Library Stile

Ideas & Inspiration for School Libraries

Libraries are magical! –Jill Breznican, Senior Archivist at Walt Disney Studios Animation Research Library

When I met Jill Breznican at the Printz Awards reception at ALA’s Annual Conference in New Orleans in 2018, I sounded like one of my middle schoolers…”Wait, what!? You’re a librarian for Disney?” I had no idea there is a team of librarians working behind the scenes in the Animation Research Library to preserve the artifacts and elements of Disney’s animation history. Attending ALA Annual or Midwinter is a wonderful way to network with librarians working in libraries of all kinds, listening to and learning from their stories. We can be better advocates for our profession when we get to know librarians outside of our area of expertise because we gain a broader perspective on the impact of libraries in our society. Today, I’m stepping away from school libraries to venture into what it’s like to be an archivist for the “happiest place on earth.” Meet Jill!

Printz Reception 2018! My Project LIT pals Ashleigh Rose and Mary Thomas, and I loved meeting Jill Breznican and learning about being a Disney archivist!

What is the Walt Disney Studios Animation Research Library? Walt Disney had the foresight to preserve animation assets and production documents from the Studio’s start in 1923, and that work continues today with staff, librarians, and archivists like me. In the 1930s the repository became known as “The Morgue”, a term borrowed from newspaper archives that held heavily referenced clippings, notes, and correspondence. At Disney, it was used as a circulating library where animators could check out production art and were expected to return it on the honor system. With the development of the official Walt Disney Studio Archives in the 1970s, The Morgue became a more disciplined art archive. Its name changed again in the 1980s to the Animation Research Library (ARL).

Today, the ARL is the official collection for original materials of the Walt Disney Animation Studios. It’s not open to the public except by invitation, and this corporate collection stands as the largest assemblage of animation artwork in the world. The primary responsibility of the ARL is the preservation of this cinematic history, as well as making this unique body of work available for internal study and research and serving a variety of other purposes within The Walt Disney Company. With the move to
computer animated films in recent years, millions of born digital assets now join the over 65 million pieces of physical animation art in the collection

A peek inside Disney’s Animation Research Library.

What is your title at the Walt Disney Studios Animation Research Library and how long have you been the librarian there?
I’m a senior archivist and just celebrated 11 years.

What do you enjoy most about being a librarian there?
Without a doubt, its preserving the collection, which spans nearly one hundred years of Disney animation history from Mickey Mouse to Moana. We care for all the elements that go into creating a film, including story sketches, visual development, animation drawings, backgrounds, animation cels, and 3D models known as maquettes. Working with the artistry captured in each of these pieces never loses its magic.

I also manage our reference collection. In addition to books, magazines, and exhibition catalogs, it includes rare books like Virginia Lee Burton’s The Little House and Munro Leaf’s The Story of Ferdinand that were part of the original Studio Library collection and used as source material for early projects. It’s always fun to pull out the circulation cards to see which past employees checked them out. We also have a first-edition, 1920 copy of Animated Cartoons: How They Are Made, Their Origin And
by E.G. Lutz – arguably the first book to describe what was then state-of-the-art animation techniques. A 19-year-old Walt Disney discovered the book at the Kansas City Public Library and used it as a guide during the beginning of his animation career.

When people find out you’re a librarian for Disney, what’s the first thing they ask?
They’re always astonished that the ARL exists! In fact, we’re one of many specialized libraries and archives at the Walt Disney Company as well as a part of an even bigger network of institutions within the Los Angeles area tasked with preserving the entertainment industry. An artist or storyteller would often bounce from one studio to the other in the course of their career, so it’s important to know what collections will help tell their full story.

Preserving the magic we know and love.

What does a day in the life of the Disney librarian look like? How many libraries and librarians does Disney have?
We’re a bit like a university library system, but instead of collections that center around subject areas ours focus on different business units. We have dedicated professionals who preserve collections and field research requests for areas like the main studio, the parks, consumer products, publishing, and theatrical (to name just a few). And, just like other libraries, we’re responsible for creating and maintaining metadata and taxonomy structures for our catalogs, safeguarding physical and digital collections, answering reference questions, and providing access to our collections.

