How I Became a School Librarian

This month the Building a Culture of Collaboration co-bloggers will share how we got into the school library profession and why we love it. Thank you to co-blogger Karla Collins for suggesting this topic, which seems fitting for February. I look forward to reading the BACC co-bloggers’ stories, and we hope BACC readers will share their stories  as well.

heart_slibrarianshipIn 1989 when our family moved to Tucson, classroom teaching jobs were scare. (I had been a fifth-grade teacher in California.) At my husband’s suggestion, I took a high school principal out to dinner to ask her what my future prospects might be. Over dessert, Carolyn asked me what I enjoyed about being a teacher.

I told her I loved to read and discuss books with kids, and how satisfying it was for me to watch students grow as readers and writers. (I especially loved our adventures in writing poetry and the poetry book students created at the end of the year, a copy of which I still have.) I enjoyed getting students excited about research and doing group projects. I shared with her that students had maximized the use of the one (!) computer station in our classroom, which we used for writing activities.

Carolyn’s response took me totally by surprise. “Well, then, you should be a librarian!” Our K-8 school in California had had a “book room” and a teacher who was assigned part time to attempt to keep it in order. There was no librarian or library program. It had never ever occurred to me to pursue a career in librarianship.

Carolyn introduced me to Betty, the librarian in her school, and I started volunteering the next week. I fell in love wholeheartedly with the library (the way I had as child selecting my books from the public library bookmobile that came to my elementary school). Students came into this high school library with whole classes, in small groups, and independently to research curriculum subjects and topics of personal interest. The librarian pre-planned lessons with teachers. There were books, books, and more books, as well as periodicals and more computers than I had ever seen in one room in a school (ten maybe?). And the room itself was spacious enough to have many activities all happening at once. There was something about the openness, the possibility, the ever-changing environment in that library that made me realize I had found my teaching “home.”

By January, 1990, I had been accepted into the Master’s program at the then Graduate School of Library Science at the University of Arizona. (Later, Betty was one of my instructors.) In the foundations course that first semester, I learned that the core values of librarianship aligned with my personal values. I landed my first school librarian position at Elvira Elementary School in 1991, the year before I completed my degree. Since then I have served as a school librarian at four different elementary schools, as a second librarian at a comprehensive high school, and on one combined junior high/high school campus.

In addition to being a librarian, I have held many jobs, but my greatest satisfaction has been serving as a collaborating school librarian on school campuses where administrators and educators worked as a team with a shared commitment to building a culture of collaboration and a culture of learning with students in our schools.

On Thursday, I will share what’s in it (school librarianship) for me. Coincidentally, TWU graduate students are also sharing and discussing this topic this week as well.

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