When classes start in September, public school librarians will take on a job that, in the age of social media, is more important than ever: helping students navigate information online. 

“I say, ‘Where did you get that?’ And she says, “TikTok.’ And I say, ‘TikTok is not a source of information,'” Melissa Jacobs, the director of library services for the city's public schools, recounted to a room full of new librarians at a workshop earlier this week.

“Kids are walking around with more power on their smartphone than people have had on computers, you know, decades ago — but they don't necessarily have the skills to navigate that information,” Jacobs told NY1.

What You Need To Know

  • A program called "Teacher 2 Librarian" allows public school teachers to study library science — and some grads are reopening long-closed libraries

  • Since the program began in 2019, 51,000 more children have gained access to school librarians 

  • The goal is to build sustainable library programs that won't be closed due to budget cuts or vacancies

Many of those joining her at this workshop are new librarians, thanks to the city’s Teacher 2 Librarian Program. The partnership between the Department of Education and the nonprofit New Visions for Public Schools helps teachers earn master’s degrees in library science. Many of them will reopen school libraries that had long been closed due to budget cuts or lack of staff.

Since the program launched in 2019, 51,000 more children have access to a school librarian.

“It takes only a few minutes or hours or days to break down a library — but it takes years to build up a strong school library program” Jacobs said. “And the programs that we're building are hopefully sustainable and are critical to school and integrated into the entire school community.”

Linda Sariahmed is a new librarian, opening a new library at M.S. 419 in East Elmhurst.

“Within the context of a single classroom, you reach only the students in that classroom. Within the context of a school library, you can impact every child in that school,” she said.

Brittany Falesto’s journey from special education teacher to librarian began at P177Q, a school in District 75, which serves children with disabilities up to age 21.

“I was placed just kind of by chance in the library, which was not really a library, it was more of a book room. And I kind of was sitting there amongst all of these books, and teachers were kind of coming into me and they were like, you know, ‘Brittany, I need a book for Halloween. I need this,’” she said.

She started researching how to organize books, and reached out to other librarians and Jacobs’ office. Ultimately, she won a grant to turn that book room into a proper library — where her students not only get to read, but they get work experience.

“We were able to take my vision of getting students who have moderate to severe disabilities in District 75 — who don't have access to, like, equitable programs and libraries — and give them this space where they can feel safe and they can come and they can work and they can learn these skills,” she said.

Her goal now that she is a librarian is to keep expanding access for students like hers.

“I know I’m one person, but hopefully I can, like, you know, hopefully I can reach so many more — because I know that joy that I see in my kids when they come to the library,” she said.