Written by Jennifer Boren
Most of us are well into the first nine weeks of school, so it is time to recognize the outstanding school librarians from around the state. These librarians have been nominated by their colleagues for the TASL Librarian of the Month Award and we tip our hats off to them!
Hometown: Collierville, TN
School: Bailey Station Elementary
Grades Taught: Currently PreK-5th and I serve as the Lead Library Media Specialist for Collierville Schools, previously 6th -8th grade librarian and regular ed teacher.
Average Number of Students per Class: 20
What do you love most about teaching? The thing I love most about teaching, and specifically being a librarian, is that I get to impact every student in my school building. I am priviledged to be able to spend my day talking about one of the things I most dearly love…books! Sharing a passion for literacy is contagious and I’m fortunate to be in a building where everyone from our administrators to our teaching assistants are passionate about growing readers too!
What would someone see if they were to walk into your library? Most people who have never been in my library are surprised to see it is a very active place with lots of creative things going on. Gone are the days of the silent library where children are seen and not heard. My shelves may be out of order, there may be construction paper on the floor, and you may see and hear students interacting on art projects, coding robots, or reading quietly, but there is lots of teaching and learning happening. You would see other faculty utilizing the library, parent volunteers and resources on loan to us from community organizations. Our library is truly the center of our school building!
What are you most proud of regarding your library program? The thing I am most proud of is that our library is an open, warm, and inviting place where all students, faculty and parents are welcome! This is evidenced by our circulation numbers and the fact that our collection is rated ‘Exemplary’ by the State of Tennessee. We strive to offer a diverse collection of materials that reaches the needs of all our patrons, and I believe this shows in how much business we generate throughout the school year…we must be doing something right!
What advice would you give a new librarian? Being a librarian can be an incredibly isolating venture. Typically, you are the only person in your building who truly knows your job. I would suggest new – and seasoned – librarians create a professional learning community if you haven’t done so already. Librarians are increasingly facing unique challenges and we are usually one of the only faculty members who interacts with every student. This can be a very overwhelming task, but with the help of fellow librarians, it does become much more manageable over time. The other piece of advice would be to build a relationship with your building administrators and faculty. The success of your library program depends upon their support. Your faculty and admin can be your biggest alies in fostering a culture of literacy within your school!
Anything else you would like to share. Last summer I was honored to attend the Teaching with Primary Sources Institute at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. Spending a week immersed in the LOC was a bucket-list item for sure! This summer, I studied as a Barringer Fellow at the Monticello Teacher’s Institute. I spent seven days in intensive study around all things Thomas Jefferson and primary sources. Applying for and participating in these professional development opportunities has changed me as an educator and collaborator with my faculty. I am always looking for ways to connect our library program to the state curriculum standards and attending these institutes have impacted our school in ways I am still discovering!
A favorite activity to share with other professionals:
Hometown: Estill Springs
School: East and West Middle Schools in Tullahoma, TN
Grades Taught: 6-8
Average Number of Students per Class: 25
What do you love most about teaching? I love helping a student find the right book! It is rewarding when they come back to you so excited about the recommended book and they want more in the series or other books that are like it.
What would someone see if they were to walk into your library? In both libraries, you would see a VSBA Award Nominees Poster and VSBA books underneath the poster on a bookcase. You would also see a makerspace area with all kinds of materials. At East, we have a Lego wall and Legos. We also have magnetic blocks, puzzles, and various STEM activities and games at both schools. We have some desktop computers and a case of Chromebooks. We have flexible seating, desk cycles, ellipticals, cushions, and a standing desk. Of course, you would see students viewing and checking out books. Currently we have a display of Banned Books with construction paper flames in the books and the books are wrapped in yellow “Caution” tape. We also have a photo backdrop like you see in mugshots and students enjoy getting their “mugshots” taken while holding up their favorite banned book. At West we have a video production room.
What are you most proud of regarding your library program? I am proud that the library is being utilized much more. We have book clubs and STEM activities for students to enjoy during their lunch break. We open the library for student use before school. After school, the library has club meetings such as Writing Club, Fly to Learn, and Video Production.
What advice would you give a new librarian? When you are feeling overwhelmed, just remember that you have the best job in the world! It is so rewarding to be part of a students’ growth as you help instill their love of reading.
A favorite activity description: During Read Across America Week, we have Seuss Bingo in the library during lunch. We announce the activity during morning announcements and inform the students that they need to go by the library to pick up a ticket for lunch/Bingo in the library that day. The middle school students still enjoy participating in activities like this. We also have a Fun Day in the library during lunch about 2-3 times a month and the students have to have a ticket for this also. Tickets are printed on different colors for each grade level lunch. We will have STEM activities and games they can choose to use during their lunch. The tickets are a hot item! We only give out about 25 per grade and it is a full house on those days. The last time we did this, we gave the tickets to teachers to give out as rewards. It is awesome that our students want to engage in activities in the library.
Hometown: Kingsport, Tennessee
School: Colonial Heights Middle School
Grades Taught: 6-8
Average Number of Students per Class: 25
What do you love most about teaching? Bringing literature to life for a student.
What would someone see if they were to walk into your library? They would see a place that promotes literature above all else. The library is decorated with replicas of well known books made into oversized props. Walls behind the giant books are painted with scenes in keeping with the book theme and props are displayed beside them. There are sofas and a comfortable chair with a coffee table (with coffee table books and magazines) in between. There are bistro tables and stools by the window overlooking some lovely trees. There is also a popcorn machine and a pencil machine that dispenses candy pencils! We also have a work-classroom area, iPads, large screen TV etc… (the typical stuff).
What are you most proud of regarding your library program? I am most proud of the fact that the students WANT to come to the library. I am pleased with the fact that we recreate scenes from books (like the wedding from Pride and Prejudice with a real wedding cake and period costumes).
What advice would you give a new librarian? Library “fads” come and go with government mandates and the desires of administrators and county officials. I believe a librarian should be as accommodating to these demands as possible, but the MOST IMPORTANT job of the librarian is to promote literacy and encourage people to be lifelong readers. This is what makes a difference in the long run.
Anything else you would like to share? Librarians are the best people in the world and I’m so glad we have a organization like TASL that keeps the heartbeat going!
A favorite activity description that we can share with other professionals: My favorite middle school activity is reading a condensed version of the novel Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Upon completion of the book we recreate the double wedding of Elizabeth, Darcy, Jane and Bingley. We decorate the library. The students wear period costumes and we even have horse head masks for our “horses” to pull the wedding carriage. We also have a vicar and sometimes bridesmaids and wedding singers. The guests wear period bonnets and top hats. I bake and decorate a three tiered wedding cake and make punch. The students bring food from the time period using a cookbook called Dinner With Mr. Darcy. This activity could be adapted to use with many novels that have an exciting scene.