“I know they say not to judge a book by its cover, but we do, which is why I put the pretty ones out and they get checked out quite a bit,” says Ms. Dawn Jan (Librarian), the new librarian of the UHS library.
A self-proclaimed “book nerd,” Jan previously worked as a restaurant manager and as a librarian for the Orange County Public Library before coming to UHS.
“I love books, I love to read and I love to talk to people about books and get people to read books, and then we can talk about them together,” she says. “They take me to a different world and I feel like it’s a way that you can explore other people and other places, no matter where you are or what you’re doing in your life at the moment. You can always step into somebody else’s shoes and see what it’s like.”
Her favorite genre of books to read at the moment is young adult books, although she loves fiction in general, including fantasy and sci-fi. Jan doesn’t limit herself to just fiction however. When commuting to school every day, she will listen to nonfiction audiobooks. “I find that if I’m listening to an audiobook, I might listen to something that I might not otherwise read physically.”
She tries to read at least one book a week and reads with her children as well. “There’s a certain magic in looking through the physical pages of a book.”
In the UHS library, Jan creates new book displays every week, based on the different colors of books and themes pertaining to a holiday or a classroom project. Other times, she will create a display based on student suggestions, such as books that make you laugh or make you cry. “It’s eye catching and it makes you stop and look at it…I find that the books that get checked out are the ones on display,” she states.
Jan recently made a book display based on authors being featured at a book festival in Santa Monica. During finals week, she made a display of books under 200 pages, to encourage students to read for pleasure even when they had less time due to studying.
For UHS students who don’t have much time in their day to read for pleasure, Jan advises to try make a little time for it, but don’t force it. “So if you pick up a book and you’re 50 pages in and you still don’t love it, put it down and pick up another book. Sometimes you’re just not in the mood for a particular book. I think it’s more about finding a book that you love versus trying to force yourself into any particular habit because if you really do love the book, you’re going to make the time to read,” she explains.
When students return books, Mrs. Jan gives them further suggestions based on what they like and the availability of the books in the library. Sometimes, students will even ask her to make a list of book recommendations for them.
Mrs. Jan recommends a lot of books to students, but also receives a lot of recommendations in return. She notes, “I’ll move the recommendation to the top of my list, not that I’ll ever make it through my ‘to-read’ list because it’s never ending.”
To find even more books to read, Mrs. Jan uses Goodreads, a site that is part-book catalog and part-book discussion forum, to look through the most popular books on the site and to find book suggestions. She also gets recommendations from her librarian friends.
As a librarian, Jan also has to handle paperwork and processing regarding the books, as well as handle lab spaces for teachers. But she also gets to do things like make a Christmas tree out of books, a task she performed this past holiday season. “The fun part is, you know, making pretty displays and talking to people about books and deciding what books we get to bring in,” she says.
So far, Jan’s time at UHS has been very enjoyable because there are so many students who spend time at the library. “The students are awesome…when I picture a high school library, I don’t picture so many students coming in voluntarily, but it’s wonderful,” she laughs.
“This is the fun part. I get paid to be around books; it’s the best thing ever.”