Calling all TASL Members: Tell Congress to #FundLibraries


Legislators received an informational packet which included our TASL School Libraries Infographic and the winning designs from our School Library Month bookmark contest.

Written by: Lindsey Anderson

In case you missed it, the President’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget proposal eliminates library funding. Again. The House and Senate rejected these cuts in 2018 and funding was passed out of Committee. Congress is actively working on the budget for Fiscal Year 2019, which begins October 1. Appropriations committees allocate funding across the 12 different subcommittees. Libraries fall under Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations. So, what can we do?

This is where you come in. This is where every email, letter, phone call, and meeting counts. Reach out to your Congressmen and Senators today and tell them how funding libraries specifically impacts you, their constituent. Show them the faces of those students and families whose lives are impacted by library services. Your voice and expertise is vital in making sure funding is appropriated for libraries. October will be here before we know it. Decisions are being made now, and your voice is needed now. Thomas Jefferson said, “We in America do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate.”

The NLLD Team from Tennessee. Front row (L-R) Lindsey Anderson (Woodland Middle School Librarian), Kathleen Tyree (Circulation Supervisor, Linebaugh Public Library),  Vivian Wynn (State Coordinator for NLLD), Susan Earl (Director, John P. Holt Brentwood Library). Back Row (L-R): Chris Marszalek (Deputy Director, Memphis Public Libraries), Chuck Sherrill (State Librarian and Archivist, Tennessee State Library and Archives), Jerry Spurlin (Library Trustee), Jeffie Nicholson (Adult Services Manager, Williamson County Public Library and TLA President), Kent Oliver (Director, Nashville Public Library, Chair of ALA’s Committee on Legislation), Diane Johnson (Friends of the Library), Bill Beatty (Library Trustee), Janis Perry (Assistant Director, Hatchie River Regional Library)  Photo credit: ALA

National Library Legislative Day was held on May 7, 8, in Washington D.C. Nearly 500 librarians, library directors, trustees, and supporters of libraries descended on Capitol Hill, charged with the same task- to ask Congress to fund libraries. Our three requests:

  1. To ask Congress to reauthorize the Institute of Museum and Library Services Act of 2017 (S.2271) and to fund libraries with the $189.3 million needed for the Library Services Act (LSTA), which is the only federal program exclusively for libraries. This is bipartisan legislation to reauthorize IMLS, and it expands the previous reauthorization by allowing libraries to use grants to develop and implement disaster readiness plans, expanding eligibility for tribal libraries, and providing libraries with data-driven accountability tools.
  2. To ask for support of high capacity broadband for all libraries and to support legislation that bans blocking, throttling, degrading, paid prioritization of internet traffic and includes clear enforcement authority.
  3. To invite our Congressional leaders to our libraries to see their constituents taking advantage of all that libraries have to offer.
Infographic created by State Librarian and Archivist Chuck Sherrill on out funding IMLS specifically supports Tennessee public libraries.

How does this impact school school libraries?

Do your students use the Tennessee Electronic Library? TEL databases had over 14.4 million searches last year. It is the primary tool I use with students at my school for research. It stands to reason that a significant part of the volume of searches received by TEL is coming from students across Tennessee. TEL is funded jointly through IMLS and the General Assembly of the State of Tennessee. If Congress does not reauthorize IMLS, thus cutting funding and therefore access to services like TEL, my library’s budget would be severely impacted, as I’d have to subscribe to the host of databases that TEL provides to us for free. How much room is in your budget for these databases?

Tennessee R.E.A.D.S., the Regional Ebook and Audiobook Download System had 3 million digital checkouts in 2017. I am continually referring my students to these digital resources at our local public library. My school uses these e-books to read virtually to students in 2 different school districts every week. Because I work in a middle school, I do not include K-2 level e-books in my budget, so having free access to the Tennessee R.E.A.D.S. resources, allows us free access to books that meet the elementary level reading needs of our virtual reading buddies.

How many of your students do not have a computer in their home, or they live in an area that lacks access to broadband? Do they use the local public library to use the computers to complete assignments? There were 7,343,595 uses of library computers or Wi-Fi in 2017 in public libraries. Access to technology and broadband levels the playing field and empowers those who cannot normally afford to have it in their homes. Our public libraries are there for our students after school and on weekends, providing access to computers and wi-fi so our students who do not have access in their homes can successfully complete their assignments.

