This month, the Building a Culture of Collaboration co-bloggers will share how school librarians can be and are being essential team members in STEM, STEAM, and STREAM initiatives. These interdisciplinary efforts offer sky-is-the-limit opportunities for school library leaders.

STEM_TagxedoSTEM, STEAM, and STREAM are hot topics in education. Some would say these are THE 21st-century subjects and the key to students’ futures. With a focus on innovation to solve the world’s persistent problems, science, technology, engineering, mathematics, art, and yes! reading are particular areas of focus in the taught curriculum across the United States.

On February 2nd, I attended Terry Young’s Webinar: “STEM, STEAM, and STREAM… What Do They Have in Common? Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.” Hosted by EdWeb.TV, Terry’s presentation was sponsored by Libraries Unlimited. Here’s the link to his Webinar:

Terry framed his presentation in terms of the “learn by doing” Next Generation Science Standards. The “quick search” guide on this Web site is a useful tool for any school librarian looking to connect her/his teaching and planning and coteaching with classroom teachers. Knowing these standards are step one in order to be a STEM-ready educator.

Terry’s presentation focused on resources for school librarians to use to increase their own knowledge, build  STEM/STEAM/STREAM library collections, and use resources to reach out to classroom teachers and specialists for interdisciplinary learning and teaching. He recommended resources such as Science Books & Films to help school librarians build their collections. Terry also recommended setting up “search alerts” for magazine tables of contents and following publications by children’s science book authors.

Terry talked about science read-alouds for younger students and recommended the book: Perfect Pairs: Using Fiction and Nonfiction Science Books to Teach Science, K-2 by Melissa Stewart and Nancy Chesley. He noted that What Is Science? written by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, illustrated by SachikoYoshikawa should be included in every elementary school library collection.

He noted that STEM/STEAM/STREAM fairs, formerly “science fairs,” should take a problem-solving approach. In this vein, Terry encouraged school librarians to help students answer their “why” questions, especially if classroom teachers shy away from pursuing questions with uncertain answers or outcomes.

As an elementary school librarian, one of my favorite and oft-repeated teachable moments was when a small group of children brought in a “wonder” from the playground… an as-yet unidentified insect or other critter or plant they had “discovered” at recess. I relished my responsibility to guide students in asking questions about the “wonder” and to have ready-reference materials on hand for them to find the answers. Classroom teachers often gave students time to conduct these spontaneous learning opportunities and some picked up on these investigations and furthered them with the whole class.

There is much individual school librarians can do to shore up their own knowledge and the library’s resources in order to teach and support classroom teachers, specialists, and students in exploring interdisciplinary STEM, STEAM, and STREAM curriculum. On Thursday, I will share a K-12 district-wide initiative that seeks to support and build classroom-library instructional partnerships for these efforts.

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The Accidental Librarian

Brookline public library



My forty plus year career as a school librarian began at the Brookline (MA) Public Library, not by plan, but by happenstance. Call it kismet, fate, or just good luck, I stumbled upon what has become a lifelong passion for the essential role of school library programs in educational communities.

Totally green and wide-eyed, recently graduated from college, I needed a job-badly. Here I was on the front steps of the public library with no other good ideas for employment.  It was a last ditch stop in a three month job search, and I was discouraged to say the least. My husband was a first year student at Boston College Law School, and I was a breadwinner without a paycheck.  I remember clearly, as I looked at the imposing building, thinking to myself-maybe they need someone to shelve books.

After applying for teaching jobs in every suburb in the Boston area, and coming up empty, I had come to the conclusion that a career in education was not in my future.  My freshly minted resume with an undergrad degree in American Studies and enough education courses qualified me as a certified secondary social studies or English teacher. My lack of experience or an advanced degree kept me at the bottom of the applicant pool. Not a cheerful picture-at least until that fateful day that I gathered up the courage to enter the library and ask if there were any job openings at all.

Right place, right time…

The twist of fate was amazing, and within minutes of my query, I was sent out to a local school library to interview for a position as a library assistant.  At the time, the public library ran “branches” in all the local schools, something I had never imagined.  They hired librarians and assistants, and provided funding and services to support collection development and instruction for community children in the schools. Books and other educational materials were ordered and processed through the central branch and delivered shelf ready.  The school librarian met with classes for storytime and library skills instruction, and she needed someone to help her manage all the spinning plates.  I was hired, and, as I looked around the wonderful facility, fully stocked with shelves of books, brightly decorated walls, and nooks for reading and learning, I was hooked. Somehow, I knew this opportunity would open my world beyond the confines of a classroom, and I was eager to jump in.

