Sunday, October 05, 2008

Ramona Ho - Mon. Oct. 6 to Wed. Oct. 8, 2008

For ten years, Ramona Ho has been the Head Librarian at Charles Reed Bishop Learning Center, Kamehameha Schools Maui Campus, Pukalani, Hawaii - - a school facility that she helped plan and build.

Ramona previously held positions as an elementary teacher, a reference librarian at the University of Hawaii's Medical School, a reference / instructional librarian at a community college, and the Head Librarian at a private high school and a large public high school.

Learn more about Ramona at


  1. Thank you for blogging with us.

    Is your school public or private? I am amazed at the physical aspects of the facilities. The school is not much larger than the one that I teach in and we can hardly even afford to buy newspapers, let alone all of the amazing facilities that your school has built.

    When construction was being planned, what did you see as the most important aspects of designing the media center? Were you able to get everything that you wanted or did you have to "settle" for the most important things?

  2. I too am in awe of your facility. Now that you have settled in, are there things you would change if you could go back in time? What was one of the best decisions you made during the planning?

  3. Your school sounds just wonderful!

    Your biography states that this is your dream job. How have your other positions impacted your current one? Are there any specific things you learned in previous positions that you have translated to your current one?

  4. Hi Ramona:

    Thank you for being willing to share with us. Side note: I absolutely love Hawaii. My husband and celebrated our 10th anniversary in Honolulu and Kauai. Our goal is to go back to celebrate our 15th in Maui and Kauai.

    Could you tell me about your challenges in the field of library. Do you face the challenge of poverty?

    Lee Ann

  5. Anonymous7:20 AM

    Hi Ramona,

    Thank you for taking time away from your winter break to blog with us!

    I'm wondering about how your background in teaching and education has influenced your role as a librarian. Do you find that collaboration among classroom teachers and yourself is better because you were also once a classroom teacher?

    Also, thinking about management of your library -- is your library assistant also an MLS? Coming only from a volunteer experience in an elementary school library where the SLMS does it all, I'm curious about how you negotiate who does what tasks and what you as the librarian oversee as opposed to what the assistant does.

    Thank you,

  6. Anonymous8:13 AM

    Hi Ramona!

    I currently work in an elementary library for 1-5th graders. I did too have an elementary license before I worked in the library. I actually never worked as a classroom teacher. I am now realizing that being the librarian is a much better job than being a classroom teacher. There are some disadvantages also like not being able to see the same students everyday and forming those close bonds. What do you not miss about being a classroom teacher?


    Thanks for letting us talk to you!

  7. Aloha e B,
    I do not know if you got my last blog. I will answer again.
    My school is a private school created by the one of the last Hawaiian Princesses. She left over 300,000 acres of Hawaiian land over 125 years ago for the education of Native Hawaiian children. Today her estate is woth over 8 billion dollars. It is the largest land owner in the state of Hawaii and had three campuses on three differnt islands that service over 8,000 Native Hawaiian children full time. Through our extension programs another 30,000 Native Hawaiian children are given educational monies from preschool through graduate school.
    I wanted the library to be functional. After being a librarian for 20 years plus and having worked in 11 libraries I knew what worked. I did have to settle and the school has since had to pay $45,000 to air condition the Hawaiian Pacific Rare book room. Something I requested before and during construction.

  8. Aloha e Mrs. Newton,
    I would have loved to convince the architects that I wanted funstional spaces not a pretty room.
    I did get them to enlarge the Hawaiian Pacific Rare book room by a third. After 6 years of buying books for this room if is at capacity. Now we are looking at breaking down walls to enlarge the room.

  9. Aloha e Lauren,
    Yes I am in my dream job. The skill set I got from working in a medical library I now use with our Science and Natural Resource Academy students. I can tell them how a medical library is set up and how it is used by working doctors, residents and medical students. I have been able to purchase resources that they will use in the clinical fields.
    My expereice from the Academic library allows me to train them about the Library of Congress cataloging system. I have an insight which I update by keeping in contact with other academic librarians on what skill set they will need to have when they enter college.
    It is like I was being trained to take this job.

