New librarian excited to start next chapter in BHS library’s story


Cassidy Bailey

Ms. Erika Long puts one of her favorite books on display in the BHS library.

Madison Chan, Staff Writer

Although Ms. Erika Long has only been a Bearden librarian for about a week, she’s already added her touch to the library. Brightly colored bookshelves display some of the 300-plus brand new books the library just purchased, and flyers attached to the main computer let students know what books their two librarians are currently reading. And it’s clear this is just the beginning of the many ideas Ms. Long has for the library.

“She’s settling in like a natural,” BHS librarian Mrs. Kristen Heffern said. “I think we fit really well together, we work well together, and we have similar goals for the library…[and] we have similar tastes in reading, which is always fun.”

Mrs. Heffern has known Ms. Long casually through their shared alma mater, UTK, and the Knox County School system, but only began working with her professionally for the first time last week.

Ms. Long is certainly no stranger to life in between the bookshelves. Before coming to Bearden, she was the library secretary at Central High School, and this past experience has given her numerous ideas for adding to the atmosphere of excitement and innovation currently circulating in the library.

“There’s already so many great things happening in Bearden already,” Ms. Long said. “It kind of makes me feel like, oh my goodness, what can we do next?”

Neither librarian is short of ideas when it comes to innovative ways to improve the BHS library. One prominent idea that has sparked a great deal of interest is the addition of a writing center, which Ms. Long describes as “an opportunity to do some one-on-one coaching with students as they go through the writing process”.

“[She’s] very student-centric, which I like a lot,” Mrs. Heffern said. “Making relationships with students and knowing them beyond what they like to read—just what we can do for them.”

In fact, it was in part due to her work with college athletes and seeing how they struggled in college due to their lack of strong writing skills that inspired Ms. Long to become a librarian and begin initiatives like the writing center.

Although it has not yet been determined where the writing center will be located in the library or whether it will be administered by student mentors or staff, both library staff and administrative staff are determined that this dream will become reality.

Ms. Long has been watching the evolution of the BHS library for some time—living just around the corner from Bearden, she had kept tabs on the changes going on and was excited when the she came to be a part of it.

“This was, I think, a great opportunity because I’d followed what was going on in the Bearden library… and I wanted to be a part of that movement,” Ms. Long said.

Although she just recently began her journey at Bearden, students who frequent the library have been quick to take notice.

“She’s really great at her job and really cool just to work with,” said senior Mallari Starrett, who is a library student aid for her first block.

Starrett said she has enjoyed seeing the library grow over the past two years, becoming a hub for students to relax, read, and hang out.

“I’d really like to see that continue—it’s a really great place,” Starrett said.

Amidst the many new changes going on in the library on an everyday basis, the two librarians strive to help make the library feel as comfortable and approachable place for students as possible. They are always more than willing to give students a hand with projects, as well as recommendations for a good book.

Ms. Long’s two most recent book discoveries are Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed and All-American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely (the latter of which is available in the library both as a hard copy and in the library’s ebook collection).

With the library’s recent inundation of more than 300 new books, both librarians are sure that students will be able to find a book they enjoy. But even if students aren’t looking for reading material, they are always welcome to simply come by and chat.

“Always feel free to come in the library,” Ms. Long said, “and that includes coming to talk to us.”

A link to the library’s ebook collection can be found here: