The official student news site of Westview High School

The Nexus

The official student news site of Westview High School

The Nexus

The official student news site of Westview High School

The Nexus

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Tomboc-Brownlie says aloha to library, leaves behind legacy of inclusivity

After opening Westview and serving as its head librarian for the last 22 years, Cheri Tomboc-Brownlie is retiring at the end of this school year. 

Before Westview opened in 2002, Tomboc-Brownlie spent a year in a trailer at Adobe Bluffs Elementary School planning the school alongside then-Principal Jerry Leininger and teachers Bob McHeffey and Mike Kurth. 

Leininger believed it was important to have a teacher librarian, someone with teaching and information science credentials, because they would play a part in creating the curriculum.

Selecting and getting the first textbooks took a long time. Initially, Westview was going to offer Japanese, so Tomboc-Brownlie spent a lot of her time researching what textbooks and other materials Japanese classes around the county were using. 

On top of textbooks, Tomobc was given a $400,000 budget to purchase the initial collection of texts in the library. 

 “I used Titlewave from Follett Library Resources to select and purchase the original collection and also worked with other publisher vendors. Titlewave has professional book review tools that I use to help in my choosing titles that are appropriate for our high school learning community,” she said.

One of Tomboc-Brownlie’s other responsibilities was designing the layout of the library. What is now the room where students eat lunch was initially designated as a television studio. However, Tomboc-Brownlie advocated against this designation because it would only be available to students in a certain class. 

“Kids need to always have access to every part of the library, and I wanted the library to have spaces for all students. I didn’t want it to be an old-fashioned, quiet library. Students are allowed to talk while studying and collaborating in the main space,” she said.

Instead, Tomboc-Brownlie made the room into a cafe with a machine that served coffee for a dollar. The cafe was incredibly popular among students until a junk food law got rid of caffeine in schools.

Another issue that Tomboc-Brownlie took a stance on in the early days was the name of the library. At first, the library as we know it was only to be referred to as a “research center.” 

“I fought to have library’ in the name because it’s not just a research center,” she said. “There’s this negative connotation that ‘library’ is so old-fashioned, but a library is a safe space where kids can feel comfortable.” 

One of Tomboc-Brownlie’s professional dreams had always been to open up a brand new library from scratch, not to just be able to plan its layout and contents but to to be able to develop its culture.

Having moved from Hawaii in 1996, Tomboc-Brownlie spent a lot of time trying to fit into the mainland culture. 

“At first, I thought I needed to change my ways, but as I was missing home, I thought why do I need to lose a sense of me,” she said. “I’m going to own my culture.” 

Any student who’s been to the library at least once has been greeted with Hawaiian decorations and an “aloha.” Besides helping her connect with her past, Hawaii helps Tomboc-Brownlie connect with students in the present. 

“It’s a starting point, a connection for kids,” she said. “Seeing the decorations often sparks memories of vacations and initiates conversations.” 

Alongside her own, Tomboc-Brownlie tries to feature as many different cultures as possible. During Nowruz, the Iranian New Year, Tomboc-Brownlie worked with Westview’s Persian Club to set up a display of food and decorations at the front of the library. 

Inclusivity is also a priority for Tomboc-Brownlie when it comes to buying books. 

“I try to look for books that represent all cultures,” she said. “It is important to me that students see themselves in books.” 

Inclusivity in the library is not just about cultural diversity, however; it’s also about diversity in the types of media offered. 

“Not every kid will read a novel,” Tomboc-Brownlie said. “I don’t read manga, that’s not my thing, but I buy it because there are kids interested in it.” 

The most challenging part of Tomboc-Brownlie’s career came in 2022 when a parent filed a personnel complaint against her for keeping two controversial LGBTQ books in the library. 

As a firm believer in the idea that young people should see themselves reflected in their school library books, Tomboc-Brownlie explained her rationale for buying the books at a Poway Unified school board meeting. 

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel is the book that was challenged from our collection.  I did not purchase it. The book was donated by our former AP World History & Humanities teacher, whose professional judgment I respected.  The reviews in Titlewave were positive. so I decided to add the book to the library,” she said. 

“A lot of people don’t understand what teacher librarians do and what our policies are,” she said. “I just had to speak out. It was a personal decision.” 

What makes Tomboc-Brownlie most proud about her time as Westview’s librarian is her hand in creating a safe space. 

“There are kids who come here every day, and it’s obvious that this is where they feel comfortable,” she said. “They were safe here, they have fond memories of this place.” 

As for the future of the library, Tomboc-Brownlie hopes Westview’s next librarian carries on the library’s legacy of innovation. Under Tomboc-Brownlie’s direction, Westview was the first school in the district to have ebooks, and now Sora, our online library, is all over the district. 

“I’m hoping that whoever takes my place will visualize even more and continuously improve the library,” Tomboc-Brownlie said.  


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