Library project earns Girl Scout Gold

Grace Oehrlein cataloged and helped build a library for her school. (submitted photo)

East Side resident Grace Oehrlein, a senior at Avalon School, a charter school in St. Paul, has earned her Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest honor given to Girl Scouts, through an ambitious project to organize the school’s library.

Oehrlein explains that the college-prep curriculum at Avalon “focuses on project-based learning rather than all day classes.” The approach worked well with brainstorming, planning, documenting and carrying out a Gold-level endeavor.

Oehrlein, a volunteer and student worker at the Ramsey County library branch in Roseville for two years, is also a reviewer for “Teens Know Best,” a program that sends pre-published books to teens for their reviews.

The exposure to appealing literature -- as well as seeing how the far larger library operated -- inspired Oehrlein to lend a hand at Avalon.

“Before I took control in the library, bookshelves had heaps of books piled in no particular order. Teachers and students alike had no idea what was in the library let alone where a book was located,”  Oehrlein recalls. “A couple of teachers tried to manage the library with their busy schedules but couldn’t keep it under control.”

Enter the Girl Scout. In her junior year, Oehrlein recruited four other students to help organize Avalon’s collection. She found a low-cost service online that would catalog and “tag” books, making it easy for students and teachers to scout books. “A student can look up what books are in the library without any help from a library worker because of librarything’s search engine,” she explains.

The physical layout is the same as other libraries -- fiction is alphabetically arranged by authors’ last names and nonfiction is under the Library of Congress system.

However, the library is in a working classroom -- there are no spare rooms at the school -- so it’s not particularly secure and isn’t monitored by anyone specific. So, checkout is “on the honor system,” with students writing their names and the books taken. “We will continue to work with the students and staff to work a proper checkout system along with check-in system so it goes smoothly for all involved,” Oehrlein says.

Thanks to her connection to Teens Know Best, she can also supply the library with newly published books “that are great reads.”

Avalon has matched the effort with a yearly allotment to purchase more books.

As Oehrlein observed, there’s heavy lifting to be done in organizing a library, but the key is to maintain the weekly inflow and outgo in an orderly manner. So she wasn’t finished just with the setup and a promised source of more books.

“I have created a library manual to sustain the library for after I graduate. It is a very important goal (that) the library is functional for the school and the library continues to grow with new books becoming available."

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