Literature, Life, and the Love of Reading in the Learning Commons

Community · June 6, 2019

By Jasmine Chu, Sophie Amieva, and Regan Penaluna, Library Committee Co-Chairs

Everyone loves to linger in the ISB Library! Preschoolers cuddle up in the morning with their parents and a good book. Lower Schoolers gather to do homework or unwind on the bean bag chairs. Middle Schoolers collaborate on group projects. Students especially adore adore when Maria, our Head Librarian, reads to them. We are very lucky to have such a warm and welcoming space, filled with thousands of books in English, French, and Spanish, in addition to workstations, and cushy seating. Do you know how it all began?

In 2014, with the arrival of our beloved Head Librarian, Maria Falgoust, the Library that we know and love today began to take shape. First, Maria sorted through our collection, cataloging the books and moving them to the Annex. She then oversaw the expansion of the current space, and doubled the book collection. Maria curated over 13,000 titles in French, Spanish and English, in addition to titles in our Mother Tongue collection, which has books written in other languages, ranging from Afrikaans to Wolof. She also organized a robust collection of online databases for parents and students to promote language acquisition, research, and diversity (in all senses of the word). With such a large and growing collection, ISB created the Library Committee, composed mostly of parents who were already hanging out in the Library, who would help shelve and process books. The committee’s responsibilities and tasks have increased as Maria has expanded the Library’s reach in exciting new ways.

Books were part of the fabric of the school culture from the beginning. Back in 2005, when ISB was just two classrooms in the basement of a church in Park Slope, there was a small collection of books available to the students. The collection amounted to just a handful of books, with a few dedicated parents keeping it organized. For ISB, it was crucial to provide students with books to extend their fluency and encourage their love for reading in the target languages. When ISB moved to its second location in Prospect Heights, the collection continued to grow, thanks to parents and teachers who were always seeking out the perfect books to serve the PYP units of inquiry and to teach through immersion. Teachers and parents would bring suitcases filled with books from their summer travels; every trip to a Spanish or French speaking country was an opportunity to find books for ISB. At the time, the collection only filled a few bookshelves. When the school moved to its current location in 2010, the books remained in a small room in the basement. Not long after, things would change dramatically. At the time, the collection only filled a few bookshelves. When the school moved to its current location in 2010, the books remained in a small room in the basement. Not long after, things would change dramatically.

Not only did our Library get a total makeover, but so did ISB’s Annual Multilingual Book Fair. We offer more tables of target language books, added an English vendor and a multilingual periodicals merchant. We also were able to make more of a "stamp" on the event with the extra space in the gym to decorate, and hold preview nights with music, readings, etc. Together with our local, independent French, Spanish, and English vendors, ISB provides our community with a curated selection of contemporary books appealing to a variety of tastes and grade levels. Each year a crew of Library Committee members and middle school students transform the gym into a veritable international bookstore with parents manning stations and recommending their own favorites.

“The Library is the most amazing place in the entire world!" -Manu, 5th Grade

Over the past several years, the ISB’s Library program has expanded its reach beyond its four walls by establishing an Author/Illustrator Series. Maria selects talented, multilingual authors and artists to speak and work with our students. ISB students have painted with Herve Tullet, created their own god of technology with George O’Connor, and sang poetry with Jorge Lujan, to name a few.  Our parent community has also enjoyed ISB’s Multicultural Book Club, where they participate in lively and thoughtful discussions of contemporary, culturally diverse books. The 2019-2020 reading list, selected in partnership the Diversity Committee, will include Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime, and Megan K. Stack’s Women’s Work, among others.

There is no shortage of opportunities for students to get involved at the Library. The Middle School Library club, “The Booklets”, promotes library events by making announcements in assemblies and classrooms, creating incentives for younger students to delve into more books, decorating the library, making creative videos,  bulletin board displays, helping organize ISB’s annual book drives, and more. Each year, ISB’s Library Program calls upon the school’s community to donate books for Project Cicero (provides books to under-resourced public schools and community centers), and Books Through Bars (provides books to people incarcerated across the country). Last but not least, the Library team organized a robust series of Zine workshops led by local visiting illustrators and educators, where students learn to create their own mini publications.

Fun Facts about the ISB Library!

There are over 13,000 books in the collection, and it is still growing every year!

  • Over 17,000 books were checked out in 2018-2019.
  • We have 26 magazine publications in all three target languages, which highlight everything from poetry to science to arts and crafts.
  • The Library Student Resources page on the ISB website has 17 online research databases and offers links to fun websites and periodicals in all three target languages, for students of all ages.
  • The Library Parent Resources page on the ISB website offers recommended summer reading, international notable books, and bookstores serving all three languages.
  • Fourth Graders experience a trip to the ancient past with a Greek mythology night, an evening spent in the ISB Library, where students solve a mystery while learning more about the deities and myths that animated the antiquity.
  • The top three most circulated titles this school year were Raina Telgemeir's Drama and Sisters, George O'Connor's Olympians series, and Lincoln Pierce's Big Nate series.
Interested in getting more involved at the ISB Library? Send an email to Head Librarian Maria Falgoust (mfalgoust@isbrooklyn.org) to learn more.