Break for a history lesson…

The timing of my adventures in school library land, coincided with the early years of the landmark ESEA Education Legislation (1965) that resulted from Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty.”   The original Elementary and Secondary Education Act provided funding for programs to expand and improve educational services for low income families, so that children would have increased opportunities for educational success in both urban and rural areas with concentrations of poverty. While school libraries were available in some schools across the nation, ESEA boosted the implementation of school libraries in a big way. Title II of that legislation provided funds for school library resources, textbooks, and other instructional materials, and gave impetus and funding for school libraries, especially in elementary schools.  School libraries and professional librarians were needed to ensure equitable access to information and resources for literacy. In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, the demands for a cadre of specialized school librarians versed in library administration and pedagogy gave rise to an increase in advanced library and information science programs for that specialty. Standards for preparation for school library programs have continued to be developed and revised under The American Association of School Librarians, a division of ALA since 1951.

Riding the wave…

I will never forget the total immersion effect of those first few months in the school library-and they were paying me to be there! I felt like I had been given a special gift. There were so many books to read, skills to learn, decisions to make, and people to get to know, both students and faculty.  My mentor librarian took me under her wing, and provided amazing professional development in all things “library.”  By the end of the school year, I knew that I wanted to have my own library, so I began to take courses that would lead to the library media educator endorsement, a two year process.  (Later, I went on to an advanced degree in cultural history and museology, and really learned to research!)  In September, as I returned for my second year at the school, the administration of the school libraries was moved from the public library to the school district, and the library program was integrated into the mission of the school. For many, it may have been a minor distinction, but for me, the connection between public and school libraries will forever be strong.

And so, a few decades later…

Here I am, years later with experiences in a variety of school library situations, from preK through high school, and as a library educator at the graduate level, still excited about the best job in the whole school.  In this profession, the learning never ends, and change is a constant.  For those of us who relish creativity and change, and who honor the mission of equitable access for all learners, the school library will continue to be to go to place for learning in our schools. I’m so glad to have been along for the wild ride!


Image: Brookline Public Library

“The Library is the Place for You!”

“If you love children and you love books, the library is the place for you.” These words convinced me to get an endorsement in Library Science. These words led me to the best place in a school.
I was an undergrad student majoring in Early Childhood Education and taking a Children’s Literature course when a wise middle school librarian said these words to me. I went back to school the next week and declared a minor: Library Science.
My teaching career started in the library, but as much as I loved the job I kept thinking there were other teaching jobs I wanted. I left the library when I got married and took a job teaching preschool special education…then went back to the library. I decided to get a masters degree in Elementary Teaching and left the library to teach 5th grade…then went back to the library. I learned my lesson. The next time I was ready for a change I moved from the elementary library to a middle school library. The next step was a high school library. Of the three levels, which is my favorite? Whichever level I am in at the time. I truly loved them all.
The common denominator for all of my favorite jobs was the library and the magic it holds. One time someone compared my job to that of a grandmother. My children were still in preschool, so after getting over being slightly offended, I heard his explanation: “You don’t care what the kids do before they come in your door. You love them, give them what they want, and when you are ready for them to leave you send them back to their class.” Bingo!
To me, the library is the ultimate teaching position. As a librarian I got to teach every child in the school. I got to work with every teacher. My job was never boring and no two days were ever the same. For those of us who like variety (and maybe some chaos) the ever-changing library environment is energizing. You never know who will walk through the doors and you never know how your words or actions might impact someone in your library world.
I now have the privilege of working as a library educator. I get to teach people to love the job I loved so much for so many years. What an honor!
Recently a young man in his 20s who lives down the street told my husband how much he loved coming into my library when he was in elementary school. His class would beg me to read Dogzilla, by Dav Pilkey every week. Over ten years later, this young man still remembered that book and his time in the library. Reading that silly book over and over again was a small thing to me but became one of his fondest childhood memories.
That is why I do what I do. I love children and I love books and I want others to experience the joy.