If Congress does not adequately fund libraries, and reauthorize IMLS, this could have a devastating effect on the access our students have to not only information for assignments, but also to the resources and tools they have outside of their school libraries, which especially hurts our students who are already impacted the most by lack of digital access in their homes. When we partner with our public libraries and direct students to them to take advantage of the resources beyond our school libraries, we are equipping our students for a lifetime with the understanding that, no matter where they are in our country, they have free access to resources they need to get jobs, to further their education, and tools to help them succeed in our digital world. School librarians need to not only speak up for specific needs of our own libraries, but we also need to speak on behalf of our public libraries. Send your representative a copy of the infographic detailing how Tennessee public libraries benefit from IMLS.  

TN Tuesday began with meeting Senator Alexander and Senator Corker and was followed by meetings with Tennessee representatives David Kustoff, Diane Black, Marsha Blackburn, Scott DeJarlais, Phil Roe, John L. Duncan, Chuck Fleischmann, Jim Cooper, and Steve Cohen

How can you effectively engage your Congressional leaders?

If you are able to meet with your State Representative or Senator, or even with a member from their team, then great! If that’s not possible, send an email. Emails can be forwarded, unlike letters, and I learned that in some cases, letters are being scanned before they are sent to offices, so save yourself a stamp, and send an email. Follow them on social media. Comments on their posts can be influential in their decision making. Attend their town hall meetings and ask questions. Invite them to your libraries so they can see the impact of your services and resources in action.  

Whatever you do, tell them your story. Tell them what is going on in your library, and how this impacts the lives of your students. Tell the story that needs to be told so that when they think about an issue, they see the face of the student you described.

Timing is crucial. If you follow ALA on social media, they will often prompt followers to reach out to Congressional leaders, therefore, when you see that call to action, contact your members of Congress right away.

Always follow-up. Send an email to thank them for a meeting. Thank any staffers who attended the meeting, too. Stay in contact and don’t take “yes” for an answer. Keep working to move them up the scale and getting them to do more.
Advocacy is year round. The good news is you don’t have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to advocacy. ALA has assembled a fantastic toolkit to help anyone get started with advocacy. As we approach the end of school year 2017-2018, remember that decisions that impact us in school year 2018-2019 are being made right now. Reach out to your elected officials and make your voice heard. As the old saying goes, “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.” Tell Congress to #FundLibraries today.

Lindsey Anderson is the Library Media Specialist at Woodland Middle School in Brentwood, TN. She is TASL’s Advocacy Chair and is Vice-President of the Southeastern Young Adult Book Festival. She writes about library programming and lesson ideas on her blog, LibraryStile. Twitter: @LindsKAnderson. 

2018 VSBA Winners Announced + Tennessee School Librarian Winners of the Follett School Solutions Contest!

Written by: Scot Smith

We are pleased to announce the winners of the 2017-2018 Volunteer State Book Award. The top five titles in each of the four divisions are listed below:

Primary: Grades K-2

  • Winner: Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015.
  • Winnie: The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie-The-Pooh by Sally Walker and illustrated by Jonathan Voss. Henry Holt, 2015.
  • Little Bird’s Bad Word by Jacob Grant. Abrams Books, 2015.
  • I Don’t Want to Be a Frog by Deb Petty and illustrated by Mike Boldt. Doubleday, 2015.
  • First-Grade Dropout by Audrey Verneck and illustrated by Matthew Cordell. Houghton Mifflin Clarion, 2015.

Intermediate Division: Grades 3-5

  • Winner: Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty. Disney Hyperion, 2015.
  • The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. Dial, 2015.
  • Stubby the Dog Soldier by B.A. Hoena and illustrated by Oliver Hurst. Picture Window Books, 2015.
  • Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate. Feiwel and Friends, 2015.
  • The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare. Scholastic, 2014.

Middle School Division: Grades 6-8.

  • Winner: The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. Dial, 2015.
  • Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson. Dial Books, 2015.
  • Pax by Sara Pennypacker. Balzer + Bray, 2016.
  • Orbiting Jupiter by Gary Schmidt. Clarion Books, 2015.
  • I am Princess X by Cherie Priest. Arthur A. Levine Books, 2015.

High School: Grades 9-12

  • Winner: The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard. HarperTeen, 2015.
  • Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon. Delacorte Press, 2015.
  • Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. Balzer + Bray, 2015.
  • Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. Henry Holt and Company, 2015.
  • Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys. Philomel Books, 2016.

