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The City Journals

Hillcrest’s old library has ‘treasures’ that will be treasured in new library

Feb 18, 2021 01:42PM ● By Julie Slama

Hillcrest High teacher-librarian Suzanne Riches spent the time sorting books as she gears up to move the library to the new school library when it will be ready within one year. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

When Hillcrest High’s positive COVID-19 count reached the point that the school flipped to online learning around Thanksgiving, teacher-librarian Suzanne Riches made good use of the quiet time in the school library.

Riches, with two other part-time librarians, was going through the stacks and library materials in the back room, getting ready to transition to the new school library. That part of the new school, which is being built on the same campus, is expected to be ready by next winter.

“We’re checking to see which books are used, if they’re old, what condition they are in and decide what to keep and not,” she said, adding that discarded material will be available to faculty and then shared with Canyons School District. 

Amongst the materials are Life magazines from the 1940s and 1950s that Riches, who has been at the school for seven years, can only guess why they are in the school library.

“Hillcrest was one of the older schools in Jordan District before the split (to form Canyons District in 2009), so when they divided up library materials, I think Hillcrest got the magazines—even though they date back before Hillcrest,” she said. “We’ve used them to look at the gender differences from those times to now. It’s rather dramatic to see how far we’ve come. There were not many women in political roles back then, and the ads are really interesting to see how things have changed.”

Riches said that when Ernest Hemingway wrote, “The Old Man and the Sea,” it was initially published in Life magazine in September 1952.

“Hemingway was on the cover of Life a couple times, students say, ‘Wow, this is what it was like when he was writing,’” she said, adding that the Life magazines will stay with the collection in the new library.

While students can browse through those magazines, many of them have turned to using the databases for research in the school library.

“Fewer kids read printed magazines so we’re getting less off those, but we have a lot of hits with our database. Students are using it for journals, magazines, newspapers,” she said, saying science, psychology and literature are amongst those most popular with students.  

Riches said that many of the students who enroll in Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate are using those sites for research papers and extended essays.

“We may have 15 to 20 students who take a research period when they have three AP or IB courses who come to use the databases with our computers or their Chromebooks,” she said.

Hillcrest’s library also offers an e-book collection with access to Canyons’ collection as well as the Salt Lake County library’s collection.

“Our kids still prefer print books, but some will read on their phones, so we’re continuing to offer both,” she said about the 20,000 items available at the school library. “We do have a lot of audiobooks, which is helpful for kids studying a second language or who are English-learners so they can read along with the class.”

In addition to books, there are DVDs and CDs available for faculty, who use them or selections from them for class. Faculty also may check out Hillcrest’s 50-plus years of school yearbooks.

While there is more fiction—about 65 % —in the stacks, Riches said that Hillcrest does have more nonfiction than many schools.

“We are looking at that as we’re going through the materials. We do have an old collection that we will update and replace for our students,” she said. 

While sorting through the back room, she has found some carousel projectors, videos and some “weird mirrors, maybe they were used for projection.”

“Some things in our collection are so old, I put them in the faculty room and I’m getting funny guesses as to what they are,” she said. “They’re fun to go through.”

In addition to students’ studying or researching material, classes will come for book talks, to learn library skills or check out a book for an honors class that may have a pre-college list.

Riches also works with teachers to instruct classes from how to use reliable primary sources to how to cite their sources. 

“I love that part of my job,” said the former English teacher who has her Ph.D. “I often go in English classes and help them with their research and projects, learn to use and write citations so they will have stronger papers.”

Riches is looking forward to the new library, which will have a lab for instruction, but still has stacks to go through before the move.

“This library is cozy and old, but the roof leaks,” she said. “With the new library, we’re going to have a beautiful, beautiful view of the mountains with high windows that look out to the east. We’re excited for our new home.”