Checking It Out: Lending Library Opens in Front Yard

With campuses closed since March because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a Highland Park ISD librarian brought books to neighborhood children via a lending library in her yard. 

Kathy Gardner, assistant librarian at Highland Park Middle School and McCulloch Intermediate, joined the district 20 years ago. She spent her first year at Bradfield Elementary, where the mother of two had volunteered and has worked at the middle/intermediate school level ever since. 

Kathy Gardner

After it became clear students wouldn’t return to campuses after spring break, she operated a lending library on Tuesdays and Thursdays from a table outside her house in University Park. 

 “I thought, ‘What could I do to make things a little easier?’ and I thought, ‘well, what I do best, I can do a library,’” Gardner said. “What I’ve gotten out of it is just looking at all of these kids like they were my family.” 

She added, “We’ll have some good memories from this.” 

Susan Nichol, a neighbor, credited Gardner, who calls herself “the library dragon,” with inspiring a love of reading in children. 

“I think it has been such a glimmer of a positive for these kids whose world was uprooted,” Nichol said. 

Unable to visit campus to get books, Gardner bought many online herself with selections for elementary-aged children up to teenagers. She uses a journal to keep tabs on checked out books. 

“A love of reading, I think, helps in a lot of ways,” she said. “It improves your vocabulary, improves your grammar; it even helps build independence and confidence.” 

” What I’ve gotten out of it is just looking at all of these kids like they were my family. “

Kathy Gardner

Gardner also offered lollipops at the lending library and joked that students would be “bummed out” to find there won’t be lollipops when they return to school. 

“I think sometimes when you have a little bit of normalcy, and they see that everything’s going to be alright, kids respond,” she said. 

Amy Biggers, who’s working to become certified as a teacher and receiving mentoring from Gardner, helped read to children at the lending library. 

“What it’s been really great with is helping them pick out books and learning what different age groups like to read and kind of how to talk to them to figure out what they’re interested in and kind of push them along with reading,” Biggers aid. 

Gardner plans to continue the library during the summer, but maybe for one day per week – likely Thursday. 

“She is so good at talking with those kids and really, like, getting on their level,” Biggers said. “She reads all of the books that she checks out to them, so she knows exactly what she’s talking about.” 

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Rachel Snyder

Rachel Snyder, deputy editor at People Newspapers, joined the staff in 2019, returning to her native Dallas-Fort Worth after starting her career at community newspapers in Oklahoma. One of her stories won first place in its category in the Oklahoma Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest in 2018. She’s a fan of puns and community journalism, not necessarily in that order. You can reach her at

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