We would like to thank every librarian, student, and patron who participated in voting for the Volunteer State Book Award. 2017-2018 was a record breaking year for the award. Over 37,000 children and teens from across Tennessee participated in voting for the Volunteer State Book Award this year. Participation increased dramatically in the high school division with substantially more libraries and teens submitting votes. In the Primary Division alone, we had nearly 25,000 votes. Libraries in the Intermediate Division submitted over 15,000 votes.

We are also excited to announce the four winners of the VSBA drawing sponsored by Follett School Solutions.  The winners are list below:

Primary: Julie Shaver of Nashville Christian School, Nashville, TN

Intermediate: Mackenzie Skiles of Clovercroft Elementary School, Franklin, TN

Middle School: Robin Finley of Arlington Middle School, Arlington, TN.

High School: Nancy Hammons and Lynn Lilley of McGavock High School, Nashville, TN.

The winning schools will receive a set of 20 VSBA titles from the 2018-2019 list of nominations from Follett. A special thanks to Jon Duncan and Richie Gibson, Follett’s two representatives from Tennessee, for their work in arranging this new promotion.

What does your library need to do to have a chance to win a set of books? Participate in the VSBA voting for next year! We received a record number of votes this year and would love to break that record next May.

Scot Smith is the librarian at Robertsville Middle School in Oak Ridge and also teaches classes in Young Adult Literature at the University of Tennessee. He has been the co-chair of Tennessee's Volunteer State Award since 2010. In 2017, he served as a member of the Michael J. Printz committee and was named an Outstanding Educator by Humanities Tennessee. 

Recognition Matters! Take A Moment to Acknowledge Your Colleagues for Some Meaningful (& Monetary) Awards!


Written by: Krista Grace

As the school year winds to a close, we all begin to reflect on the school year. We think about the things that went well and the things that we would like to improve upon next year. If you are like me, you think about the people in our lives both personal and professional who are very supportive of the work that we do in our libraries. The Awards Committee for TASL would like to ask you to think about who deserves to be honored by one of the awards that TASL awards each year.

Each year we award five different awards at our fall conference to members of TASL or through member of TASL. The first of these awards is the Innovative Library Media Program Award. It honors library media specialists who have developed an outstanding, creative program in their library for their school. The recipient of this award receives $500. Last year’s winners were Melissa Laws at Baileyton Elementary School in Greeneville, TN. She was the winner of the elementary division for her “Open Doors for Summer Dragons” program. Kari Edgens at East Nashville Magnet Middle School was the winner of the middle school division for her “Reading Bingo” program. Erin Alvarado at Central Magnet School in Murfreesboro, TN was the winner for the high school division for her “National School Library Month Celebration” event. I’m sure that there are many of you across that state that are doing wonderful creative things in your libraries. We would love to hear from you, and you never know—you just might be the winner of the award this year. Take a chance a submit an application.

The second award is the Distinguished School Administrator Honor Roll is a recognition program for supervisors, principals and superintendents who have shown exemplary support for the library. Last year these administrators were recognized for their support of their libraries and their specialists: John Bartlett (Bearden High School, in Knoxville, TN), Kay Davenport (Smyrna West – Murfreesboro, TN). Jared Foust (Crockett County High School – Alamo, TN), Anthony Johnson (Clarksville Montgomery County Schools – Clarksville, TN), and. Tanna Nicely (South Knoxville Elementary School – Knoxville, TN). If you have a wonderful administrator who is always there for you and supporting what you are doing in your media center, why not submit an application on their behalf. They deserve to be recognized!

The third award goes to a classroom teacher. It is the Teacher Collaboration Award and is awarded to a teacher that collaborates with their library media specialist to create a lesson or unit that utilizes the library resources. Zakeisha Smith, was last year’s winner. She is from Amqui Elementary School in Nashville, TN.  Lakeisha Brinson nominated her for their collaboration project, “From Reading to Robots.” We all work hard to develop those collaborative relationships, and when you have one that really shines, you need to let them know that you appreciate the relationship that has been developed. This award can let you show teachers how much you value working with them. Who do you know in your school that deserves this award?

Do you know of someone who is very dedicated to school libraries? They might qualify for the final award which is The Clara Hasbrouck Award. It is given to a school librarian or supervisor who is a TASL member and has demonstrated dedication and commitment to school libraries, leadership, and involvement in TASL over several years. Mrs. Hasbrouck choses the recipient of this award.

