Category Archives: Librarian Stories

Interview With a Librarian: Heidi Doyle

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This blog post is a part of my Interview With a Librarian series. I interview librarians who share their career stories and the books they love. You can see all my other interviews here!

This week I’m chatting with Heidi Doyle, library media specialist and technology integration specialist at Sunapee Central Elementary School.

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Q. Tell us a little about yourself.

I am a proud parent of a current UVM student who is getting a degree in Elementary Ed and Special Ed. I have a loving and supportive husband who indulges all my book and technology purchases. I have two crazy dogs that keep me company while my husband is away on travel. I feel incredibly lucky that I love what I do! I never feel like it is a burden to go to work and when I’m away from my school, I rejoice in coming back again.

Q. How long have you been working in libraries and how did you get your start?

I began working in libraries in my early twenties as an Interlibrary Loan Librarian at Marlboro College in Marlboro VT. After about 10 years, I earned my MLIS from Syracuse and got a job as an Elementary Librarian for HIllsboro-Deering Elementary School in Hillsboro NH. I spent 13 years at Hillsboro, learning the art of teaching, but never truly challenging myself. Then in 2014 I began work as a Library Media Specialist and Technology Integrator at Sunapee Central Elementary School. In this capacity I have grown so much as an educator, an advocate for libraries and as a person.

Q. What is your favorite thing about working in libraries?

Working in an Elementary School is the best of all worlds. I get to read great stories to kids, teach them about cool technology, and help guide them as future citizens of this world. My undergraduate degree in Theater and Psychology is put to use each and every day and coupled with my MLIS and the current work I’m doing in getting my Master’s in Teaching with Technology, I feel like I am prepared to handle anything! I also love working with other teachers and getting them excited about stories, using technology in their classrooms and challenging themselves to become better educators.

Q. What is the most challenging thing about working in libraries?

I currently have a very supportive administration, but this has not always been the case. Advocating for what we do, sharing our talents and abilities with the staff, students and community, going above and beyond what people expect is par for the course, but still many people do not have an understanding of what a librarian is. I see so many amazing things that librarians are working on, really preparing our students for the future in innovative ways, and yet I still hear stories about “bad” librarians and positions being cut around the country.

Q. What are some of your favorite books?

I adore the Elephant and Piggie series by Mo Willems! I also find that anything by Eric Carle is easy to connect to some standard or another and the bright illustrations and repetitive text make them great reads for younger students. Another author that kids love that is also fun to connect to standards is Robert Munsch. For older kids, my favorite read alouds are Dragon: Hound of Honor by Julie Edwards, The Great Turkey Walk by Kathleen Karr and King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry. Of course, personally I also love to read graphic novels, so I am always stocking up on those for the library too.

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Q. What are you currently reading?

Currently I am reading several books about Makerspaces! Invent to Learn by Sylvia Martinez, The Art of Tinkering by Karen Wilkinson, and Worlds of Making by Laura Fleming are all on my nightstand.

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Q. Tell us about something you’ve done in or for your library of which you’re very proud.

I’ve started a Makerspace for our school, which is housed in the library. I have several students who use the Makerspace on a regular basis, and am hoping to share the wealth with classroom teachers through a series of workshops this spring. In addition, I have spearheaded a few celebratory activities in my school over the past few years. Dot Day, The Global Cardboard Challenge and Hour of Code have all been a big success!

Q. If money was no object, what one thing would you do to improve your library now?

I would have the space renovated! I am slowly trying to replace all the shelving with movable units, but the whole place could use a total makeover. The building is quite old and the library is in a space that used to be a gymnasium and theater. There is a stage on one end of the library and the ceilings are extremely high. I envision a partial second story that could house the books, 2 glassed in work rooms/computer labs, and still have plenty of room to host events.

Q. What are your favorite professional development resources?

The best professional development for me has come in the form of workshops with other like minded educators and school visits. I have attended the Christa McAuliffe Technology Conference, the Literacy For All Conference and the Building Learning Communities Conference in the past few years. Each one provides excellent hands-on workshops that I find something to apply immediately. In addition, I’ve been visiting at least one other school librarian each year. It is amazing to see what people do with their spaces, their limited resources, their schedules and their passions.

Q. Any words of wisdom you’d like to share with new librarians?

The one word of advice I have is to get out their and talk to people. I spent far to many years feeling isolated and alone because I didn’t take the initiative to get out! We are often the only people in our buildings who do what we do and it is hard to tell if we are doing it correctly unless we go and gather ideas from others.

