Monday, April 14, 2014

#whylib - April Is School Library Month And Librarians Are Telling Their Stories!!

A few weeks ago, right as I was leaving for Spring Break, I noticed a few of the fantastic school librarians that I follow on Twitter discussing their reasons for becoming librarians. From their conversations a new Twitter hashtag was born - #whylib, with librarians around the nation telling their stories! Great timing - April is School Library Month and this year's theme is "Lives Change @ Your Library!!  I went on Spring Break and took a hiatus from most of my social media. When I returned I found that a padlet wall had begun and I had to catch up on my reading!!!  I was fascinated to read the stories of my librarian peers!! My story doesn't have any real surprises, but it ends well!  I am a school librarian (aka Media Specialist) at Oak Hills Elementary in Lakeville Minnesota!!  Hooray!
When I was a preschooler in Athens, Georgia, I vividly remember playing librarian! (I know...kind of a sad excuse for playtime many kids can say they played librarian!!) I was clearly a little confused about what a librarian did because I would pass the “library” books through one of our low living room windows like a bank teller, but no matter, loaning books to imaginary patrons and stamping cards gave my young heart a thrill! 

I demonstrated impeccable taste very early on!  My first book memory was of the 1942 Caldecott Award winning book The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton!  Just to be clear, I was looking at the book in 1969, not 1942!!! I loved the book so much that I took scissors and cut out one of my favorite pictures until I was stopped by my very unhappy mother!!

Fast forwarding a year or two, I didn’t actually grow into a book lover in spite of the generous collection of books in our home, avid “reader” parents and frequent visits to the public library. I was an above average reader, a proud member of the 1st grade Bluebird reading group (shhhh - we weren't supposed to know that we were being ability grouped!) As the books advanced and had fewer and fewer pictures, my interest in reading for pleasure diminished. I have often reflected that my reluctance to read for pleasure in late elementary school/middle school has been a critical factor in making me a better librarian today!  I understand why some of my students don’t enjoy reading. For some students like me, it isn't that they struggle reading, it is that they haven't found their reading niche! Often these students have yet to discover a genre that really ignites their imagination! This is what makes a tenacious librarian's job so very important!! Book promotion keeps reminding students to consider their options! Happily I did eventually find my reading niche!

Despite the fact that there was some early foreshadowing of my future career as librarian, I really side stepped my way into the field.  I went to college to be a teacher.  I took my first job teaching 5th grade at Timothy Road Elementary School in Athens, Georgia.  Athens is the home of the University of Georgia which is why my soon-to-be Minnesota husband was in town completing his Physics PhD. Two years after beginning teaching, we married and we moved to Minnesota where I was offered a 4th grade teaching position at Orchard Lake Elementary School in Lakeville, Minnesota!  Still a relatively new teacher, I got my first Master's degree in Elementary Education, fully planning to remain in the classroom for the rest of my career! As I began to plan further academic credits, I began to look around at other possibilities. At the time, a media specialist degree piqued my interest. I wouldn't be completely honest if I didn't mention that it was the technology as well as great children's literature that interested me in the field of library science. There really weren't any technology integrationist yet, and the only people really getting their hands on technology in most schools were the librarians!!  I mean REALLY! - Is there anything better than a field that combines great books, the latest technology and teaching!!  So in 1995, when my oldest daughter was born, I took a year leave of absence and got my media specialist certification. As luck would have it, when I returned to Orchard Lake Elementary a year later, there was an opening for a media specialist! In 1998, when the district began building a new building, Oak Hills Elementary, I volunteered to open the building. After a year of intense researching, selecting
and ordering of a core library collection, AV and technology, I helped open the Oak Hills Elementary library in 1999, and here I am in 2014! Though the field is constantly changing and evolving, and some are even questioning the future for libraries all together, my initial enthusiasm has not wained and my impressions of what it means to be a librarian remain unchanged. Fantastic books (no matter the format), technology (served best when chilled over learning and integrated with literature!) and is a magical combination!!