TASL is blessed to be able to award two scholarships each year due to the generosity of Mrs. Clara Hasbrouck. Each year Mrs. Hasbrouck awards two one-time grants of $1,000 who demonstrate potential in working with students and are pursuing a master’s degree in library science or a certification in school library in a Tennessee college or university.

The Awards Committee is accepting applications for nominations for each of these awards until July 13, 2018. We hope that our inbox will be flooded with many worthy nominees. While you are in “school mode” as you close out the year, please take time to consider whom you would like to honor by nominating them for one of these awards. You can click here to go directly to the Awards and Scholarships Page on the TASL website. We look forward to seeing you in the fall at #TASLCON18 where we will formally recognize this year’s winners.


Krista Grace is the librarian at Medina Middle School in Medina, Tennessee and this year’s TASL Awards Committee Chairperson. She has also served as a chairperson the West Summer Professional Development.  Her Horner Book Squad has twenty students who are trained to help checkout and shelve books. She also runs a successful Battle of the Books program in her school, which attracts about seventy students each year. She is the President of Omicron Chapter of Xi State in Delta Kappa Gamma.  She has been a librarian for eight years and has been very active in TASL since she first became a librarian.


Who’s That Librarian Bringin’ Change to Tennessee? It’s ME! It’s ME!

Written by: Ginger Kirchmyer

It’s no surprise to any of us that amazing things are happening here in Tennessee’s school libraries! TASL knows how great our librarians are, but maybe some of the incredible things being done by our colleagues will spark a flame in you to take something you’re doing to the next level!

Wanna see what we brought this semester? Here’s some of our most creative, out-of-the-box thinkers, movers and shakers, and downright awesome school librarians! But we know there’s more out there! Please share your accomplishments, cool happenings, creative solutions, celebrations, and all-things positive to your area reps or to Ginger Kirchmyer, TASLTalks Editor. We write several features a year focusing on our amazing librarians, and we’d love to include you!!


One of our innovative librarians comes from smack-dab in the middle of the state in the Highland Rim Region! Melissa Dobbs and her dad designed these great showcases! Her LEGO STEAM elective students had projects to display, but she didn’t want them to get damaged or taken apart, so she did what any librarian would do (cough, cough)…. She created her own shadow box! Aren’t these amazing! Love your ingenuity Melissa!

Melissa is one of two librarians at Stratford STEM Magnet School Librarian in Nashville, TN. Clearly she has a knack for STEAM! Looks like she’s working at the right school!

Send a Librarian to SEYA

“Stories have the power to change lives in meaningful ways.”  T. Parrish

This was the quote (above) that helped Theresa Parrish earn herself a free trip to one of Tennessee Librarians’ favorite experiences of the year! A great big congratulations to Theresa Parrish and Susan Harris who each received a VIP package from SEYA that provided hotel lodging for one night, a meet and greet with bestselling authors, an autographed book of their choosing and admission to the festival that took place on Saturday, March 10.

“Young adult literature is what I love. Getting to listen to writers talk about their books and have one-on-one experiences with them allows me to gain insight into their works and better promote them to my students.”  S. Harris

Susan Harris is the librarian at Ridgeway High in Shelby County (Mississippi River Region). She has an MLIS from University of Southern MS and has been a librarian for 26 years working in both public and school libraries.  Susan was the 2012 TASL Innovative LMS award winner and was recently nominated for the Louise Meredith Award from TLA. Susan has written over $20,000 in grants. Aside from her work in her library, Susan writes reviews for SLJ.

Theresa Parrish is the librarian at Roane County High School in Kingston, TN (Volunteer Region). She currently serves on the Volunteer State Book Award committee for the middle and high school divisions and sponsors her school’s Book Jackets Readers’ Club and GSA.

Well done ladies! You represented librarians well, and we’re glad to have you among the ranks of TASL librarians!


In the Waking Horse Region, Blackman High School co-librarians, Misti Jenkins and Brian Seadorf were featured on local New Channel 5 as Excellent Educators! Check them out here to see what a typical day is like and why they are so appreciated at BHS! 

Misti Jenkins is the Immediate Past-President of TASL. A Trevecca Nazarene University grad (MLIS), Misti taught English for 6 years before moving into the library. With TASL, Misti has served in multiple capacities from airport shuttle for authors to chairing committees to serving in executive leadership positions.

Brian Seadorf, a graduate of MTSU, Brian has been helping with the TASL SWAG bags for 4 years and also enjoys assisting with the setup of the TASL Conference luncheon. Brian was an English teacher for 9 years before becoming a librarian.