If you’re interested in learning more about Heidi, you can check out her blog, One Librarian’s Journey.  You can also connect with her or follow her library on Twitter.

Many thanks to Heidi for sharing her story with us.  Please leave her a comment below to let her know you appreciate her.  If you’d like to be featured in an upcoming interview, please fill out this form.

Title image courtesy of Aleksi Tappura via UnSplash.  Headshot courtesy of Heidi Doyle.  

Interview With a Librarian: Nicole Ellis

This post contains affiliate links. You can read my full disclaimer here.

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This blog post is a part of my Interview With a Librarian series.   I interview librarians who share their career stories and the books they love.  You can see all my other interviews here!

This week I’m chatting with Nicole Ellis.  She’s the librarian at La Vernia High School and the lead librarian for her district.  Enjoy her interview!

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Q. Tell us a little about yourself.

This is my 7th year in education and 3rd year as a librarian. I have two children – ages 4 and 2, and my husband and I run a hobby farm in our spare time.

Q. How long have you been working in libraries and how did you get your start?

This is my 3rd year as a high school and lead librarian. I made the switch to librarianship after 4 1/2 years of teaching. I was always a “library kid” when growing up.   I spent my school year hanging out in my school library and my summers begging for a ride to the nearest public library. I grew up out in the country before satellite television and cell phones, and books were an escape for me then and they remain so now.

Q. What is your favorite thing about working in libraries?

I love the types of relationships I get to build with students. It is so different from teaching. I am one of the few people on campus who has time to really sit and talk to students, to hear them out, listen to their problems and struggles and pair them with a book that will help them through whatever they are going through. I love the expression on kids’ faces when they come back after reading a book that has helped them deal with something they are going through – the realization that they are not alone, it does get better, and there is a solution. That validation can often not be provided by adults.

Q. What is the most challenging thing about working in libraries?

The constant attacks (yes, I said attacks) from other entities in our institution for space, money, staff, etc. I feel I am constantly having to defend all of those resources – and in turn, it affects my ability to serve the students in my school.

Q. What are some of your favorite books?

Where the Red Fern Grows, The Count of Monte Cristo, The Throne of Glass series and I am going to have to stop myself there, because I could go on forever!

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Q. What are you currently reading?

Winter by Marissa Meyer and I am rereading LOTR.

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Q. Tell us about something you’ve done in or for your library of which you’re very proud.

I have established a MakerSpace that my teenage boys LOVE in my library. It is incredible to watch them come racing in every Monday to see what the new MakerSpace Challenge is.

Q. If money was no object, what one thing would you do to improve your library now?

I would purchase teen-friendly furniture. All of the furniture in my library is heavy, wooden and dated. It is NOT comfortable at all. I want my library to become more of a learning commons and I feel like our atmosphere is migrating that way, but our furniture is not.

Q. What are your favorite professional development resources?

Twitter (I know I should not admit to this, but I learn SO MUCH from other librarians who are on Twitter). I also love the list-servs and annual conferences. I learn so much from other librarians, so any resource that connects me to them is a favorite.

Q. Any words of wisdom you’d like to share with new librarians?

A mentor librarian of mine once told me that being a librarian is like being on an island by yourself in the sea of educators around you. I did not believe her at the time, but now that I have done this for a few years, that is a very accurate metaphor! As the librarian, I am neither a teacher nor administrator, yet I often fulfill the roles of both – however, neither groups see me as being part of them! It can be easy to get lost on your campus with so unique an identity, so you need to own that unique identity! You are the LIBRARIAN on your campus – make sure everyone knows it and knows that you are there to help them with whatever it is they struggle with. Be positive and welcoming to all and your position won’t be so isolating.

Many thanks to Nicole for sharing her story with us.  Please leave her a comment below to let her know you appreciate her.  If you’d like to be featured in an upcoming interview, please fill out this form.

Title image courtesy of Aleksi Tappura via UnSplash.  Head shot courtesy of Nicole Ellis.  

Interview With a Librarian: Pamela Thompson

This post contains affiliate links. You can read my full disclaimer here.

interview-with-a-librarian

This blog post is a part of my Interview With a Librarian series.  I interview librarians who share the stories of their careers and the books they love.  You can see all my other interviews here!

This week I’m chatting with Pamela Thompson.  She’s the library media specialist, IT specialist, and webmaster for a school that serves grades 6-8.  Enjoy!

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Q. Tell us a little about yourself.

Career blogger, reviewer, YA librarian, columnist for The El Paso Times and a YA reader who reads hundreds of YA books each year!

