By Ryan Harris
Since it opened its doors to students six years ago, SLA has had four different librarians. The most recent full-time librarian, Joshua Newman, started at SLA as the librarian and then music teacher in the 2010-2011 school year. However, due to budget cuts imposed by the School District of Philadelphia, he along with other a number of other SLA teachers, faculty and programs were elminiated.
When asked recently how he felt about being let go, Mr. Newman replied that, “employment is never a guarantee and things happen that are beyond anyone’s control. It cemented an idea in my head that was larger than my own situation, and that feeling was, ‘this educational system is broken.’”
In the wake of Mr. Newman leaving, students and even teachers were overcome with confusion and sadness. “I felt like we lost something really valuable. He played a huge part in revitalizing SLA’s music scene. now that’s he’s gone, I don’t see anyone playing instruments the way they used to.” says Abe Musselman, a junior at SLA.
At the same time he lost his job, Mr. Newman was expecting a child on top of having to find new employment. “Its not just about me and what makes me happy, but a new responsibility in my life taking hold,” he said.
His son William was born at the end of last school year, and Mr. Newman is now the librarian of Olney Charter High School. “The school is not much like SLA,” he said of his new placement. ‘It’s a neighborhood school, so most everyone comes from this area. There were big problems with truancy, fights, and gang activity.”
As for his experiences at SLA, Newman says that his year at the school “was amazing for me, because I have these dual passions of pursuing library science and music, and I got to engage in both and call it a job.”
He also complimented the students at SLA. “Not every High School student is as gregarious as your average SLA student, and I really value the model that is established there. It is a tremendous place. And getting to play music with students and faculty was very rewarding.”
Now in the new school year, the new “librarian” is Brenda Chhin, a senior. Although she isn’t being paid for her job, she and other parent volunteers fill the spot of Newman. As the librarian she’s faced with the burden of handling books, dealing with students, among other things.
When asked about the current state of the library she responded with: “At times, I get frustrated due to students not following simple rules such as no eating, pick up your trash. It’s pretty frustrating.”
While it’s her Capstone, she doesn’t feel that it is something she’d like to pursue as a final senior project. “I wanted to help out in the school just to be more involved and Lehmann was wondering if it could have been a capstone.”
Chhin has tried to keep the traditions that Newman created, such as First Friday, no food in the library, and respecting the music room and its contents. However, she admits that “without a real librarian, it is kind of tough. No student will listen to a student.”
One can see where she’s coming from. Most high students will only listen to people they identify as teachers or a high authority figure. As of now our library is the good hands with Chhin, but it’s not something that she will be able to continue with once she graduates. Students and staff are both hoping that a full-time librarian can be restored to SLA in the coming years.