Behind the books


It’s 6:55 on a Wednesday morning. The library is full of sunlight coming from the surrounding windows. Students and teachers slowly start flowing in and asking questions. They need help printing, copying, checking out, finding something to read or need good sources. There are only a few people who can help. These people are the librarians at Ladue Horton Watkins High School, Michelle Schmitt and Mary Kate Mortland. 

“We’re really a resource for all of our community. So whether that is something as simple as helping them print, or helping them find library resources that they need for a project, or something that they’re looking for for fun or relaxation. Our job is to try to help make that easy,” Mortland said.

While many don’t realize it, these two women keep the school running smoothly. All day they help teachers and students get all they need to be successful. Their normal responsibilities consist of checking out and processing books, helping students find research, help with the printers and sometimes even collaborating to teach classes with teachers. But a big part of the job that doesn’t often get observed is selecting the books for the library.

“We look at reviews, at blogs, we follow authors on social media, we go to conferences, we talk to each other and teachers and students. We have all kinds of input on buying books and we think we have a fabulous collection,” Schmitt said.

This collection that they have required is a total of 13,895 books in the entire school library. They try to make sure that they have every kind of genre that a student could want. Whether it’s your basic fiction and sci-fi books to your less known manga books. Schmitt and Mortland are proud of this collection and really want everyone to enjoy them, for however long they want.

“We don’t really worry about [unreturned books]. If the student is still using it, then we’re not really concerned,” Schmitt said.

The Ladue High School library doesn’t pay fines for unreturned books. They want the students to enjoy the books for as long as they need, unless someone else is waiting for that book. They know that they will eventually get their books back or paid for since having missing books checked out can result in not being able to get a parking spot, prom ticket, or graduate. 

“I feel like it’s like a musician asking for a favorite song, I mean I would say oh I love this one or I love this one. Oh I love this one. So I like lots and lots of books,” Mortland said. 

As big as their library is, they can’t read all of them. But from the ones that they have read, they have seemed to have found a favorite in each genre. Out of those favorites they cannot just choose a single book above them all. The two believe that they have probably read about 500 of the school books each,  over the course of 17 years for Mortland and 15 years for Schmitt. For at least 15 years Schmitt and Mortland have done the great service of making sure that teachers and students leave happy and successful, cause in the end of the day, that’s all they want to do.

“I love working with students, I love it when there is somebody who doesn’t like to read, and then we can find them a book. And they like it. That is my favorite part of your job,” Schmitt said.