Q. How long have you been working in libraries and how did you get your start?

10 years.  I’ve loved book since my first encounter probably in the womb…..Always read to as a child, thank goodness. I became a high school English teacher and librarianship was out of reach since I live in far west Texas and the nearest school was over 500 miles away…until the Internet! I went to University of North Texas and became a librarian…my dream job!

Q. What is your favorite thing about working in libraries?

Talking to the kids every day. They have opened my mind to a world of possibilities in learning, in technology, in life.

Q. What is the most challenging thing about working in libraries?

Having my time taken up by paperwork and inventory of tech and computers. My job has evolved into me being the go to person on campus for all things tech.

Q. What are some of your favorite books?

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Q. What are you currently reading?

Since I’m an active and voracious blogger, reviewer and reader, what am I NOT reading is a better question. Currently, I’m reading Slasher Girls & Monster Boys, Absolutely Truly, Fear and Clothing: Unbuckling American Style, Wendig Blackbirds, and Willful Machines.

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Q. Tell us about something you’ve done in or for your library of which you’re very proud.

Our book fairs are epic! I always have a game tie-in or two. And I use 8th grade advanced stage production class to build my sets….sarcophagus for Egyptian theme, “monsters” with large mouths for bean bag monster toss for monster book fair, HUGE camel for Egypt, etc.

Also, this year I’ve begun a coding group during every lunch shift.  And our fantastic book clubs!

Q. If money was no object, what one thing would you do to improve your library now?

Cooler teen furniture and redesign spaces for teens. Also serve hot tea and cocoa in a “café” type setting

Q. What are your favorite professional development resources?

LM_NET for sure… and all the fab librarians I’ve met there….many contacts and friends

Also, Texas Library Association and its annual conferences!

Q. Any words of wisdom you’d like to share with new librarians?

SMILE…join LM_NET, go to state conferences, join Twitter groups with like interests, find cohorts to bounce ideas off of, ask kids for help.

Many thanks to Pamela for sharing her story with us.  Please leave her a comment below to let her know you appreciate her.  If you’d like to be featured in an upcoming interview, please fill out this form.

Title image courtesy of Aleksi Tappura via UnSplash. Head shot courtesy of Pamela Thompson.

Interview With a Librarian: Tricia deWinter

This post contains affiliate links. You can read my full disclaimer here.

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This blog post is a part of my Interview With a Librarian series.  I interview librarians who share the stories of their careers and the books they love.  You can see all my other interviews here!

This week I’m chatting with Tricia deWinter, Head Librarian for Pre-K through 12th Grade at The Oakridge School in Arlington, Texas.  Enjoy!

Q. Tell us a little about yourself.

I have been a school librarian for 17 years and absolutely love it.

Q. How long have you been working in libraries and how did you get your start?

I taught third grade, fifth grade and sixth grade before working part-time as a high school English teacher two nights a week at a public school that serviced working students, young mothers and other students seeking an alternative to the traditional high school setting. My sons attended Catholic school, and when my older son entered Pre-K the librarian position came open. The school principal told me the job was mine if I got my library certification, which I did online through the University of North Texas.

Q. What is your favorite thing about working in libraries?

The students! They are so funny and excited about books, I wish the whole world loved books as much as first – fifth graders! I also love being around books all day. It’s a great job.

Q. What is the most challenging thing about working in libraries?

Managing my two full time aides; I find it much easier to work with students.

Q. What are some of your favorite books?

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak,  Holes by Louis Sachar, Wonder by R.J. Palacio, Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett, The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin, Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin, The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, and Life after Life by Kate Atkinson.

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Q. What are you currently reading?

Rook By Sharon Cameron

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Q. Tell us about something you’ve done in or for your library of which you’re very proud.

My students blogged last year about favorite books, and it went really well.  They shared such insightful observations about what they were reading. This blog was a huge success, but this year I have modified it. Students can “straight up blog” which means come in and share a review of a book they read recently, or they can “make” some sort of media, craft, artwork that showcases their passion about the book. I have gotten lots of funny and amazing book trailers, dioramas, posters, and crafts – it has been fun.

Q. If money was no object, what one thing would you do to improve your library now?

More Mac devices for the students to collaborate on trailers, interviews, promotional social media and use of tech tools to celebrate and share our love of books. The students are one-to-one here but I would like more Mac computers in the library for collaboration on projects.

Q. What are your favorite professional development resources?

TXLA, and I am a member of the Association of Independent School Librarians Association. I love School Library Journal and LMNet.

Q. Any words of wisdom you’d like to share with new librarians?

Read what your students are reading!

