Cornwall steps in as librarian

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Barbara Cornwall

Michael Tricca
Staff Writer

Barbara Cornwall is a new librarian at Westford Academy, who has had past experience from working in Littleton. She will be working closely with fellow librarian Mrs. Harde at the Wright Library.

Q: What’s it like being a new staff member?

A: It’s wonderful so far. There are a lot of things to learn, and… Sometimes there are some things I need to be reminded, as Mrs. Harde would tell me. There are some similarities with my other job, but there’s still a lot to learn.

Q: Which school did you work at before?

A: It was in Littleton, right next door. I was the part-time librarian there for six years. They weren’t in the position to make it full-time, so I moved on to look for a full-time position. I’d heard this district was great. One of my friends, a teacher at the Littleton middle school’s daughter goes here. She raved about the school, so when I saw the position open in the spring, I applied as soon as I could.

Q: What do you do for hobbies?

A: Well, I have a lot of different hobbies. I love photography; I write when I can. I haven’t published anything, but I like to write short stories on occasion. Maybe when I’m seventy or eighty I can get something published. I swim almost every day, I love to read- good thing. I have some things on my bucket list I’d like to do as well; I’d love to learn how to scuba dive.

Q: What inspired you to become a librarian?

A: Well, I sort of came in the back door. I went back to school for a degree in elementary education at a ripe older age, and got a masters in that. I knew the principal at Littleton Middle School very well, since my children went there. They’d gone through three librarians, and it was February. So, I jumped into it, and it turned out I loved it. It was pretty strict at the beginning, because there was a lot of crazy stuff going on, but I really loved the job. I started developing a curriculum there, and started teaching research skills for sixth, seventh, and eighth grade, and as the grades progressed, the research skills were a little more advanced.

Q: Where’d you get your masters?

A: Lesley University.

Q: How was it there?

A: It was great; it was a program designed for working people, or parents. We went one weekend a month to a particular site. Then there were a lot of papers and assignments due, within that monthly time period. It was very convenient with working full time, and my children were young teenagers at the time.

Q: How many children do you have?

A: I have two children, John is twenty-one, and Kate is nineteen.

Q: What do you think the role of the library is in high school?

A: I think the main role is to provide many different learning areas for the students. I love this library because there is opportunity for kids to work independently, also to use to PCs, and the Mac Lab. To provide a great common area for learning… and obviously for taking out literature, and for doing research, for getting help with research and learning how to find reliable information.

Q: What types of things do you do here?

A: So far I’m getting acquainted with the resources here, the databases- I love the pathfinders. I’m trying to get myself familiar with the nonfiction section, because it’s much more extensive than that of the school in Littleton. Suzanne [Harde] has been teaching me how to order books. I used the same catalog system as we use here, but their’s is a little more sophisticated here.

Q: Has it been a big transition from middle school to high school?

A: Yes and no. I’d say the biggest transition is size; I came from a school of four-hundred, maybe? Maybe four-hundred thirty, sixth seventh, and eighth. It is very welcoming that you guys are a little more mature than the middle school. The middle schoolers as I’m sure you remember, would just do goofy things just on impulse. Just more spontaneity, you know?

Q: So I have a big question next, but I figure this is a pretty important thing to ask: What’s your opinion on the virtualization of books and other media?

A: Well, I think Suzanne [Harde] was talking when I met with Mr. Antonelli and Mr. Parent, that we wanted to create a media commons over here. So we’d be removing some of the nonfiction and putting in, maybe, a charging station, more of a collaborative work environment. I’m not in favor of getting rid of all the books- there was a private school in Worcester; during the summer they got rid of everything. It was just a virtual library. That, I thought was a little drastic. So I think there’s still a purpose for books, and some teachers and even some students still prefer the tactile reading of a novel. You can’t beat the accuracy and the quality of online databases. Why spend two-thousand dollars for an updated set of encyclopedias when you have it right at your fingertips online? Let’s face it, you guys are so tech savvy. You’re in the digital world, you have been, and so if that’s your avenue that you take to learn, then absolutely, that’s where you’re at, you know? My only kind of issue is online classes. I think you have it at high school, the online courses you can take, which is one thing, but I think there’s something just so effective about being in a classroom and being able to have that dialogue, you know? It’s just a different  learning experience.