How has your job changed over the years?
I started out on the Collections Team, archiving and cataloging the physical collection for a large scale digitization effort. It takes 24 drawings (frames) to make up one second of animation, so when you’re cataloging at the item level it’s like watching a film in very slow motion. As a result, you catch details that you wouldn’t necessarily see on screen. While cataloging the scene where Gaston falls from the castle in Beauty and the Beast (1991) I found one frame of rough animation where tiny skulls appear in
his pupils. I thought that was incredibly cool.

I shifted focus a few years ago to work on a research project centered around the Disney princesses for which we researched the film, interviewed filmmakers, and talked with subject experts. Our goal was to provide historical, cultural, and artistic context for these adventurous characters that is authentic to their worlds. It’s exciting to see how our colleagues in other departments are now using this information to
shape story books and park experiences.

What project are you currently working on? How do you partner with or collaborate with the creators there?
In my role as a senior archivist I’m embedded with current films in development and production, so I have the opportunity to curate artwork into an online film reference guide for the crew as the film is being created. It’s a lot like a lib guide (but with a ton more images and media) that provides key information to the new members of the team during production as well as an archival document for the ARL once the film

Jill works to catalog animation. Did you know it takes 24 drawings (frames) to make up one second of animation?

What challenges do you regularly face and how do you overcome them or handle them?
Production moves quickly, so the information I capture has to tell a story that is both currently relevant and historically accurate. I partner closely with production managers and assistants to make this happen.

Who are your library patrons?

Our mission is to provide inspiration to the teams at Walt Disney Animation Studios and throughout the company, so we partner with our colleagues pretty exclusively. For example, the Zootopia (2016) filmmakers referenced Robin Hood (1973) animation to learn how previous Disney artists successfully created and animated anthropomorphized characters. And, the team for Mary Poppins Returns (2018) referenced film assets from the 1964 original. However, we also bring original art to Disney fans around the world through our traveling exhibitions program and by working with animation historians on book and documentary film projects, as well as vendors like Toms Shoes. Curated pieces from our collection can also be found in the Archive Series books. Each of the four volumes focus on a different element of the production process: Story, Design, Animation, and Background and Layout.

What inspires you and helps challenge you to grow professionally?
I’m really excited about our new initiative called “traceback,” which seeks to highlight individual employees from the past whose contributions were vital but may have gone overlooked. Disney animation has always been created by a diverse group of writers, artists, and innovators, and “traceback” is our way of going back and giving them their
due. While some of them may not be around anymore, it’s important to remember them now and for the generations of artists who will be following and building on their work in the decades to come.

A day in the life of the Disney archivist!

Thanks for answering my questions, Jill! Follow Jill on Twitter @GirlFridayGen and the Disney Animation Research Library on Twitter and Facebook @DisneyARL.

(Disclaimer for photos used for this blog post: “The photos are provided for this purpose and any duration of use limitation and no other use is permitted without our prior permission.”)

As an ELA teacher turned school librarian, I still enjoy incorporating writing activities in my Library Day lessons. I LOVED The Creativity Project, by Colby Sharp! What a fun way to not only help kids connect with authors outside of the books they know and love, but it sharpened their creative writing chops and it was a ton of fun! If you want to see how we turned this Library Day lesson into a school-wide “creativity project,” take a look at the “Extension Activity!”

Time: We did this in one class period, which is about 45 minutes.

Format: I book talked The Creativity Project first, sharing how authors/ illustrators created prompts, sent them to Colby, and he sent them out for other authors/illustrators to respond. Kids got a kick out of the spaghetti noodle graphic showing all of the participants in this project.

There are so many wonderful prompts to choose from in this book. I chose based on what I thought would be easiest for my students to complete in our time constraints. I presented them with the “Choose your own writing adventure” slide. I did not share the prompts that each author wrote. My students chose based purely on their knowledge of one of the authors, their knowledge of one of the books, or they used the force! Then, the students got to read the prompt by the author they chose.