My Journey to the School Library

Spend an evening participating in #TLChat, or read the latest issue of Knowledge Quest, and it is easy to see how much has changed in our profession since many of us became school librarians. While the school library I spent time in as a K-12 student fostered my love for reading, and strengthened my research skills – goals of school library programs today – it did not have a single computer until well into the 90s. Accessing the internet did not happen for me until several years into my college studies. It would have never occurred to me to ask the school librarian to help me develop a video game for a technology competition, or help me put together my senior capstone portfolio. Now, those requests are received by school librarians on a daily basis.

I bring up this shift in the profession because it is what cemented my decision to become a school librarian. As a classroom teacher, I originally approached my school librarian to help me tackle literacy issues. I was in the habit of checking out as many, if not more, of the library books as my students, exchanging recommendations and favorites. I perceived her role as limited to helping students grow in reading for pleasure and reading for purpose.

One day, I discovered a website that I wanted to use with my students. Since the library was the only space that had a bank of computers, I approached her about bringing my students to the library. She surprised me with ideas for a creative and engaging lesson – much more than I had envisioned on my own! Over that year we worked together again and again to the benefit of my students and my own teaching. Those collaborations led to lunches and conversations on what it meant to be a school librarian. She was at the end of her career and she spoke eloquently about the need for new blood in the profession. She encouraged me to consider becoming a school librarian, citing my creativity and background as a music educator as advantages.

Upon entering the library science program, I noticed how much the profession was changing. This change was evident in the coursework, in conversations with new colleagues, and in my first time attending the state library conference. I knew that in this profession, I would never stop learning. In my first year as a school librarian, my principal asked me to take over the school yearbook and the school website. Years later, these new opportunities lead me to pursue a doctorate in Instructional Technology. Lucy from 1995 could have never imagined what a natural extension of school librarianship Instructional Technology turned out to be!

Today, I am privileged to be a school library educator, preparing future school library media specialists and instructional technologists to collaborate with classroom teachers – introducing them, as my mentor did years ago, to rich and engaging technology-enabled learning opportunities! I cannot wait to see where the profession takes me next!

School Librarianship: What’s In It for Me?

tooting_hornsSchool librarians are members of a service-oriented profession. The majority of us come from the ranks of classroom teachers and many of us tend to think of the needs of others before we think of our own.

However, in order to sustain motivation and enthusiasm for our work, we must determine what is “in it for us.” Dr. Ken Haycock who is the director of the Marshall School of Business Master’s Management in Library and Information Science program at USC and a former leader in the (School) Library Power movement, has a famous (in school library circles) saying: “People do things for their own reasons.”

School librarianship has given me the opportunity to teach students at all instructional levels. (I love working with kinders and their heroic teachers for one hour at a time!) Over the course of my career, I have co-taught in every content area, which has provided me with continuous learning from outstanding educators. I have co-developed curriculum to engage and motivate students and have created opportunities for children and youth to use the technology tools of the day in their pursuit of learning and sharing their new knowledge. I have collaborated with classroom teachers, public librarians, and community members to spread a culture of literacy.

But perhaps most of all, I have had the opportunity to serve alongside some principals as co-leaders who guided students and colleagues as we pursued the most effective strategies for teaching and learning. I am proud of the work we accomplished together. I am in debt to the thousands of students and hundreds of teachers who have shared their learning journeys with me.

This deep sense of satisfaction and pride and the opportunity to extend my reach beyond the classroom out into the entire school learning community and beyond is what’s in it for me. I cannot imagine a more fun, meaningful, or impactful career as an educator than that of school librarian. (Yes, principals’ work is meaningful and high impact, but I suspect it is not as much fun!) The desire to spread the potential impact of professional school librarians on teaching and learning and to help future school librarians embrace a leadership role is why I am a school librarian educator today. (That and the fact that I can no longer serve in a school library the way it should be done; I cannot be on my feet from 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. every school day!)

Tooting our own horns can be difficult for some of our school librarian colleagues. But sharing our essential contribution to teaching and learning is our responsibility. The photograph above of school librarian colleagues Debra LaPlante, Diane Skorupski, and me was taken at the American Association of School Librarians National Conference in Pittsburgh in 2005. We had just completed a collaborative presentation about classroom-library collaboration for instruction called “Sharing Our Exemplary Work, or Why We Should Publish Our Collaborative Lesson Plans.”

Let’s keep on showing other educators and administrators why school librarians are even more needed today than ever before. Let’s exceed our own expectations as instructional partners and leaders in education. And let’s achieve this together.

Photograph from the Personal Collection of Judi Moreillon used with permission

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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