What's black, gold and read all over? GISSV library team helps readers of all ages keep the pages turning.
Author: Liliana Castañeda de Rossmann, Ph.D., PA VP
The Bay Area's foremost source of books in German is housed at 310 Easy Street in Mountain View. If that address sounds familiar is because it refers to our very own GISSV Bücherei/Library. What started in the fall of 2001 with approximately 1,500 books donated by San Francisco's Goethe Institute and an enthusiastic group of parent volunteers tasked with compiling the digital database has grown into a 7,000-volume public collection. This German-language treasure includes works of fiction and non-fiction for children, teenagers, and adults, as well as dictionaries, magazines, CDs, and DVDs.
Keeping it all in order and ready to be checked out by our students, teachers, staff, parents, and community members is Librarian Silke Hauser assisted by parent volunteers with a hankering for reading, a penchant for organization, friendly and helpful customer service, a willingness to sort and shelve, and a weekly availability during school hours to tackle all those tasks. Community members not affiliated with GISSV may join the library for an annual fee of $20. "There are approximately 20 current members; of those, four or five are frequent patrons," explains Silke.
The aptly named Brigitte Buchbauer, whose daughters attended GISSV in the mid-to-late 2000s, remembers "how much I always enjoyed the mornings in the Library, meeting other parents and seeing the kids during their break. We always used to meet once a month for coffee and cake with the whole team to talk about different topics." Author R. David Lankes certainly had this in mind when he wrote, "bad libraries build collections, good libraries build services, great libraries build communities." Brigitte adds, "The library was also very important for the elementary school to provide them with German books" which were hard to find in the pre-Amazon Prime days. This was in the first 10 years of GISSV, before Jana Seidel was hired as the first staff librarian. It is probably no coincidence that both the former and the current librarians got their start as library volunteers.
Although the number of volunteers fluctuates, this year Silke coordinates a team of nine parents who work an average of bi-weekly shifts of two hours. During this time, they perform tasks such as sorting and shelving books, checking books in and out, preparing sets of novels for use by students in language classes, repairing damaged books, preparing new and donated books for shelving, which includes laminating paperbacks, and entering all circulating materials into the database so users can search for items easily. "For books that are worn-out due to their popularity, we try to repair them first," says Silke. "If necessary, we'll replace them, but that's harder because of cost," she adds.
The collection has grown so much that it became necessary after the recent remodeling project to reduce inventory by 30 percent. Parent volunteers place books, magazines, and other media that are either too worn or not specifically related to the collection in boxes at the school entrance to sell for $1 or for passersby to adopt; most articles find a loving home or, at the very least, a fresh set of eyes willing to learn something new. "By reducing the collection, we gained a very nice reading area, which was a priority for teachers Susanna Jackson and Franke Mercer. I was 100 percent behind it, because we wanted to make a place for kids, so they are comfortable and enjoy reading," remarks Silke.
According to historian Barbara Krasner-Khait, "Charlemagne, who owned a robust library in Aachen in the eighth century, ordered every school to have a scriptorium" where monks could copy books by hand. Additionally, she writes that the "oldest library in America began with a 400-book donation by a Massachusetts clergyman, John Harvard, to a new university that eventually honored him by adopting his name." Currently, that university library holds over 17 million items. The GISSV Library might not have quite as imperial and archaic a history or as extensive a collection (yet!), but the knowledge, competence, and expertise of its staff librarian and parent volunteers is unequaled for their enthusiasm and helpfulness. Parent volunteer Andrea Bestvater sums up her experience here, "As I volunteered in my daughters' school library in Germany before we moved here, it just felt natural to continue what I loved doing back home. For me, joining the team was an opportunity to get into contact quickly with other parents. By helping in the library every week, I also got to know teachers and students that I probably never would know otherwise."
When the days grow shorter and cooler, those looking to stay indoors curled up with a good German book and some hot cocoa or Glühwein (depending on their age) could do no better than stop at the GISSV library, meet one of its nine parent volunteers, and check out its eclectic offerings. As author Neil Gaiman so poignantly remarked, "Google can bring you back 100,000 answers; a librarian can bring you back the right one."
This year's Library Team is comprised of Andrea Bestvater (pictured center), Yvonne Hartwich, Janina Kramer, Katrin Mayer, Petra Müller (pictured left), Anna Ruepp, Eleni Tovletidou, Melanie Weiss and Sabine Wolf, in addition to Librarian Silke Hauser (pictured right).