I gave students a choice of 5 prompts from The Creativity Project.

I put 10 minutes on the clock, answered any questions, and set the tone that it was going to be a quiet 10 minutes so that we can think and enjoy a peaceful space to create. Every now and then a giggle erupted somewhere in the room, which ultimately built excitement because everyone knew there were funny stories incoming!

The students did not have to copy the prompt to start, which saved some time. Some chose to, but I did not insist on it.

Students chose from prompts written by these authors.

Sharing: I asked for volunteers to read their prompt aloud to the group. Sometimes, I had more volunteers than I could accommodate, and if I did not have volunteers right away, I had students share their stories in small groups and then asked for volunteers to share to the group. This helped build confidence. Sometimes, I volunteered to read what a student wrote if they were too shy to read aloud, but they were eager to share. There are a number of ways to set the stage for sharing.

Results: Jess Keating’s prompt was a popular choice. Warning: unless “Big Chungus” is over, be prepared to hear lots of “Big Chungus” stories in response to this prompt! We have Pink Is For Blobfish in our library, and it was fun to see students reading it after our lesson. It was also fantastic to see many students perusing The Creativity Project, excited to see what other prompts were in the book. Our library copies were checked out immediately! I loved getting to see the students’ writing and see their personalities come out through this activity.

Jess Keating’s prompt from The Creativity Project.

Extension Activity: After this lesson, I invited to students to participate in a school-wide “Creativity Project,” which included students creating a writing prompt, giving it to me, and I gave their prompts to other students who were participating. So, if you wrote a prompt, you got a different prompt in return. I set a time for us to meet, and about 2 weeks later, students gathered to reveal which prompt they wrote and read their responses (and eat cookies, because why not?). This brought together students from across grade levels, and they enjoyed finding out who wrote their prompt just as much as they enjoyed sharing what they wrote!

What I learned: I didn’t have student technology available for this lesson, but it lends itself to easy incorporation into Google Classroom, for example. This would also be a great collaboration opportunity! I can easily see working with ELA teachers, the art teacher, and inviting the Creative Writing Club to dig further into the prompts in this book.

A few of the “school-wide creativity project” participants meet in our library’s reading room for their reveal and share time.

Instead of just telling my students to go and shop for books, I wanted to provide some guidance as they explored our library in search of books to add to their TBR lists. As I model my reading life for my students, an aspect of that I share frequently is that I enjoy cultivating a list of books I want to read, books of all kinds. This list is a blend of recommendations, forthcoming books, favorite authors, books for when I feel a certain way or am seeking to get lost in a certain kind of story, books that connect to a time in history that interests me, or books that challenge my way of thinking, or allow me to understand points of view outside of my own experience. This list is uniquely me, and I want the books my students read to be uniquely them. So, we set off to scavenge the stacks with the goal of starting or enhancing a TBR list.

Time: Students had about 30 minutes for their scavenger hunts. An alternative would be to make this part of a challenge for kids each time their class visits the library. For example: during library business, add 2 books to your TBR list: 1 free choice, and 1 book that might make you laugh.

Collaborate: I encouraged students to help each other. Show each other books they enjoyed from these categories. Suddenly, the avid readers became really popular and in demand as they were asked by their peers for their recommendations.

This is also a great opportunity to involve any staff in your building, or older students. Ask your principal, ask your literacy coach, for example, and if students in another grade level are available, arrange for them to come and make recommendations, too!

Share: We gathered again as a class to check in and share. We did a turn and talk so that students could show their lists to others around them, and I did a quick group share, calling on volunteers to share the book they were most excited about finding today for their TBR list.

Now, what?: Students are encouraged to bring this list on each library day because there are multiple opportunities to grow this TBR list even more. From the book talks I share, to the ones from their teachers and classmates, to books they see at the book fair, the book suggestions are plenty!

