Dusting off the shelves of McCallum’s and local libraries

During pandemic-caused down time, Thompson launched multiple initiatives to keep literacy at center of campus life

Junior+Anna+McClellan+works+to+paint+the+outer+space+background+of+the+mural+just+outside+the+Mac+library+entrance.

Dave Winter

Junior Anna McClellan works to paint the outer space background of the mural just outside the Mac library entrance.

Samantha Powers, co-news editor, co-copy editor

As vaccine availability increases and the world is beginning to look normal again, libraries are experiencing resurgences of their own. Local Austin libraries are making the transition from curbside to in-person service, and the McCallum library has been bustling with new in-person students and events to support them.

It’s just nice to see students again, and it’s nice to be needed again.”

— librarian Jain Thompson

Since June 2020, the Austin Public Libraries have been operating through curbside service due to the pandemic. Now, 12 of the Austin Public Libraries will be opening on May 10, according to their website. This includes the recently constructed Central location in downtown Austin. Starting on June 28, in-person service will be expanded to all Austin Public Libraries. Masking, social distancing and other measures will be implemented to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. McCallum librarian Jain Thompson says this is good news for everyone, especially parents.

“I’m really thrilled about [public libraries reopening] as a parent, because I do the curbside, but the hours are really hard—they’re during work hours—which means I kind of have to skip lunch if I want to get books for my kid,” Thompson said.

Thompson’s own library has gone from empty to lively as more and more students choose to return in person. Thompson is glad for the opportunity to meet new students and reconnect with older ones.

“It’s just nice to see students again, and it’s nice to be needed again in that way and feel like I’m more present in the space than when I was working outside,” Thompson said. “That that feels so nice because it is so much more physical … it’s a place.”

This is my first year being the librarian, and part of it is just me being like, ‘What does it take to get a mural painted? I don’t know, let’s find out, let’s try.”

— Jain Thompson

Although the hallways are looking more crowded than they were, the relatively low attendance has given Thompson some time to focus on projects that were on the back burner.

“We have been doing really major work that is hard to do in normal times. I kind of remember Ms. Farmer and I, we just never sat down,” Thompson said. “We were always on our feet, always hustling, bustling. So big library projects were just kind of hard to do because [students] are our priority.”

Thompson’s recent big projects include weeding out and giving away old books and rearranging the furniture in time to welcome the wave of students who have recently returned in person. In addition, Thompson and McCallum parent volunteers recently held a prom clothing drive in the library so that students could get formal wear for free. Although turnout wasn’t high as expected, many community members have been served, including Thompson herself.

“We’ve kind of just extended [the prom swap] to [all students and], if [anyone saw] see anything [they] liked, [they could] take it. Anything,” Thompson said. “The organizers worked really hard to get some dresses, and then the seniors aren’t really here, so they were kind of like, ‘Oh man, no one wants our dresses.’ So we really tried to, just, ‘Take it, it’s for you.’ In fact, I took home a vest. I was just playing around, and then I was like, ‘Oh my God, I look really awesome in this vest.’ I look like Jack from Titanic, I love it.”

One other project that Thompson has coordinated is the creation of a mural on the wall outside the library. After winning a contest to pick the artist of the mural, senior Fiona Wyrtzen began her creation of the mural.

“This is my first year being the librarian, and part of it is just me being like, ‘What does it take to get a mural painted? I don’t know, let’s find out, let’s try,'” Thompson said. “So we just kind of learn together and it’s perfect.”

Working with muralist Fidencio Duran, Thompson has started a second mural project, aiming to create a student-driven piece that represents themes present this school year: humanity, connection, McCallum and resilience.