Normally I wouldn’t want to write about myself here, but because of the nature of the topic and how passionate I am about it, I decided to include it. This year I have begun a program about which I feel particularly passionate. Those who know me know that my own dog is my life, so I’m sure it would be no surprise to my prior colleagues in Chattanooga or my current ones in Nashville that I have started a Reading Therapy Dog program here at DuPont Hadley Middle Prep, and it is going AMAZINGLY!

Our current therapy dog Molly visits every Friday from 9am-1pm. We’re starting small with only one dog who is certified through Canines for Christ (though there are many organizations who offer therapy dog visits for FREE). Molly works solely with our struggling students. They come with a pass to the library, choose a book, and read to her for 10-15 minutes. They may also pet her and talk to her a little. Then they go back to class, and the next student comes down.

My hope is that we will eventually have more therapy dogs who stay in certain classrooms, but this is how our administration felt comfortable letting it begin, and I’ll take that! If you’d like to read more about our program, click here, or feel free to contact me @ You can also follow Molly on Facebook @TherapyDogMolly.


Ginger Kirchmyer is a National Board Certified Teacher and the librarian at DuPont Hadley Middle Prep in Nashville, TN; she currently serves as the TASLTalks Editor. She manages her own library website and posts her own blog as well.

Here’s a list of our area reps in case you don’t know where you belong. Make sure you reach out if you need help, want to celebrate, or just have a question. That’s what they’re there for!

Mississippi River Region Representative

Katherine Cozzens

Lake, Obion, Dyer, Lauderdale, Crockett, Tipton, Haywood, Shelby, Fayette

Western Plains  Representative

Sherry Copeland

Weakley, Henry, Gibson, Carroll, Madison, Henderson, Chester, Hardeman, McNairy

West Tennessee River Region Representative

Cindy Martin

Stewart, Houston, Benton, Humphreys, Decatur, Perry, Hickman, Lewis, Hardin, Wayne, Lawrence

Highland Rim Region Representative

Jackie Gregory

Montgomery, Robertson, Sumner, Macon, Dickson, Cheatham, Davidson, Wilson,Trousdale, Smith

Walking Horse Region Representative

Shannon Minner

Williamson, Rutherford, Cannon, Maury, Marshall, Bedford, Coffee, Giles,Lincoln, Moore, Franklin

Cumberland Region Representative

Julie Stepp

Clay, Pickett, Jackson, Overton, Fentress, Putnam, DeKalb, White, Cumberland, Warren, Van Buren, Grundy

Appalachian Region

Cathy Sanders

Claiborne, Hancock, Hawkins, Sullivan, Johnson, Grainger, Hamblen, Jefferson, Cocke, Greene, Washington, Unicoi, Carter

Volunteer Region Representative

Raina Scoggins

Scott, Campbell, Morgan, Anderson, Union, Knox, Roane, Loudon, Blount, Sevier

East Tennessee River Region Representative

WE ARE LOOKING FOR SOMEONE! (Want to fill this role? Contact Blake Hopper)

Marion, Sequatchie, Bledsoe, Rhea, Meigs, McMinn, Monroe, Polk, Bradley, Hamilton

About the author: Ginger Kirchmyer is a National Board Certified Teacher and the librarian at DuPont Hadley Middle Prep in Nashville, TN; she taught English in the classroom for 18 years before becoming a school librarian. In 2014 she proudly earned her MLIS from the University of Alabama. She currently serves as the TASLTalks Editor. She manages her own library website and posts her own blog as well.


VSBA Ballots are Ready and Waiting!

vsba logo

Written by: Scot Smith

We have posted the ballots for the 2017-2018 Volunteer State Book Award at

The ballots are due on Wednesday, May 2. All ballots must be submitted online; there will be no paper ballots.

Remember that in order to participate in the voting, your library must own twelve of the twenty nominated titles.

For a student to vote, he/she must have read at least three of the books from the list of nominated titles. We would like to have more participation from middle and high schools throughout the state. If you have any questions or concerns about voting, please email Scot Smith or Pat Bashir. The contact information is on the VSBA page. We will announce the winners on the TASL website and through the TASL list-serv on Monday, May 9.


Molly Moore, the chair of the publicity committee, has created a VSBA page on Facebook. Check out that page for the latest VSBA news, resources, and suggestions. The members of the newly formed Publicity Committee have made suggestions on how to encourage students to vote for their favorite books on this Facebook page.