What I learned: When I do this lesson again, I will expand the categories and ask for student input and ELA teacher input on the categories. Students will be encouraged to find a book for as many categories as they choose. Then throughout the year, I may add a new category and make it a challenge for their library business time, which helps them re-visit their lists and continue to grow them.

Also, the beauty of this is it’s a differentiated activity by nature. Students bring a wide variety of reading interests, abilities to the table. Some students added multiple books per category, and some added 1 per category, or only 2-3 books total. And that’s ok. This gives their ELA teacher and me an idea of the level of support the students need. There are students with voracious reading appetites who will challenge me to constantly provide and recommend books that keep them reading, and I see students who feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to start. And that’s what I’m here for. To guide all of these readers, meeting them where they are and helping them grow to their potential while they are in my care.

School libraries should connect with students as individuals and provide resources and assistance  for all different learning styles  and encourage self-motivated lifelong learning.

Hannah Byrd Little

If Tennessee has anything remotely resembling Hogwarts, The Webb School in Bell Buckle, is it. Tucked in the rolling Tennessee hills, just beyond a Mayberry-esque town center, it’s the South’s oldest, continuously operating boarding school, and it attracts students from all over the world. At the helm of The Bond Library, is Hannah Byrd Little, whom I met over a decade ago, when I taught at Webb’s summer program. I’ve loved watching her transform the library and make it the most magical place to be. She’s made the library the heart of the campus, a second home for the students, and she’s opened the library doors to serve this small, rural community. Among her numerous professional achievements, Hannah served as President of the Tennessee Association of School Librarians in 2012, is a regular contributor to Knowledge Quest, and most recently, she was named a 2019 AASL Social Media Superstar for Exceptional Student Voice. As if she’s not busy enough, she recently wrote a book with Webb Archivist, Susan Coop Howell, The Webb School of Bell Buckle: A Campus History. Hannah is a rockstar! I love learning from her work and am inspired by her passion for her students, her library programs, and her leadership in our profession. Meet Hannah!

How long have you been a librarian?

I have been a school librarian for 14 years, but before I was in a school library I worked in a university library for four years.

What do you enjoy most about being a librarian?

I love when we find the perfect book for a student or the exact piece of research that a student needs to complete a project.

Students use Flipgrid to share books they’re reading.

What is an activity, event, or lesson you enjoy doing with students?

I enjoy social media and like to try to understand and connect with students through social media. As far as a lesson or activity, I like an activity I found on a website called “read write think.” It is about journalistic style research. There is a worksheet on the site called the gist.

Hannah is a 2019 AASL Social Media Superstar for Sensational Student Voice!

How do you partner with or collaborate with faculty? 

This happens many different ways. Some teachers bring students to the library, and sometimes I go to the classroom. Almost always we develop a pathfinder, typically through Libguides.

Hannah creates LibGuides for students to help students with their research.

What challenges do you regularly face and how do you overcome them or handle them?

I have a couple of challenges one of the biggest challenges is finding time in a teacher’s schedule to co-teach or meet with their class. Another challenge is that sometimes teachers can be proprietary about their curriculum, and it is hard for me to support the curriculum if I’m not invited in or privy to the lessons.

How has your job changed over the years?

The biggest change is meetings. I am on my school’s leadership team, and I’m very happy to have that kind of influence. However the time I spend in meetings is time that I cannot spend in the classroom. But there is a phrase that keeps me going through long meetings, “If you are not at the table you are on the menu.”

Why do you enjoy being a teacher/ librarian?

It is the best job in the world! I get to read and write and work with young people everyday!

What advice do you have to share with librarians?

I always recommend becoming a school librarian. I have worked in a university library, a public library, and I volunteer in a special library, but the best librarian job in my opinion is being a school librarian.  And for school librarians I advise you to use your summer to grow your career. It is a great time to travel, to write, to speak, and do the things that advance your career in the long run.

Hannah presents at ALA Annual 2018 in New Orleans on her experiences with “Evidence Based Library Information Practice” in the school library setting.

