Library technician Lee Tapley juggles multiple responsibilities

September 27, 2022 — by Sarah Zhou
Photo by William Norwood
Library technician Lee Tapley works at the front desk of the library.
Tapley works to organize thousands of books while managing the library site and catalogs.

For 15 years, from 7:30 a.m. to after 4 p.m. on school days, library technician Lee Tapley has been working in the library, handling various tasks such as opening, closing and organizing the collections, helping students find books and coordinating parent volunteers during textbook distribution. This year, she does this work alongside other library technicians Cynthia Cheng and Nada Macesic, who primarily handle textbook distribution and collection.

Since librarian Kevin Heyman’s retirement at the end of the 2019-2020 school year, the district has chosen to save money by not employing a credentialed librarian — someone who specializes in helping students and teachers with information technology and research. This decision has left more of the day-to-day responsibility of running the library to Tapley, and frustrated teachers who have continually called for the district to re-staff the position and reprioritize the importance of the library and research on campus.

Tapley, too, feels the frustration, as the lack of a certified librarian creates more work physically and mentally for her as it results in her being the only one staffing the library.

“I feel self-conscious about being absent or having my doctor’s appointment during school hours,” Tapley said. “I feel sorry when some teachers or students ask me for something only certified librarians can do.”

Though she is not a credentialed librarian, Tapley has assumed many of Heyman’s responsibilities, such as ordering books and cataloging them, taking care of all the library furniture and leading efforts for student book distribution at the annual Falcon Fests.

Tapley noted that, this year, there was an abundance of students who had not returned items before Falcon Fest, hindering the library’s ability to prepare for distribution. However, she felt that parent and student volunteers greatly helped overcome these difficulties.

“The whole textbook distribution process was a wonderful experience,” Tapley said. “Most teachers brought their classes on time, and students had their ID cards ready — it was like watching an orchestra.  Without the parent and student volunteers’ help, we couldn’t have finished the job. Whenever I see parent volunteers in the school, I feel proud and grateful that I belong here.”

When the library generally hosts only a few students during class periods, Tapley busies herself managing returned items, shelving books and searching for new books to add to the library catalog based on student recommendations. In addition, Tapley maintains the library’s website, Destiny resource page, the school’s research databases and resources for English and Creative writing classes.

The library currently owns 18,347 books and has loaned out 84 books since the school year started. Fifty-nine of these books are overdue and 184 books are lost from last year. Through PTSO funding, the library is also able to purchase roughly 200 new books each year, and students are able to purchase books on their own accord to replace lost or damaged books.

In her 15 years here, Tapley has observed that with the rise of textbook prices, students have become more attentive and caring for books, so the number of lost books has decreased yearly.

Tapley said she hopes that the library is a safe and comfortable place for students to study and read, and she works toward making the library a safe space for students to unwind and relax. Through her time working at the school, she has also gotten to know students better. One of Tapley’s favorite memories about the school was when she stopped by a Subway sandwich shop on Saratoga Avenue about 10 years ago: While waiting for her order, she encountered a student with their parent.

“She had a broad smile and told me it was great to see me,” Tapley said. “I couldn’t recognize her for a moment, but she told her father I was one of her favorite librarians. I felt very thankful for what she told me. I did not think I treated her differently than other students, but she was kind to say that to me. The encounter might be nothing to others, but it was one of the unforgettable moments in my life.”