TASL Member Brags

compiled by Julie Caudle

It’s time again for one of my favorite features of TASL Talks–Member Brags! I’m always so inspired and amazed by all the great things we’ve been dong around the state.  A call was sent out for all our good news, and we got some fantastic responses.  Please remember to keep your area reps apprised of any great achievements, awards, steps forward, aha moments, and the like. We are stronger when we support one another and work together, and we can’t do that unless we know about what awesome things you are doing in your libraries.  Enjoy reading about our amazing TASL colleagues this edition of TASLTalks!



In December, Robertsville Middle School librarian in East Tennessee, Scot Smith, wrote a grant for Oak Ridge’s Lunch-4-Literacy program for three schools in Anderson County to host author Kathleen Burkinshaw. Scot knew her novel, The Last Cherry Blossom, a beautiful story about the bombing of Hiroshima, would be the perfect fit for the middle school students of his district. Plus, her novel has been nominated for the 2019-2020 Volunteer State Book Award in the Middle School Division. In February, Scot received the good news that his grant application had been successful! He then began finalizing the details for Kathleen’s two days of school visits. On May 16th & 17th, students and staff from the Episcopal School of Knoxville, Jefferson Middle School, Norris Middle School, and Robertsville Middle School had the opportunity to listen to Kathleen as she shared her mother’s story as a survivor of the Hiroshima bombing. Because of Oak Ridge’s unique relationship with its sister city, students and members of the community discussed the exchange program they have with Naka-Shi as well as the renovation of the Friendship Bell. For Scot, author visits are more than students being herded into the auditorium to listen passively to a guest speaker; a writer’s presentation is an opportunity for students to engage in the wide and complex world all around them.  What an enriching experience for all participants.  Thank you for sharing Scot!

Author Kathleen Burkinshaw with Emily Haverkamp of Jefferson Middle, Kat Hall of Norris Middle and Scot Smith of Robertsville Middle and Jerry Luckman and Shigeko Uppuluri of the Secret City Organization at Oak Ridge’s Friendship Bell.
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. He lives in Oak Ridge in a house in the woods with his wife, daughter, and two cats.


Comic book day

Over on the other side of the state in Memphis, Ridgeway High School librarian, Susan Harris, celebrated her graphic novel readers.  At Ridgeway, they celebrated free comic book day, which was May 4th this year, with a “Comi-Con” party! Susan posted clues (riddles) on the library website for staff members who had comic book trivia questions, which were similar in format to the TV show, The Amazing Race’s clues.  Students had to figure out who the staff member was, locate them, and correctly answer the clue (question) before the staff member gave them the next clue.  They then had to solve the riddle to figure out who the next staff member was and give them the correct answer to the previous clue before they could get the next clue…once they got the final clue, they had to come to Susan so she would know they had answered all five questions correctly.  This final step allowed them to be invited to the party.  Susan purchased Chick-Fil-A boxed meals for each student in attendance, where they also ate Avenger-themed cupcakes.  The decor was superhero themed, and participants  dressed as their favorite superhero.  At the party, students raced to see who was the fastest superhero, competed in an arm wrestling contest to see who was the strongest superhero, and participated in a best dressed superhero contest.  Each winner received a $10 Chick-Fil-A gift card.  Each student in attendance received a superhero button, a bookmark and several free comic books.  A “super” time was had by all!  To see the fun time everyone had at the party, check out the YouTube video their district made to capture the excitement!


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.



McKenzie Elementary librarian, Carol Nanney, was named a SCORE Ed Fellow for the 2019-2020 school year! Thirty-one educators were selected for the 2019-20 class of the Tennessee Educator Fellowship through a competitive admissions process. The Tennessee Educator Fellowship is a yearlong program that equips teachers, school counselors, interventionists, and librarians to learn about education policy and advocate for their students and their profession. The educators chosen this year work in a variety of settings: traditional public schools, public magnet schools, and public charter schools.

This is the sixth year of the Tennessee Educator Fellowship. The fellows chosen for the 2019-20 cohort have a combined teaching experience of 358 years and represent elementary, middle, and high schools in 26 districts across East, Middle, and West Tennessee. The members of this cohort teach English language arts, math, science, social studies, STEM, construction trades, and special education in urban, suburban, and rural schools. The cohort also includes educators who serve as school counselors, a librarian, and an educator who teaches English language learners.  Congratulations to Carol on receiving this esteemed honor!

Carol Nanney (1)
McKenzie Elementary School librarian and 2019-20 SCORE honoree, Carol Nanney.
Carol Nanney is a librarian at McKenzie Elementary School in the McKenzie Special School District. Nanney has been in education for 26 years.


Also, don’t forget, we want to recognize our members all year long. One way is through our TASL Librarian of the Month award. We need your recommendations of librarians to recognize in order to make this happen.  Each month the TASL officers select the winning librarian. Once you recommend a librarian, you do not have to fill the form out again.

TASL summer reading
TASL Summer Reading Challenge Tweet

Also, be sure to tweet and instagram your summer reads!  Follow @TASLTN on Twitter and Instagram, and use the #TASLsummerchallenge to post your summer reads and see what other Tennessee librarians are reading over the summer!  TASL Talks will be posting more book reviews over the summer for all grade levels, so be sure to check here each week for some great recommendations!  Have a great summer!


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