What inspires you and helps challenge you to grow professionally?
There are librarians and educators who inspire me, but I think sometimes you have to have an inner drive to keep you going through those long days in the fourth quarter after spring break. Especially if you were the prom coordinator or the yearbook sponsor or something like that, as we all are. Reading, writing, research, and speaking help me to continue to grow, and I realize that I have to be an example to my students that I should practice what I preach about lifelong learning. 

In honor of The Webb School’s sesquicentennial in 2020, Hannah and Webb Archivist Susan Coop Howell wrote The Webb School of Bell Buckle: A Campus History.

Thanks, Hannah, for answering my questions! Follow Hannah on Twitter: @HannahLittle, on Instagram: @librarianlittle and follow The Webb School Library on Instagram: @libfeet. You can also learn more about her work on her blog, Librarian Little: The Sky Is Not Falling.

School libraries...
are for everyone in the school. They are at the heart of schools’ missions.

Veronica Dougherty

Veronica Dougherty is champion of the Project LIT Community.

I believe that school librarians are perpetual learners, welcoming change, new strategies, and new ways that strengthen our programming while keeping our love for our students and literacy at the core. It’s our job to evaluate our collection and weed books that don’t serve our students and curriculum, and it’s also our job to weed methods and mindsets that do not serve our students. Veronica radiates these qualities! A former high school English teacher and instructional coach, Veronica is in her first year as a school librarian! She recently moved to the Nashville area from New Jersey, and I am so happy to have her in my neck of the woods! I first met Veronica through Project LIT chats on Twitter. Her enthusiasm for sharing the love of reading is contagious, and if you follow her online, you’ll see that she is constantly learning and trying new things, and having a ton of fun along the way. Veronica shatters the librarian stereotype, and seeing her enthusiasm and passion for her students, puts a smile on my face because she is a bright spot in her school community and in our profession. Meet Veronica!

How long have you been a librarian?

This is my first year as a full-fledged librarian. I have had the certificate for 8 years.

What do you enjoy most about being a librarian?

Sharing book and author excitement with students.

What is an activity, event, or lesson you enjoy doing with students?
Project LIT Book club is the best. It’s especially fun during lunch bunch.  I love a full library.

Veronica brought Project LIT to her school.

How do you partner with or collaborate with faculty?
While I send newsletters and updates on the library, the best way to collaborate with faculty is through face to face conversation.  I appreciate their willingness to try new lesson ideas in the library.  

What challenges do you regularly face and how do you overcome them or handle them?
Sometimes the greatest challenge is the closing of the library, especially during testing.  The library can accommodate several groups at a time, but when testing in a quiet space is required, then lunch bunch and makerspace take a backseat.  It is what it is.  I am looking at providing library on wheels when the space is otherwise occupied.

Cool idea for giving kids access to the library during lunch!

How has your job changed over the years?
I was only in the library one block a day or after school prior to my current position.  In general, more space for collaboration between students is taking precedence over stuffed shelves.

Why do you enjoy being a teacher/ librarian?
I love kids and I love books.  Creating is also a big part of the library. It matters that everyone has a safe space to explore, individually and together. It doesn’t feel like a job.

What advice do you have to share with librarians?
Ask students. They are number one users of the library. It is their voice and choice that matters.

 What inspires you and helps challenge you to grow professionally?
I am thankful for a strong PLN on Twitter. Professional organizations provide many resources, but the relationships with other librarians, online and face-to-face, that inspire me to a better librarian each and every day.

Veronica is totally rocking her first year as a librarian! Thank you, Veronica, for answering my questions! You can connect with her on Twitter: @VtheLearner and Instagram: VBDougherty.

School libraries inspire and welcome everyone! They are safe havens!

