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Seaford librarian earns sustainability certification

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“Libraries have to change to stay current with the times,” said Seaford High School librarian Joanna McCloskey, who has never shied away from adapting her program to better support students and teachers in an ever-changing world.

McCloskey was recognized for her work by becoming the first school librarian in the state to complete the Sustainable Library Certification Program through the New York Library Association. According to the association, librarians receiving the sustainable certification have demonstrated leadership in program and service design with a critical eye towards environmental stewardship, economic feasibility and social equity.

In Seaford, McCloskey is the district’s library liaison. In that role, she connects with other school librarians throughout Nassau County and also maintains a strong relationship with the Seaford Public Library. She had extensive input into the renovation of all four libraries in the district from 2016 to 2018. There were several upgrades to the high school library including new carpet, a fresh coat of paint, the installation of curved bookshelves, a new circulation desk and new reading area.

Old furniture was replaced with lightweight tables and chairs, all on wheels, which can be moved around to create different seating arrangements. The moveable furniture is one of the most important aspects, McCloskey noted, as the library hosts events such as art shows, guest speakers and research symposiums.

One of the functions of sustainability is to continuously update the collection. McCloskey explained that it is important for school libraries to have books that contain current information and appeal to today’s generation of readers, while also leaving a place on the shelves for the classics that appeal from one generation to the next. 

A library must have a strong digital presence, with resources that students can access from their computers, wherever they are. The library has a wealth of online databases with information in all subject areas. McCloskey’s digital newsletters contain links to book trailers to help students find exciting reading material.

The coronavirus pandemic accelerated plans to create a fully digital library. McCloskey now offers online office hours in which students can log on through Microsoft Teams with their research questions. All of her research tutorials are available on the library’s website and magazine subscriptions are now digital through Flipster and Scholastic. Additional titles in eBook format were purchased this year. She also created an app for students to download to their phones to quickly access library resources.

McCloskey joined the district in 2000 as the librarian at Seaford Harbor Elementary School and moved to the high school in 2002, where she was the school’s teacher of the year in 2013-14. She said that earning the sustainability certification, for which she will be recognized at New York Library Association’s annual conference in November, was the next step in her continuous goal of creating an information center that best serves the school community.

“It is my hope that more libraries embrace this, because it is just so invigorating,” she said. “It represents the future for libraries which, in my opinion, have to grow and change. Earning the sustainability certification was so professionally enriching.”

Tom Lynch, the district’s executive director of instructional technology and STEM, oversees the library program and said it is a great honor for Seaford High School to have the first sustainable school library.

“Ms. McCloskey strives to make the high school library a continued resource for faculty and students amidst the restraints imposed by the pandemic,” he said. “She continually looks to update the library catalog as well as broaden the availability of digital resources. Teachers and students view Ms. McCloskey as a ready resource for instruction and research.”

Provided by the Seaford School District. Compiled by Brian Stieglitz