  10. Aloha e Lee Ann,
    I am glad you like Hawaii. My family has been here for over 150 years. I have left only to attend college on the mainland and visit my children who live in Georgia and California.
    One of the biggest challenge is to be respected. It takes about 5 years for a faculty to trust you enough to work with you.

    Since our school first priority is to admit Native Hawaiian orphans into our school I see proverty through them. Many of them live on the beach or in cars or homeless shelters. They come to school to eat. We serve breakfast, snack and lunch an all you can eat buffet. We work with foster care, other Hawaiian charities so that their needs can be met. It is tough but I was present when we graduated a Native Hawaiian orphan who is the first in his family to graduate from high school. He went to college and now has a job. He is not in jail as most of his other seven siblings currently are. Hawaii is a hard place to live for Native Hawaiians.

  11. Aloha e Kara,
    I know I have an edge because I have been a classroom teacher. I can speak to them from experence. I was at one of the toughest elementary schools we have on this island and I had 36 5th graders.
    Currently my library assistant has an MLS. She is a retired librarian who got bored and wanted to came back into the field without all the stress of management. Her job description is clearly defined and she can not do instruction or cataloging. She does the circulation duties.
    She loves it when I go to committee meetings like Literacy committee, Leadership committee, Curricilum committee etc. and she can stay in the library. She knows that work that goes into all of these committees and does not miss it.
    I am lucky becuase I have the best of both worlds.

  12. Aloha e Kristi,
    I do not miss the discipline concerns. At one point in my teaching career I had six fathers on my speed dial. Their sons were very disruptive and I created a contract with my principals' approval with these fathers. Their sons had three warnings and then their fathers were called to come to my class and sit with their sons the next day.
    I believe the fathers and the sons got the message.
    I do not miss having to complete court documents for judges who were deciding where to place my students.
    I however will never regret my time in the classroom. It helps me be a better person

  13. Hi Ramona:

    My heart always aches for these students in poverty, because they often can not find a way out. I find that I have to focus on their small successes to fuel me to continue.

    Could you speak about how you promote reading with these students who are just trying to survive?

  14. Hello Ramona,

    Thank you so much for taking time to blog with us. It's very kind of you to share your experiences with us.

    I am interested in a couple of aspects of your work. First, how do you spend your day? How much time do you spend on collaboration, collection development, etc.?

    Also, you mentioned discipline issues in the classroom and it sounds like had some creative ways of dealing with unwanted behavior. How do you handle behavioral problems in the media center?

    Again, thanks so much!


  15. Aloha e Lee Ann,
    I have done several different things to get students to read. In the large public high school I was at the library was the only air conditioned building. During summer football practice I had the team come to the library to rest. I had books of their favorite surfers like Duke Kahanamoku out on the tables. Some of them who had never read before read. I had one of these men come back later and tell me that was the first time he had read an entire book. He also wanted me to know that he was reading to his little daughter. It has to be what they want to read.
    At the high school where I am at I challenge them to read about their culture. To read about Hawaiians who went before them and made a difference. I have been doing a heroes project the entire time I have been at this high school. I started with Duke Kahanamoku and George Helm Hawaiian men who made a difference to their people. Last year I did Nainoa Hoe, a graduate of our school that had been killed in combat in Iraq. (You can
    google him there was a write up
    in the Washington Post when he
    was killed.)
    They read about him than diddifferent projects, poetry, music, art and sent it to his father who had also graduated from Kamehameha School and had been a medic in Viet Nam.
    They connect to this heroes and realize what they did. Nainoa had already compeleted his Masters Degree what he was killed.
    Reading has to be meaningful.

  16. Aloha e Shellie,
    I have 12 hour days most of the time. My children were away at college when I began this job and my husband is a Chief Pharmacist at a very busy clinic. So I get to work at 7 a.m. and if I have a class I set up.

    I read and answer my email. Usually there are requests from the
    faculty that I need to address. I always put faculty requests first.

    I usually teach at least two blocks a day. We have 90 minute blocks.

    The I will spend the next 2 blocks ordering books or cataloging.
    Faculty will come in all day asking for help with projects or assignments.
    After school there is a flood of students that come to the library for help. I usually have a meeting once a week. At 4:30-5:30
    I close the library and plan for the next day.
    Everyday is different but normally I do not get out of the library until after 6:30 sometimes later.
    I use to come in on weekends and breaks to catch up on cataloging or ordering. I do not do that any more since I have built out the collection to over 15,000 volumes.
    The I get home and get on my computer to look for rare Hawaiian books. I have several vendors as well as Ebay that I check everyday.


