters, film, music, podcasts, pretty much anything that is media I can help with,” he described.

Greg Vraspier is the library secretary. Having worked in the education system for decades, Vraspier naturally found his way to the library.

“I worked as a social studies teacher for over 25 years,” he said. “I was always in the library trying to educate myself about the history books available.”

Vraspier was in the library so much that the librarian at the school that Vraspier previously worked at started teaching him how to run certain parts of the library.

“There was a running joke that I was a wannabe librarian,” joked Vraspier.

Not long after, Vraspier earned a position in the Liberty library. Somewhat similarly to Swails, Vraspier position covers a lot.

The Liberty library’s official Instagram page. (Leela Strand)

“I am the library secretary but I almost view myself as being the building secretary. I, and the rest of the library [staff], play a role in helping nearly all departments in the building,” described Vraspier.

Vraspier and Swails work closely together on many roles of the library. For example, many classes do projects in the library. Vraspeier and Swails will make sure they have the needed materials and are set up for success. They are also in charge of ordering many of the library’s new books, keeping the library organized, working with teachers to check out textbooks or books for a class assignment, and much more.

“We like to describe [our workflow] as ‘feast and famine’,” said Vraspier. “The ‘feasts’ are the times of high stress, when there is a big push to accomplish tasks. For example, we often receive [somewhat] last minute class-wide book checkout requests from teachers and if [it is] at all possible, we always [accept the request] and make it work… The ‘famines’ are the slower times. [During these times] there’s still lots to do, it’s just not as high stress. We check out books to [individual] kids, organize the library, and do more of the behind the scenes work.”

Jan Smith is the official Liberty librarian. However, she considers herself a “teacher-librarian”. Having been an English teacher for over 25 years, she hopes to bring that experience into her current work.

“I never want to lose the teaching aspect of my job,” she explained.

Smith was the fourth staff member hired at Liberty. Being such an early hire, she played a large part in designing the library. Along with working to build a beautiful library, Smith has worked to build a good culture in the library.

“[I think what sets our library apart is] first our philosophy: ‘yes we can’. I’ve really tried to encourage library staff [to employ] the mindset that we will help anyone in any way we can… I also think our library is absolutely beautiful,” said Smith.

Smith’s position also covers a lot. She is in charge of building the library’s collection of books, working with teachers on projects which take part in the library (for example all freshmen participate in the Quest project in the library), and much more.

She continuously works to make the library a safe space for all students.

“I know the library is a safe space for many students and we welcome and encourage that. I hope when students come in they feel safe, cared about, and respected… Students need a safe space to find information,” reflected Smith.

I know the library is a safe space for many students and we welcome and encourage that. I hope when students come in they feel safe, cared about, and respected.”

— Jan Smith

Outside of providing a large and diverse collection of books to students, the library also offers many other services. These include, printing, laminating, and other such services as well as rooms designated to certain activities for students. The bolt labs are designated for classroom research as well as being safe spaces for students who need to take a mental health break. Rooms A, B, and C are study rooms. The broadcasting room is equipped with a green screen, teleprompter, and is virtually sound proof. However, perhaps the most overlooked specialized room is the makerspace.

“The makerspace is for anyone who wants to make anything, big, small, or something in between. We have students that will make buttons… posters in there. [The makerspace] has 3D printers so [anyone] can code things and create, we have Crickets, sewing machines, coloring books, and more… really anything you want to make, you can… We’re trying to push more people to use it to create,” Swails explained.

The library is a great resource to students and the library staff want to do all they can to help students with almost anything they may need.

“We’re here to help, to support, to enrich, to do whatever we can to help everybody. We are here for [the students]. That’s the bottom line,” remarked Vraspier.

In a final message to students at Liberty, Swails encouraged students to use the resources the library has to offer.

“Just come on by and see what we’ve got. We’re not scary. We want to help and we’ll do just about anything you guys need from us.”

The Liberty library is an essential part of Liberty as a whole. From the staff to the resources, the library is a place for everyone no matter if you need help with something, or you just want to hang out during an open period. The library and its staff members play a key role in the Liberty community and the building wouldn’t be the same without them.

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