Members of the three VSBA Nominating Committees have been hard at work reading and discussing the titles for the 2019-2020 lists. They will meet in late April or early May to finalize those fours lists. We hope to post those lists during the middle of May.



We have an exciting announcement about participation in voting for this year’s Volunteer State Book Award. Follett School Solutions has agreed to sponsor a drawing for four sets (that’s twenty books in each division) of 2018-2019 VSBA nominated titles. Follett will donate a set of twenty VSBA titles in each division-Primary, Intermediate, Middle School, and High School–to four lucky libraries. What do you need to do for your library to be eligible to win? Submit your ballots for the 2017-2018 VSBA on or before Wednesday, May 2, 2018.

We hope that this giveaway will increase participation in voting, especially at the middle and high school levels. It does not matter if your library has five or five hundred students who participate in the VSBA voting. If you submit your ballot, your library will have a chance to win twenty free books from Follett. Remember that your library cannot win if you do not submit your ballot. You can find the ballots at

We would especially like to thank Tennessee’s two Follett representatives-Jon Duncan and Richie Gibson-for their support with this new initiative.

Scot Smith is the librarian at Robertsville Middle School in Oak Ridge and also teaches classes in Young Adult Literature at the University of Tennessee. He has been the co-chair of Tennessee's Volunteer State Award since 2010. In 2017, he served as a member of the Michael J. Printz committee and was named an Outstanding Educator by Humanities Tennessee.

What’s a School Librarian Doing at TLA Conference?

Photos are from the Children’s and Young Adult Roundtable Luncheon at this year’s TLA conference in Memphis, TN.      Photo 1: Lindsey Anderson was honored as the Louise Meredith Award recipient and pictured with TLA liaison Erika Long. Photo 2:  Erika poses with school librarian/author Alice Faye Duncan, who was the speaker.  Photo credit goes to Jennifer Sharp.

Written by: Erika Long

Whether you are a member of TLA, have considered membership, or simply haven’t decided its value yet, at some point, you have likely questioned: What does a school librarian get out of membership in TLA and/or attending the annual conference? The answer depends on the person. What are you looking for? What benefits would you like to receive from either? What can you bring to the organization?

This past week, I had the chance to attend my third TLA Conference. Aside from my obligation as a board member, conference is an opportunity to continue learning amongst other types of librarians. Memphis—my hometown and a MLK 50 Commemoration site—being the locale was icing on the cake.

Making Connections

Have you ever wanted to make a connection with a public or academic librarian? Wanted to include them or tie them into your work? What better place to make a connection than at the annual conference or through membership (listservs, social media, etc.). Sometimes key players in your community are more easily accessible through membership in TLA. Conference is small, so you have the opportunity to interact with library directors, deans, staff from the state library and archives, etc. These people may be able to help you and your students via partnerships, advocacy efforts, etc.

Learning From Counterparts

Even though we are in different contexts, there is some crossover in skills taught and services provided between school librarians and academic/public librarians. Consider, maybe you can revamp your elementary library lessons by attending a session on storytime at the public library. Perhaps you could use instructional strategies shared in a session about academic library instruction to ensure your high school students are prepared for college. Or you might be a middle school librarian who is stumped and looking for new, creative reading promotion/display ideas. An academic or public library might just have the perfect solution. What you take away from TLA’s annual conference really comes down to your programming/instructional needs and your open-mindedness. The key is taking the great thing you hear/learn and adapting/modifying it to best fit the population you serve, while using the resources you have at your disposal.      


A Few Conference Highlights

  • Self-censorship is a practice librarians strive to avoid, but it inevitable for more of us than one might think. Truly knowing your population and your needs will help you best select materials without self-censorship. If you’ve hosted Mix It Up! Before, you might be interested in National Week of Conversation, April 20-28. This is an opportunity to engage in conversation surrounding the sensitive topics that sometimes cause librarians to self-censor.
  • We are helping produce well-rounded citizens. Let’s make sure they are by preparing them to become “real adults” with a little #adulting101. Consider offering crash courses in adult interaction for teens—resume building and job hunting skills, financial, health and self-care, healthy eating, and moving out. Local agencies and even your staff can help lead this sessions.
  • Advocacy can sometimes seem intimidating and daunting. However, no one can speak to what you do and need as well as you. Get out of your building. Meet and present to those who fund your work. Be seen and involved; it will be easier to garner the support of funding bodies when you request it.
  • Tell your story. And your students’ stories. Politicians and stakeholders want to know they are making an investment, not spending money.

