E13 - Equitable & Engaging Learning Environments with Librarian Kenia Harding

Episode Music Credits:  Old Love Instrumental by Joe Hertler and the Rainbow Seekers, 100% Clearance through Musicbed 

On this episode of Blending In, I’m chatted with Kenia Harding, the award winning librarian from Diamond Valley Middle School who has been recognized as a Hemet Unified Employee of the Year and who has been a nominee for Riverside County Educator of the Year!  In our conversation, Kenia shared her passion for designing the Diamond Valley Middle School Library as an equitable, inclusive, and innovative space for students at DVMS!  Kenia has effectively blended technology into what is known as a "traditional learning space" to make it into a welcoming student-centered, technology-rich learning environment. 

Kenia began our conversation by sharing how books were a part of her home at an early age, thanks to her dad, and this cultivated an early love for reading. That love for books coupled with her desire to help children motivated her to pursue a career as a librarian. Her library is absolutely amazing and I asked her what has inspired her to create such an awesome learning environment for students.  In addition to her family (which she spoke fondly of at the beginning of our recording and gave a shout out too at the end of the episode), she said that her passion comes from seeing the students’ hunger to learn!  She hosts lots of events for her students like author visits (pictured right) or reading challenges in order to create a welcoming and inclusive space for all students.  She further explained that she tries to do celebrations every month, like celebrating Black History Month in February, PI day in March (3/14), and celebrating literacy through their “Starbooks” event in March!  

Local author visiting the DVMS Library

Additionally, Kenia (pictured right with one of her COW displays) spoke at length about how she solicits student feedback on what they want to see and experience in the library space which is how her Maker Space area evolved with the help of the grant she won during the Follett Challenge!  Although they didn’t win the first place prize, they won 8th place nationally and were awarded $8,000 for a library makeover! This was the first time a school in Southern California had won this award in the past 25 years!  The video to the right shows the newly renovated library designed by Kenia and paid for by Follett!

When Kenia redesigned the new space for the library, she redesigned it with the needs of the students and teachers in mind, keeping in mind 21st century skills that students will need to cultivate in the new space.  For example, she added exercise bikes that students can use while using their Chromebook devices (see video to the left of students utilizing the new library space & exercise bikes),  and she also removed the outdated card catalog and created digital spaces for accessing Destiny Discover.  Below is a flyer Kenia has developed offer support for students at DVMS!

WELCOME 2 DVMSflyer.pdf

For librarians who are tech-hesitant about updating and redesigning their spaces to accommodate 21st century needs, she advises to start small with things like QR codes (like the one linked in the bottom right corner of the flyer) with digital displays or access to eBooks or with a COW (Class On Wheels, pictured below) - both of which she creates based on what teachers are teaching that week or month. So when students visit the library, they can see what they are learning about in the classroom reflected in the digital or physical space of the library.  In addition to collaborating with colleagues on campus, she also suggests collaborating with public librarians as well!  If you'd like to connect with Kenia, email her at kharding@hemetusd.org 

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