Championing Oakland Public School Libraries
By Faith Network of the East Bay
|One of the libraries Kim has worked with
Earlier this year, Kim Flom started working as Faith Network’s Library Coordinator. She had volunteered for years at Maxwell Park, building relationships with OUSD as well as increasing her knowledge of library services.
Recently, the Friends of the Oakland Public School Libraries (FOPSL) interviewed Kim about her experience in OUSD libraries and her work with Faith Network. The interview, entitled “FOPSL Salutes Kim Flom” is below.
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What inspired your work in OUSD libraries?
I was tutoring at Maxwell Park Elementary in 2010 when I passed by the empty library being used as a storage facility. My interest in libraries for the elementary grades preceded my encounter with this underutilized library, but the potential captured my vision. The combination of a school with literacy challenges, combined with our students’ lack of access of books in homes and at the public library, touched me. With the principal’s support along with training from Faith Network volunteers who had been running the Emerson Library, I served as the school librarian for two days a week until the school closed last June. Since that time, I’ve served in about ten different Oakland school libraries in a variety of capacities.
What did you do before you began your work opening school libraries with Faith Network and FOPSL?
I come to this position with 30+ years of corporate Human Resources experience. Even when I worked for Safeway Inc., in their Pleasanton corporate offices, I was interested in the Oakland schools and the resource poor libraries serving our students. I approached Safeway departments, affinity groups and individuals to coordinate different areas we could leverage our strengths in a partnership.
I actually found it challenging, however, to find efficient ways to partner. This is where Faith Network and now FOPSL can serve the schools. The school and district administrations have challenges in organizing volunteers in some schools. The principal and teachers are focused on the immediate needs and goals for the students. Leadership is needed in coordinating and training volunteers.
One area Safeway employees supported the Oakland schools was through a book drive. One group in particular has hosted two drives at this point for the library and the Faith Network intervention tutoring program.
Do you have a favorite story about working in school libraries?
My father passed away during the fall semester. I had spent the night with him at the hospital before going to Maxwell Park to host my classes. I read the book Tear Soup by Pat Schwiebert to several of the classes. It was one of those moments we could talk about grief and how we can support people as they go through the process. Few books are available for children on the topic of grief. This was a natural way to introduce a topic that was close to my heart.
Another great memory was working with my son who writes screen plays. He was a guest to the library and talked with the students about the connection between books and some of our favorite movies.
What are the personal benefits?
I initially was drawn to the closed elementary school libraries because of my desire to support literacy. Books open up worlds to students. My own sons benefited from access to books and their school libraries.
I also discovered two other unanticipated benefits. I enjoy developing relationships with the principal, teachers and students. I am interested in their areas of teaching and learning. I enjoy collaborating with them through challenges. The other joy was introducing topics on character development and values through books.
Is there anything you would like to share about your personal experience with reading and/or libraries in your past or childhood?
Just that libraries and reading were a big part of my childhood and I have wonderful memories of reading with my sons.
Thank you for sharing your story, Kim.
Interviewed by Kari Hatch, November 2012.