Blake Hopper

Blake Hopper, librarian at Powell Valley Elementary and Powell Valley Middle in Speedwell, TN

Blake Hopper is the librarian at Powell Valley Elementary AND Powell Valley Middle in Speedwell, Tennessee. Fun fact: He’s the librarian where he attended elementary and middle school! You can catch Blake at TASL events, as he is the past President of the Tennessee Association of School Librarians, and you can catch him at ALA and AASL events, as he is an AASL Affiliate Chair Elect. Blake is an avid and vocal supporter of school librarians in Tennessee and is regularly reaching out to legislators and decision makers about the value of school libraries. When he’s not busy being a librarian, he’s busy on the court, coaching basketball at his school! Meet Blake!

How long have you been a librarian?  

I have been a librarian for 5 years.  Wow! I’m getting old! I taught in the classroom one year.  This my 6th year in education.

What do you enjoy most about being a librarian?

Can I enjoy everything?! Okay, well maybe not shelving all the books.  I love book talks, connecting students with books they fall in love with, helping students be creative, and collaborating with all the great faculty members at my school.

Blake makes the library a fun place to be!

What is an activity, event, or lesson you enjoy doing with students?

I love research!  I love helping student locate information. I love helping them create their projects.  I also love planning Dr. Seuss Week. Even my middle school kids love the week. They just don’t want to admit it!

Students love working on their research in the PVES library!

How do you partner with or collaborate with faculty?

I’m consistently looking at standards to see what I can help with.  I also talk to them or shoot them an email. I have been known to chase people down with ideas.  I have worked hard to build a collaborative relationship with my fellow faculty members. I think they now trust me! Remember, teachers are under a lot of stress.  Let them know we can help!

What challenges do you regularly face and how do you overcome them or handle them?  

Time.  Time is such a challenge.  I feel like I also have a to do list.  I have learned to take it one day at a time.  Do not get burned out.

Students love visiting the tech stations in the library.

How has your job changed over the years?  

Every year is different.  Different rules, standards, people, books, and technology.  Do not be afraid of change. Change keeps our job interesting.

Why do you enjoy being a teacher/ librarian?

I love seeing students grow and learn.  I love being a part of such a fantastic community.  I am the librarian at the elementary and middle school I attended.

Students display their makerspace LEGO creations.

What advice do you have to share with librarians?

Join TASL and AASL! You will get connected with so many great librarians.  Also, do not become overwhelmed. Many things will be coming at you. Take it one step at a time.   If you can get in the library early, do it. Make a plan. Stick to the plan. The first thing I wanted to do was make the library inviting.  

Blake Hopper takes the floor at ALA Annual in New Orleans to make his speech for AASL Affiliate Elect.

What inspires you and helps challenge you to grow professionally?  

My associations! TASL and AASL have helped me connect and make life long friends who challenge me to be better every day.

Quick Tour!

Thank you, Blake, for answering my questions!

Follow Blake online: Twitter: @pvslibrarian, Instagram: @blakehopper

School libraries are not your grandmother’s school libraries. They are vibrant, accessible, and ever-changing. They may not all look the same, but they all serve a common goal.– Erika Long

Erika Long is a middle school librarian for Metro Nashville Public Schools in TN

Erika Long is rocking the library world in Nashville and beyond! From her avid participation in the Project LIT Community to her extensive involvement in numerous professional organizations, Erika is a dynamic leader in our profession! She is active in ALA, AASL, Tennessee Library Association (TLA), and Tennessee Association of School Librarians (TASL). She has served on TLA’s Advisory Council as school libraries roundtable chair; worked on the AASL Standards Crosswalk Task Force; and served as an AASL interim regional director. She was named a 2017 AASL “Social Media Superstar” finalist in the social justice defender category, and she was part of the ALA Presidential Initiative: Fight for School Libraries. She has previously blogged for The Horn Book and TASL Talks. Most recently, she was named a 2019 AASL “Social Media Superstar” finalist in the Reader Leader category! You can meet Erika in person this summer at the 2019 Scholastic Reading Summit in Austin, TX, on July 16. Her session is, “Empowering Students in a Stay-Woke Movement.”

