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Melissa Giannetto... she's not your mother's librarian
It used to be the only sound you heard in a school library was the “shush” uttered softly, but sternly by a stoic librarian.
Not today — not in the Monache High School Library/Media Center.
A soft, but audible “hum” of student voices can be heard the moment you walk into the colorful, well-stocked library — and no shushing.
Media Center/Librarian Melissa Giannetto likes it that way.
“Today’s kids are used to iPods, cell phones and all kinds of electronic devices, most are not used to absolute quiet,” Giannetto said. “I don’t think that’s necessary as long as they are working together. And you can see that they are.”
Giannatto has been the librarian for three years, after spending 12 years in high school classrooms teaching English.
She is in her element in the library.
“This is my dream job and I didn’t know it growing up,” she said, flashing her easy smile. “I love what I do.”
What she does is more than what she says may be the down side of her job, if there is a down side. The misconception that librarians sit at their computers all day doing research is one of those myths that needs to be dispelled, she said.
Included in her duties, and those of Porterville and Granite Hills high school librarians Lori Lienau and Catherine Mays, respectively, are managing the library/media center computer lab, helping teachers with their class schedules as they pertain to visiting her academic domain, teaching classes and scheduling college recruitment presentations, to name just a few things.
UC Merced, for example, Fresno State and Cal State Long Beach have been out to present to students.
One of the things Giannetto enjoys is teaching freshman AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) classes in the reading circle. She has selected six novels for them to enjoy.
The students will discuss the work, and at the end of a certain period the students will do a presentation, using technology, to show what they’ve learned.
“The presentation helps them with their oral communication skills, helps them become more comfortable in front of a crowd,” Giannetto said.
“The library is some place I want kids to be able to come to and feel safe; I want them to come because they want to be here, not because it’s raining outside.”
To help make the library/media center inviting, in addition to all the books, the walls are lined with posters of teachers they are familiar with instead of movie stars. The posters look professional and are made by students.
“I like the walls here, the way things look,” said 18-year-old Cameron Patel. “I think it’s a wonderful library and well decorated. Some of the other libraries are boring.”
“The overall experience is just great,” said Henna Mahal, 17. “And the environment feels great. Between Mrs. Giannetto and Miss [Martha] Morales, you can always come in here and get the help you need to be successful.“Kids want to come to the library, Mrs. Giannetto is so helpful. You should see the library at brunch or lunch time. It’s packed in here.”
It was not always that way, Giannetto said. When she first made the library home, not as many students made it their place of choice when they had free time. It took about a year to make it happen.
What she and her “very capable assistant” Martha Morales have done, and continue to do, is help students make their services invaluable.
“I could not do all I do here for staff and students without her,” Giannetto said of Morales. “She has her degree in computer technology. And she is so creative with everything she does. I can make a suggestion and she can just put it all together. We work so well together.”
Morales shares that sentiment.
“She is so easy to work with and so flexible, she makes my job easy,” Morales said of Giannetto. “I love working here.”
When budget cuts come around, as they invariably do, there is always the fear that the librarians may go first.
That has not happened to Giannetto or her peers at PHS and GHHS.
“I do think there are people who support our libraries — our principals, the district office and board members,” she said. “They walk through and see how busy our libraries are.”
As much as she loves her work, Giannetto has a life outside of education. She is the mother of 9-month-old Ethan, and 8-year-old Madison. She has been married to husband Anthony for a little under 10 years. Anthony Giannetto is a fruit broker, working for PCI.
“I tried to get him to become a teacher,” Giannetto said of her husband, her eyes widening when she speaks about him, “but he loves what he does, too.”
One other thing she wasn’t counting on when she became a librarian is the “15,000 to 20,000 textbooks” that have to be distributed at the beginning of the year, some during the middle of the year, and then collecting them at the end of the year, along with the overdue fines.
So why become a librarian? She answers without hesitation: “I’ve always loved books and reading, and I wanted to inspire kids to love reading, too. Not to read only what is mandated, but to read because they love it and want to.”
-- Contact Anita Stackhouse-Hite at 784-5000, Ext. 1043, or firstname.lastname@example.org.