Volunteers to the rescue at the Briscoe Middle School library

April 13, 2012

The superheroes of the Briscoe Middle School library aren’t just found inside books.

They’re also the real-life volunteers who staff the library daily to help students check out books and find the resources they need to complete classroom work.

Briscoe Librarian Lori Barfknecht put out a call for help last year, after library assistant positions were lost because of budget cuts. She was hoping for a handful of volunteers but was instead inundated by parents and community members wanting to donate their time.

A luncheon will be held in their honor this month, which happens to be School Library Month. Earlier this year, the volunteers were featured in an NISD-TV story.

The volunteers, pictured, are just one example of how NISD libraries continue to meet the needs of students – and stay on the cutting edge of technology – despite budget cuts.

A major step forward this year has been establishing a Northside ISD Digital Library, which provides access to more than 6,000 downloadable eBooks, audiobooks, and music 24/7 for middle school and high school students, as well as NISD staff members. A beginning elementary collection has been added as well, in anticipation of expanding this access to elementary students next year.

And NISD libraries also have been taking advantage of Skype to connect with authors and deliver lessons in multiple locations simultaneously.

“The great news is that with the infusion of technology and digital materials, the Northside ISD library program extends far beyond the brick and mortar library walls,” said Joyce Stevens, Director of Academic Technology and Library & Textbook Services.

And the Briscoe Middle School library remains a full-service student resource, thanks to some old-fashioned human interaction. Librarian Lori Barfknecht said she wouldn’t be able to handle all of the library’s operations without help from some outstanding volunteers.

“The kids are doing research, they're on the computers, they're checking out books. They have lots of questions and there needs to be someone manning the desk at all times,” Barfknecht said. “I go to faculty meetings, I work with different departments to plan lessons in the library, so there's no way I could do all of that if I didn’t have my volunteers.”

The volunteers say they just want to give something back to the school that gives so much to their children.

“It’s actually great because our children are excited when we’re volunteering, and we are excited to volunteer because we can’t give back in a monetary way, but we can give back with our time and with our talents,” parent volunteer Mary Lou Thompson said. “A lot of the ladies that volunteer here are creative, they're artistic, so it all comes together with great personalities and a will to want to make a difference in the school.”

Any parent or community member who wants to celebrate School Library Month – whose theme this year is “You Belong @ Your Library” – by volunteering at a school library can contact any NISD campus.