The Librarian Interview ~ Mrs. Ursettie, Ms. McDonnell, and Ms. LaPoltLeave your thoughts
[ Ms. LaPolt, Ms. McDonnell, Mrs. Eldridge, and Mrs. Ursettie ]
As members of our community who spend most of their time with and around students, our librarians have a unique lens into the Prep community. Each of our librarians brings an energy to the campus that encourages students to develop meaningful connections with one another. They truly embody the mission of Flintridge Prep and have the unique opportunity to shape the culture of our school. Besides being patient, generous, collaborative, spirited, and kind, they are true Prep leaders.
Sitting in a library study room with Mrs. Ursettie, Ms. McDonnell, and Ms. LaPolt, our conversation drifted to how they each got their start here. They were all drawn to Prep because there is, “something really special about the culture here”. Ms. Ursettie, in particular, has always had her heart set on working with children. She was originally attracted to Prep because above all, it values the personal development of its students in addition to their academics. Back when the library was being designed, the administration approached the librarians (at the time Ms. Hodge, Ms. Ursettie, and Ms. Eldridge) and posed them with one question: How would you design your dream library? They responded with something that looks very similar to where we now take notes and take naps. They stressed the importance of both a communal area downstairs for students to share ideas around circular tables as well as a quiet study area upstairs with a working environment amidst the stacks of books. Everything about this vibrant epicenter of student life was intentionally thought out. She loves interacting with the student body and getting to know every student on campus. Just her being in the lower library with a smile on her face brightens the mood of everyone she meets.
Both Ms. McDonnell and Ms. LaPolt happened upon this job similar to Ms. Ursettie. Ms. McDonnell has the interesting perspective of being a Flintridge Prep graduate as well as a new member of the library team. After substitute teaching at Prep for a while, she was approached by Mrs. Ursettie with the opportunity to work as a librarian associate. She was fascinated by working so closely with the student body and being able to have such tangible effects on student life. She is now in her second year of being a Prep librarian. Ms. LaPolt, on the other hand, has worked as a librarian for a few years at different schools, and now we welcome her to Prep for her first year as a librarian at Prep. Her mother used to take her to her local library once a week and let her pick out a book, and she tries to bring that sense of hope and freedom to our library as well.
By working so closely with the students, our librarians get to know closely the culture and the attitudes of the school. Ms. McDonnell, having been a student herself, feels that the school is very much so similar to when she was here. It is still a place where students are kind, have integrity, and they collaborate rather than compete with one another. Ms. LaPolt feels the courtesy and kindness of students as a newcomer to the school. Ms. Ursettie, being the veteran among the team, noted that Prep students are free to be themselves. She remembered once years ago when a student named Gus came to school wearing a pink bunny suit. She wondered to herself why he was wearing it because it wasn’t Halloween and it wasn’t Easter. So, when she asked him, he told her, “it was just so cold this morning and this was the warmest piece of clothing I own”. She saw students later that day patting Gus on the back and smiling with him. To Ms. Ursettie, that is Prep. A place where everyone feels free to be themselves and where students are supportive of one another.
As both a cultural and academic center for the student body, our library shapes the Prep community in more ways than we know. The philosophy of Prep is something that is reflected throughout the library. The design we have know reflects their ideas about how the Prep community is and how it should be. They seek to be a resource to the Prep community and to support students in every manner. When asked if they viewed themselves as leaders, Mrs. Ursettie and Ms. McDonnell confidently said yes, and Ms. LaPolt said that she is beginning to see herself as a leader. To the librarians, a good leader is someone who listens, not with the intention of making a response but with the intention of understanding. It is someone who is passionate about their cause who shows gratitude for those around them. They have an attitude of positivity and open-mindedness, and they are consistent. Leadership can sound daunting but, in reality, everybody can have a part in leadership. You don’t know until you try!