Check out #tnla18 on social media for more conference highlights.

Honoring Exemplary Work

Did you know that each year, TLA recognizes a school librarian in honor of Louise Meredith, former Tennessee State Department of Education School Library Supervisor? The award recognizes a school librarian who has made unique and worthy contributions to his/her school instructional program, community, and/or professional landscape through exemplary school library media services. Attending conference gives us the opportunity to celebrate what’s happening in school libraries across our state and the librarians at the helm of those spaces and programs.

This year, the Louise Meredith Award recipient is Lindsey Anderson. Lindsey serves on the board of SEYA, is advocacy chair for TASL, and provides professional development in her district and at TASL Conference. What makes Lindsey shine most is her heart, passion, and compassion for her Woodland Middle School community. She works tirelessly to ensure her programming reflects all the types of students her library serves. With programming like Project LIT, Language Lunch, Battle of the Books, and Best Buddies, Lindsey has created a school library where all students are included, engaged, and empowered. And if that isn’t enough, she works closely with her PTA and manages to successfully host at least one author visit each year. (Continue to help TLA celebrate Lindsey by congratulating her when you see her.)

TLA solicits nominations for the award each year and looks forward to your nominations. You can learn more about the award here.

Restructuring TLA

After a recent vote on association restructure in the bylaws, TLA will restructure its board starting this June. The school libraries section will no longer exist. However, we will be seeking a representative of school libraries to serve on the TLA board so that we maintain a presence and have a seat at the table for all future conversations on how TLA serves its members. The representative will be a Member-at-Large. This volunteer position is a one year commitment with its biggest task being attendance at quarterly board meetings (two online, two in-person) and communicating by e-mail with TLA’s school librarian membership and fellow board members.If you feel passionately about the presence of school librarians and how TLA can serve them, or would like more information, contact me at

Erika Long is a secondary school librarian in Nashville. She was named a 2017 AASL Social Media Superstar finalist in the Social Justice Defender Category. She currently serves as the School Libraries Section Chair on the TLA Board. She has previously blogged for The Horn Book and maintains a personal blog about children’s and YA lit—Blog, Don’t Judge.

School Library Month is About Strengthening Our Library Programs. Stephanie Ham, MNPS Director of Library Services Can Help You Learn How.


Written by: Stephanie Ham

Doesn’t it always feel like our plates are loaded in the spring? Work gets busier, outdoor activities start, and of course getting our allergies checked (we love Tennessee in the spring!). However, for anyone that works in education, you also know that the spring is budget season. Although it can be a stressful time, it is also a great opportunity to talk with administrators and stakeholders about your school library.

Going into a tight budget season, we have encouraged our librarians in Nashville to have that crucial conversation with administrators now. Why now? By May budgets and schedules are already set for the next year, and it is important to get that face time as they are making decisions. As I have told many librarians, it isn’t an easy conversation to have but extremely necessary. To help guide librarians to have this conversation, here are some probing questions to center the conversation around:

  1. What are the school initiatives for the next school year, and how can the library support them?
  2. What instructional and administrative areas do they anticipate needing support?
  3. What resources is your school looking at purchasing? Is there something the libraries already has to support that? Example: Digital resources
  4. What do you anticipate the library schedule will look like next year?

Obviously, request the meeting with your administrator and then make a one-pager about your program. What have you accomplished this year, goals for next year… We made one specific to MNPS, however there are many available through AASL. Then practice. Find that critical friend who is going to push back as you have this conversation. This way you are prepared.

Lastly, remember this doesn’t have to be a bad conversation. Both you and your administrator want the same thing: to support student achievement. How you get there might be different, but having the conversation now will allow you to prepare and ensure you are supporting the school goals through the school library.

#librariansleadingtheway #teacherlibrarians #takethebullbythehorns

Stephanie Ham is the Director of Library Services for Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS), the 42nd largest school district in the country. Prior to her current position, she was the Coordinator of Limitless Libraries, a nationally recognized partnership program between Nashville Public Library and Metro Nashville Public Schools. She has been named a 2014 Library Journal Mover & Shaker for her advocacy and work with Limitless Libraries and was a member of the first Lilead Fellowship cohort. She can be found on Twitter @sjgham.

Poetry is a Bridge: Read, Write, and Share Poems to Engage Students During National Poetry Month!


