Foreign language book collection created to represent students


Canva by Emma Dela Cruz.

This previously ran in our April 2023 print issue. 

The library at Emmaus High School understandably has a large amount of books, but a subject it lacks is that of foreign language — a problem that Kelly Bower is attempting to rectify.

Bower, the Library Media Specialist at Emmaus High School, understands that having books of any and every kind in the library is imperative; becoming engrossed in a book is how readers can truly understand, and put themselves in the shoes of, the scene and subject of the book.

The collections were established by Molly Magro, the Eyer Middle School librarian, Alice Boulrice, the Lower Macungie Middle School librarian, Humanities Curriculum Director Dr. Erin Murphy at District Office, Britney Cordero, a student advocate, and Kelly Bower. The group is constantly working to improve the new collection and make sure that it represents the students.

In a discussion concerning the collection of books at the high school, the group came to the conclusion that a diverse library is required to make sure every student is represented in the library.

“We were all talking about, really the need to make sure our collection is very diverse, you know, so that everybody who goes to school here can see himself or herself in a book,” Bower said.

Bower finds that reading about certain characters and topics allows students to better mold themselves into the people they read about — just as magazines and commercials often entice consumers to buy their products by showing them off on good-looking actors, and branding the item as the signature touch of the look. Bower thinks books can do this too.

“If you see a character in a movie, for example, [you think], ‘you can do that too.’ So we want to make sure that people see themselves in books, [too],” Bower said.

The ever-changing collections give a look into different cultures. The library is full of books with a variety of messages that relate to different students. With everything from disabilities, different cultures, and all sexualities being represented in the library, the goal is for there to be a book for every student.

“My number one goal — like, in my career — is to get people to feel comfortable in their own library, and to feel that they’re… welcome, [so] that when they get out of here, they’re not afraid to go up to a librarian at another library, because they had a really good experience here,” Bower said.

As a librarian, Bower understands how important libraries can be to students, both during school and after graduation.

“Even if you read one book, [or] even if you don’t read anything, but you come in and you use a computer, [and] people are kind to you, they help you, [then] people kind of understand that the library is a place to help and it’s not the place to be afraid of,” Bower said

However, this can beg the question of how people from diverse communities feel comfortable coming to the library, when the available books pertain to subjects foreign to them. 

“Everything in here is strange to them… how comforting would it be to be able to read something written in your own language?” Bower said. “I want to be welcoming to everybody. I want everybody to know that the library is for them.”

Céline Pissarra, a French teacher at EHS, claims that being able to expose students to other cultures, and giving students the option to read not only books written in English, but written in other languages, is a good thing, and a big step towards positive student enrichment.

“It’s great that now we can say, ‘Okay, you can check out an English book, [but] you also can check out a foreign language book.’ So that’s pretty awesome. That’s an enrichment that some of the kids don’t get in the classroom, because we only have 80 minutes: [not enough] time. But… they can do it on their own if they want to. So that’s great,” Bower said.

The library already has a collection of books in other languages that allow students of various cultures to read library books — including a very popular book amongst teenagers.

“[There’s] Harry Potter in Latin. We have French, Spanish, German and Latin [books]. So now we don’t just do two copies of the same book in English — now we have English and another language,” Bower said.

With so many students coming from different backgrounds, Bower has made sure to purchase books in numerous languages. 

This is just the beginning for Bower. She looks at the library and constantly see things that she believes can be done better, or things that can be fixed to better entice students, to lure more students into the library.

“I keep seeing ways I can improve. We didn’t used to have a lounge when we [just] did books, and [we] made a lounge… we didn’t used to have another presentation area [either],” said Bower.

“They’ll have a seed of something, you know, have a nice small collection and then be inspired to look at it and think, ‘How can I improve that? What am I missing?’” Bower said. “Because every time I think I have it down, I step back or a student says something to me, and I think I’m not done so it’ll never be done.”

Bower has high hopes for the book collection, and hopes that it will bring more students into the library.

“People hunger for the comfort… People walk by these books every day and take them for granted because you speak that language. I’m hoping if they come in one time, and they realize that we have something for them… All they need is one good experience,” Bower said.