Kristin Polseno Looks to Turn up the Volume in the Mount Saint Charles Library
WOONSOCKET – The new librarian at Mount Saint Charles Academy is excited about everything in the 94-year-old school’s history – except possibly the historically sedate image of libraries themselves.
Kristin Polseno envisions a library as the school’s center of creativity, collaboration and research, with enough space for the quiet study and reflection libraries are traditionally known for. Though her initial plans are to get to know Mount Saint Charles students, teachers and parents, she’s looking forward to introducing new concepts in libraries, research and communications.
“There are huge misconceptions of what libraries and librarians are about. There’s a lot of research out there about creating four unique spaces within the library for learning, meeting, performance and inspiration,” Polseno said. “Before, when a student got a topic to research they went to the library, did research, compiled information, wrote the paper and handed it in. It’s very linear process, and the teacher is the only audience.
“With the library as a hub with the four spaces, the process can be more cyclical. Students brainstorm together, meet, research and refine the idea by testing it. If the idea isn’t heading where they expected it to, they can go back, do more research, and come up with a new approach. When they’re ready, they can present it to parents, teachers and other students. It all happens in the library.”
Polseno takes over the Mount Saint Charles library this fall. She’s thankful to be inheriting “a beautiful, very well-organized space” in a school with a rich history and a promising future.
Following a Passion for Literacy
Polseno brings experience as a classroom teacher, teaching coach and school librarian to Mount Saint Charles. She holds bachelor’s degrees in communication studies from the University of Rhode Island and secondary English from Rhode Island College, and a master’s in library and information services from URI in 2016.
At URI, Polseno won the Maurice Tougas Award from the School Librarians of Rhode Island. The Tougas Award recognizes exceptional achievements and leadership potential among library and information studies graduate students.
Polseno’s education career started in 2002 in Cumberland, where she taught English at the high school. From there, she worked as an induction coach for the Rhode Island Department of Education mentoring teachers at five to 10 schools each year.
When the mentoring program ended, colleagues urged Polseno to consider school administration. After considering where her passions lay, she opted for library and information studies.
“I thought about where my passions were, and they were in literacy, reading and access to information. Technology and differentiated instruction were subjects I delivered during professional development workshops when I was coaching. I decided to go to graduate school for library and information studies,” she said.
She worked as a teacher/mentor at the Captain Isaac Paine School in Foster while she was in graduate school, then taught in Scituate until the Mount Saint Charles administration approached her about leading the library.
“It was a hard offer to refuse. I’d envisioned going back to a middle/high school, so to be in a school with so much history that was considering new programs seemed like an exciting opportunity,” she said.
History Meets Technology
Polseno plans to spend her first few months on the job at Mount Saint Charles taking notes and collecting data. She’s looking for insight about how the library is used and plans to solicit feedback from students, teachers and the community about what it could be used for.
Polseno’s experience includes programs that are potentially a good fit for Mount Saint Charles. One of them is “service learning,” which combines volunteer work with teaching. With the ever-expanding role of visuals in communication, she would also like to introduce information graphics to enhance traditional essays.
“About 75 percent of what we remember is visual,” she said. “I’d like to see us help students combine data, information and images. I worked with a fourth-grade teacher who was teaching a unit on creating brochures for every state. Instead of creating traditional brochures, we had the student create infographics with words, statistics, data and visuals.”
Polseno also has training in collecting oral histories. With a history stretching back to 1924 and hundreds of graduates in several generations, she believes Mount Saint Charles is a natural fit a for an oral history program modeled on NPR’s Story Corps. It would combine technology and communication skills.
“I’d love to bring together different generations together with the library walls around curating oral histories. Students can interact with grandparents and alumni who are willing to come back to Mount Saint Charles and share their stories,” she said. “We’d train the children on conducting good interviews – asking the right questions and following up. Then we’d not only share them, we would archive them to have forever.”
A program like that would combine educational goals with Polseno’s desire to expand involvement through the library.
“I hope to get input from the Mount Saint Charles Community about where I can take the library. If people have ideas, I want them to know I’m open to them,” she said.
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Mount Saint Charles Academy is located in Woonsocket, RI and is a private, Catholic junior-senior high school in the tradition of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart. It serves a co-educational community in a college preparatory environment. Students are challenged through a rigourous academic program and through religious and co-curricular experiences to become people of faith who use their talents and intellects to serve others.
Penny C. Federici
Marketing & Communications Director
Mount Saint Charles Academy
800 Logee Street
Woonsocket, RI 02895
401-769-0310 ext. 177