Written by: Sara Seay Sluss

    Over the past decade poetry has taken on a smaller role in the classroom. The push to include more and more informational text and expository writing necessitates a reduction in other kinds of reading and writing. As a librarian, I have been fortunate in being allowed to choose my own extra-curricular causes. Crusading on behalf of poetry allows me to support literacy across the curriculum while banging a drum on behalf of something I love.

    Celebrating National Poetry Month in the library just makes sense. Poetry spans the space between the old world library (with it’s reading rooms, high windows, tea-stained pages, gravitas, and innumerable traditions) and the 21st century libraries (complete with innovative, maker-oriented, cool-to-hang, interactive, coffee shop, wireless, digital commons spaces) we are building. It is both an ancient art we can appreciate critically and a thriving literary form that we are re-inventing through contemporary modes of expression.

    There are hundreds of ways to celebrate and share poetry during April, but they all come down to three core actions: read poems; write poems; share poems. These are some of the more successful ways I have found to read, write and share poetry with my students.

  • I read poems to students during class, then book talk the collections that I read from.
  • I hold  a coffee house event in the library (complete with donuts) for students and teachers read their original poems.
  • I’ve made short videos in iMovie using photos and recordings of myself reading some of my favorite poems. These poems were shared with students as part of an activity during the advisory period. This year, I’m partnering with our CTE teacher to help students create their own poetry videos. For an example, check out
  • I give free pencils to students who read or recite poems to me in April.
  • I installed a magnetic poetry board in the library for passive programming.
  • I give out National Poetry Month trading cards. Each postcard is available for one day only. It has a poem on one side and a corresponding illustration on the other. I only print 100 per day, so you have to make it to the library early each morning if you’re going to collect a complete set. This year, I’m partnering with our art teacher to use all student-created illustrations for the trading cards.
  • I make posters with poems to hang in high-traffic areas.
  • I share poems (particularly students’ poems) from our social media accounts.
  • I write and share activities involving poetry for advisory periods.
  • I made and still use a board game for students. To play, they have to read a short passage then identify the type of figurative language used.
  • I help kids write their own poems. Occasionally, I get to do this in small, critical  workshop groups. More often, I’m working with whole classes of nervous pre-teens who have wildly varying levels of comfort with poetry, with writing in general, with each other, and with me. In these situations, it’s tempting to offer a broad menu of writing options, but I’ve seen better results when students are constrained by the rules of a particular form. Some of my favorites are acrostic and diamante poems, and haiku. I’ve also seen powerful poems created by imitating “Where I’m From” by George Ella Lyons.
  • I buy, display, and recommend new and diverse books of poems.

For more information about National Poetry Month, please visit

#NationalPoetryMonth #TASLlibrarians #teacherlibrarian

About the author: Sara Seay Sluss is the librarian at Tyner Middle Academy, Chattanooga, TN. She has served on the Hamilton County Library Leadership Team and contributes regularly to the professional development of her colleagues at TASL and within her own school district.

2018 TASL Bookmark Contest is Alive and Well!

Primary Division 1st place


Written by: Lindsey Anderson

Over 170 students from across Tennessee submitted an original design for TASL’s annual bookmark contest. The theme of this year’s contest was “Making Connections at Your School Library, “ which was the theme for AASL’s School Library Month. Student entries were judged by local illustrator Kris Sexton, in the categories of creativity, execution of the theme and use of materials. Kris said, “It was great seeing the artwork of so many creative and talented students!”

Winners receive a $25 cash award, 50 bookmarks of their design, and an award certificate. Librarians of the winners will receive 200 bookmarks and an enlargement.

Honorable Mention winners receive 25 bookmarks of their design and an award certificate. Their respective school librarians receive 100 bookmarks plus an enlargement.

The bookmarks will be distributed to legislators on TN Library Legislative Day, National Library Legislative Day, and at TASL’s annual conference in September. Thanks to all the students who entered and to all the librarians for promoting the contest and sending in student entries.

Click here to see all the winners, honorable mentions, and related info!

Middle School division 1st place

#TASLBookmarks  #Makingconnectionsatyourschoollibrary #makeadifference

About the author: Lindsey Anderson is the Library Media Specialist at Woodland Middle School in Brentwood, TN. She is TASL’s Advocacy Chair and is Vice-President of the Southeastern Young Adult Book Festival. She writes about library programming and lesson ideas on her blog, LibraryStile. 

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