Library Project

Greg Benedis-Grab
3 min readFeb 13, 2024

“Today something unusual happened in the library.” Daphne shared over dinner.

Daphne always has interesting stories to share from work. Her day job as a school librarian is filled with drama and excitement. Today the event was a haircut. Students had been giving haircuts to each other in some of the classrooms for a few months. Then a student came to the library to ask Daphne to use the back work room to give a cut.

“It took almost two hours. I guess the haircut was pretty serious,” she surmised.

“In fact many students are talking about it and they are very excited. They want to start a barbershop in the library and there are lots of interested customers. Some of the students want to pursue this trade when they graduate.”

At our next dinner Daphne shared that an administrator came down to the library.

“I heard a rumor that people are getting haircuts in the library. But that can’t be right. So I came to see what is going on.”

Daphne replied without missing a beat that of course there are haircuts in the library. A library is a place that serves the needs of the community and it turns out this community needs haircuts.

In fact haven’t barbershops often served as places of sharing information and communal connection. It is not hard to imagine the integration of book culture into a barbershop.

I really like this idea of a contemporary library adapting to the times and being what the community needs. For example, I have seen public libraries offer technology courses to patrons. I was touched by the story of the student who was providing the hair cuts. I thought, how many times are the activities of a school initiated, orchestrated, and delivered by students. How much ownership do students in a high school feel over most of the programming that takes place.. As a teacher I have spent considerable time trying to set up projects that are personally meaningful to students. But it was always a challenge? This was a whole different situation in terms of the authenticity. Students are not fools. They know the difference. The haircut idea came directly from students and it was meaningful to them. They could engage in it as experts and build a community focused on building skills, connecting with other and much more.

The administrator did see the value of what was happening when Daphne showed her. But then she remarked, “they can’t do this during school.” Now Daphne is working on starting an afterschool club.

But why can’t it happen during the school day. Is this work less valuable than the contents of their other classes? Could one not build a curriculum around the barbershop. The barbershop is a powerful cultural reference and a significant part of many urban communities. What if when a student brings the idea of a barbershop to school the adults ran with it to see where it could lead. What kind of school would that be? What if we believed in children more and told them what to do less.

--

--

Greg Benedis-Grab

exploring the intersection of coding, education and disciplinary knowledge