  17. Aloha e Shellie,
    When I have discipline problems now I address it right away. Since our school is private and admission is desired I do not have many problems. If I do have any I will take the student to the side and question them about their behavior. I am also the advisor
    for the Junior Prom and other student projects so I develop relationships with them. I know of their families and I have worked on the island long enough that I have taught some of their parents.

    When I was in the large public high school I spent lots of time
    going to student events and developing relationships with students outside of the library.
    I was the advisor for clubs etc.
    When there was a discipline problem I usually had the students respect and could handle it that way.

  18. Anonymous11:02 AM

    Hi Ramona,

    Thanks for your response to my questions.

    I was reading through my classmates' posts and saw where you responded to a question about it taking 5 years for a faculty to trust you enough to work with you. Do you have any advice on how to cultivate those professional relationships earlier or any ideas on how to go about collaborating with faculty?

    Thank you,

  19. Anonymous11:53 AM

    Thank you for taking the time out of your vacation. I know that budgets are a big concern for all libraries. In my library, I do not have any control over the yearly budget amounts. I was wondering if you did. How do you divided your budget between the different subject areas that you have? I library friend of mine lets her school curriculm drive what she purchases.
    Thank you so much for your amazing knowledge!
    Judy Hickman

  20. Anonymous12:22 PM

    I had another question for you Ramona. How do you chose books for your library? Do you look at magazines for reviews or look through catalog and choose what looks good?

    Thanks for letting me know.


  21. Aloha e Kristi,
    I get the School Library Journal and Booklist to order new resources. I also preview online resources on various technology. I subscribe to various trade and Hawaiian newsletters. I try to keep on top of whats new in areas.
    In a school library the curriculum does drive the purchases. I go out to various areas to campus to interact with my faculty. I do plan meeting with them during their prep time or after school.
    It is a variety of all this and more. I have a personal relationship with the manager of Borders and she emails me almost everyday.Borders gives us a 28% discount and no shipping charge. For Hawaii where shipping usually is of a higher cost then the item this discount has saved me thousands of dollars. She will deliver to the library and look for out of print resources for me.

  22. Aloha e Judy,
    Who is in control of your budget? I have always been in control of a budget. At the academic library I worked at the Head Librarian gave a budget to each Librarian to purchase for their area. I purchased all Medical,Nursing and Hawaiian Pacific Resources so I had a budget for those resources.
    In every school library I was in I negotiated a budget with my Principal. It allows me to plan ahead. Of course I keep satistics and can justify purchases I make.
    A school library collection is always built around the curriculum. You need to be able to address the students needs on every assignment.
    You want the student to be successful.
    In the current location I am at I started with a budget over $125,000
    This was a build out budget but I needed to be very careful. i did not want all of the resources to get dated at the sametime. Copyright drives your collection in medicine, science, technology reference and career planning.
    I divide my budget into various area. I purchase reference data bases, EBSCO, and Grolier so I always have to allow for increases in online resources.
    The Hawaiian Pacific collection gets a third or more of the monies because our mission is to educate NAtive Hawaiian children. I purchase out of print resources in this area that may cost over $500. each. There is no other Hawaiian Pacific Collection on Maui that our students can access. It is the most used collection in the entire library.
    I hope that helps.

  23. Aloha e Kara,
    I did get buy in after a year at our Elementary School. I worked at our elementary school while the our high school and the high school library was being built. I asked the teachers for all of their curriculum maps in July and built library lessons around their curriculum. However it did help that I had taught some of the teachers when they were in high school. I had taught the Principals' son when he was in high school. The trust was there and all of the teachers worked with me. It was one of my best experiences. It was a lot of work. I had to purchase resources to match their curriculum with their help. It was a win win because they felt their needs were met and I was happy to work with them.
    However I was also building another library and library collection at the same time. By the time I moved into the new library I had already purchased an opening day collection of over 5,000 books. I am allowed to bank hours so that when I want to take time off to visit my children on the mainland United States I can.

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