Many thanks to Tricia for sharing her story with us.  Please leave her a comment below to let her know you appreciate her!  If you’d like to be featured in an upcoming interview, please fill out this form.

Title image courtesy of Aleksi Tappura via UnSplash.

Interview With a Librarian: Leslie Sharbel

This post contains affiliate links. You can read my full disclaimer here.

interview-with-a-librarian

This blog post is a part of my Interview With a Librarian series. I interview librarians who share their career stories and the books they love. You can see all my other interviews here!

Today I’m chatting with Leslie Sharbel.  She’s a teacher librarian for a K-5 school near Birmingham, Alabama.  Enjoy her interview!

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Q. Tell us a little about yourself.

I live in Birmingham, AL and teach in one of the suburban areas. I have a BS in Home Economics, a law degree from the University of Alabama, and a Masters in Library and Information Services from the same university. I did not start out to be an elementary teacher, but am glad I ended up here! I am married, have three college-age children and two spoiled dogs. My hobbies include reading, cooking, yoga, and watching college football!

Q. How long have you been working in libraries and how did you get your start?

I’ve been working in a library for almost 10 years. I spent three years as an aide in another school library while I finished my Masters. Then the head librarian job opened up at the school where I am now. I got my start as a parent volunteer in the elementary school library where my children attended school. I loved being there and would show up every day. The librarian at the time was a wise, experienced woman who really took me under her wing and helped me along the way. I have the good fortune to have been able to follow my passion and work in a job that I really enjoy!

Q. What is your favorite thing about working in libraries?

I love books, I love reading, I love writing! I know the importance of being able to read well, and how successful one can be in school (including those dreaded tests) and in life if you are able to read and write well. I love being able to pass this passion on to children. There are so many wonderful children’s books out there and I love introducing students to these stories. There is a lot of wisdom to be found in children’s literature! I love to see a student’s face light up and get excited about something we’ve read.

Q. What is the most challenging thing about working in libraries?

What do I teach? My state has no library curriculum, so it is basically up to me to decide what to teach students. I see each class (grades K-5) once a week. I have lessons that I prepare for every class, every week. But do I teach literature, technology, Language Arts course of study, library skills, research skills??? And then there’s the whole Makerspace movement. I am one person (no Library Aide), teaching 22 classes a week, running a library and 2 Book Fairs (because I get no money to buy books), conducting the school Spelling Bee AND trying to be a source for books and other resources for classroom teachers. It is overwhelming at times, especially when “that” person says to me: “Oh, do you teach lessons in the library?”. There’s the other challenging part: people think we do nothing but sit around and read all day!

Q. What are some of your favorite books?

Picture books are my favorite books (because, as I said, there is a lot of wisdom to be found there), so I would list here some of my favorite authors of picture books: Patricia Polacco (all-time favorite), Cynthia Rylant, Mo Willems, Marc Brown, Jan Brett, Dr. Seuss, Kevin Henkes, Robert Munsch—too many to list. I especially like using historical fiction picture books with older grades (4-5) to make history come alive for them.

Q. What are you currently reading?

I spend most of my time reading children’s literature, because I’ve found it’s hard to recommend a book to a student if I haven’t read it (they can’t be fooled). I’m reading Brian Selznick’s new book, The Marvels. But I can’t just read one thing at a time, so I’m also reading some adult books: Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder and Bikram Yoga by Bikram Choudhury.

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Q. If money was no object, what one thing would you do to improve your library now?

Get new shelves!!! The ones I have were donated by a book store and they are just not good for a school library. But I would then put those new shelves in a whole new space: one that is much larger and has defined areas (instruction area, reading nook, computer area, meeting area).

Q. What are your favorite professional development resources?

I don’t have a lot of money (ok, I have no money) to spend on PD. Our school district does a good job of providing PD, but most of it is based on technology. I would love to attend more seminars and conferences based on reading and librarianship. I’m thinking of Judy Freeman’s BER seminars or the University of Southern Mississippi’s annual Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival and things like that. I’ve never been to an ALA meeting but Would like to go one day.

Q. Any words of wisdom you’d like to share with new librarians?

Keep reading! Stay up to date on issues involving libraries. And remember, like the old saying goes: the goal is not to get all the books back (to the library), but all the readers.

Many thanks to Leslie for sharing a bit of her story with us.  Please leave her a comment below to let her know you appreciate her.  If you’d like to be featured in an upcoming interview, please fill out this form.

Title image courtesy of Aleksi Tappura via UnSplash. Headshot courtesy of Leslie Sharbel.