Organizing the MOI Library and Other Post-Project Reflections

Eloa and I with a portion of the new books we’ve purchased for the collection.

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Last week, our Live It! Project at the Mid-Continent Oceanographic Institute (MOI) continued as we labeled over 1,000 books that were already in their collection. 1,000! Eloa and I spent many hours pulling off old labels, putting on new colored labels that correspond to three age level categories, and putting on new labels that indicate the book is MOI property. Green stickers indicate kindergarten through 3rd grade reading level, yellow stickers indicate 4th through 7th grade, and blue stickers indicate 8th through 12th grade. Once all of the books are labeled, we organized them on the shelves in alphabetical order by the author’s last name. We’ve finished two out of the three different sections of the library, and it’s really exciting to see the progress we’ve made over the past couple of weeks.

My main role in the project is to research and buy the new books we’re adding to their collection. My goal is for the vast majority of books I purchase to contain protagonists of color and plots that embody the experiences of the students that MOI serves. I’ve found everything from picture books about kids who have recently immigrated to the U.S. to teen novels about what it’s like to be a Muslim girl growing up and finding love in a culture that’s different from her parents. It’s been a fun process to research and explore the genre of multicultural children’s literature, which is definitely something I was not well-versed in prior to this project! By the end of the project, we will have purchased around 100 new books for MOI’s library. The library is now more accessible to the students (books for kindergarteners are no longer on the highest shelf of a bookcase) and students will be able to check out and take books home for the first time.

As J-Term and our project come to a close, I’ve been reflecting on the overall experience. It’s interesting to look back at the original list of possible books to purchase I made back in December before I had spent much time at MOI or had conversations with the people who work there. Just being in the space and overhearing what kind of things the MOI staff were saying about their students was when I learned the most about what is at the heart of what MOI does. They believe that kids are silly and creative and full of limitless potential when given the chance. With that in mind, I tried to choose books that would foster that creativity and love of learning. I have loved working with MOI and it’s been immensely rewarding to be able to use my time and resources as a Macalester student to fulfill a need that this organization would not have been able to meet on their own. I’ve decided to start volunteering with MOI’s after-school tutoring program this semester, and I’m excited to see the long-term impact of our project as the students explore their new library.

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The newly labeled and organized 4th-7th grade section of the library!

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