Kailua Elementary library among the best in the country

Darren Tanaka
Darren Tanaka
Nancy Everhart
Nancy Everhart

By Tim Sakahara - bio | email

KAILUA (HawaiiNewsNow) - Every good book tells a story and every story has a star character.  In the case of Kailua Elementary School its library takes the lead role.  Not only is it the best in the state, it's ranked in the top 35 in the country.  That's the tops out of 100,000 libraries.

"That is a very elite club to belong to out of 100,000," said Nancy Everhart, American Association of School Librarians President, who toured Kailua Elementary today.

It's all part of the nationwide vision tour so the public can see what elite school libraries look like.

"These schools are going to be held up as models really throughout the United States if not the world as models of excellence," said Everhart. "Sports serves some kids, other programs serve some kids, but the library is there for every child. It helps every child fulfill their potential."

Sure there's plenty to read, but this library is about much more than books. Among its features are a computer lab and an aquaponics section to cultivate the mind.  It's even got a disco ball and more than 10 instruments for kids to play with and because of that there really isn't the 'shhh' factor like most libraries.

"They're allowed to be noisy, they're allowed to be creative.  If it gets a little out of hand we pull them back in a little bit but it's always about what the children are interested in at the time," said Darren Tanaka, Kailua Elementary School Librarian.

"I've never seen a school library with a piano and it all comes down to Mr. Tanaka here at this library and what he puts into it and how he values what's here and values the kids," said Everhart.

Librarian Darren Tanaka plays eight instruments but I'm pretty sure he could learn many more.

"Being selected as one of the top 35 quite honestly I really think I'm just doing my job. I don't think that I'm trying to be special, or I'm trying to be outstanding. I'm really just trying to serve the community that I work for," said Tanaka.

The preface is that the library didn't look like this when he took it over in 2005.

"It needed some love. It was beige and dusty there was no air conditioning. There was evidence the previous librarians were trying to maintain the collection and do the best they could but the mess was just overwhelming.  Half of this room was just filled with storage and for me that just wasn't okay," said Tanaka.  "It was not a place where anybody wanted to be. The first statement was good luck. 'Oh you're the new librarian, yeah good luck.' That was my first welcome to Kailua elementary."

Yet within five years he turned the library from beige and boring to bold and the best.

"It's a great validation that I'm on the right track and if this visit can serve as some inspiration or motivation to other people to do something similar with their own passions or their own work environment then great because we're all teaching the same kids," said Tanaka.

That's one reason why this library's story is still being written bound for a happy ending.

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