Erika is not only a friend of mine, but I value her leadership, voice, and vision in the library profession. In short, she rocks. Meet Erika!

How long have you been a librarian?  

This is my fourth year as a librarian and my fifth in libraries. I started as a library secretary (or clerk) when I began my Master’s program. Whew! That was rough (financially), but it certainly allowed me to gain experience and learn under a wonderful mentor who’s now a great friend. Plus, as someone who now works with a clerk, I often think back and reflect on my experience and have a great deal of respect for clerks I have worked with.

What do you enjoy most about being a librarian?

What I love most is the relationships I’ve developed, with students and educators alike. There’s so much irony in this because I am such an introvert and in most instances, I abhor small talk. However, since entering the profession, I’ve created some amazing friendships with past colleagues, found a lot of people who inspire me regularly, and taken so many students under my wings. Those are not only things I love about being a librarian, but things I cherish.

Erika Long is a 2019 AASL Social Media Superstar Finalist and a 2017 AASL Social Justice Superstar Finalist, and she’a a School Library Ambassador!

What is an activity, event, or lesson you enjoy doing with students?

I enjoy doing the most non-traditional things. For example, it’s not unique to find students who say they don’t like reading, so there’s this power struggle when it comes to DIR. When students are asked to keep a daily reading log, no one wins that feud. One of my favorite lessons with students was teaching a DIR lesson. I introduced students to new ways to showcase their reading, making it fun. They learned how blog, post bookstagrams, create soundtracks for books, and even podcast. Getting to model a podcast for them was epic! Those lessons are examples of true collaboration. That teacher was one of my favorites! This year, my favorite lesson wasn’t even a lesson. I did a read-aloud with a group because my busy life didn’t allow for me to create a breakout game I wanted to do with them. That read-aloud turned out to be the most engaging time I’ve had with a class of students this year. The things that were shared during the read-aloud messed me up. I don’t take that time with them for granted because it was obviously something those students needed at that moment.

Ms. Long shares a read aloud with students.

How do you partner with or collaborate with faculty?

When it comes to collaborating with faculty, I don’t think I’m any different from most librarians. It’s all about stepping outside of my comfort zone and just reaching out to teachers. I’ve found that my ideas are sort of like Ranganathan’s Laws; every idea it’s teacher. Not every idea or way to approach a lesson will work for every teacher. I tend to observe at the beginning of the school year; check out teacher’s personalities to determine their openness to work with me. When I find that handful of folks that fit my niche, we make magic. Of course the word spreads, and it leads to new opportunities.

What challenges do you regularly face and how do you overcome them or handle them?

Haha! Of course collaboration is a challenge. As beautiful as true collaboration can be, it’s also hard to do it as often as I’d like. It can happen at such a slow pace because the idea of giving up the amount of instructional time it requires can be daunting to a teacher. Plus, I’m of the microwave generation, so sitting in patience and persistence can be challenging.

How has your job changed over the years?

I still feel relatively new, so I can’t say the profession has changed drastically. I have seen some trends and language that was extremely popular when I first entered the profession start to become less prevalent. What once were buzzwords now seem more commonplace or less visual. But, that could also be because the way I stay abreast of what’s happening in the profession has changed some. I will say, because of the changes I made in where I work, my environments and cultures have been distinctly different. I’ve always worked in urban schools, but they each had demographics and cultures uniquely their own. While I make it a point to stay true to myself, these varied experiences have taught me that sometimes, it can be a challenge to fit in.

Ms. Long’s Project LIT Community Book Club!

Why do you enjoy being a teacher/ librarian?

I enjoy being a librarian because although we have our National School Library Standards, there is so much autonomy in how I teach and manage the library. I can be as creative and out of the box as I want. It’s a blessing and a curse, honestly. On one hand, there’s no limits to how I teach or what tools I use, but having over the top ideas can also be overwhelming. The key is to find the middle ground.

What advice do you have to share with librarians?

I should probably step off this particular soapbox, but I probably won’t. I always give librarians the same advice: tell your story; if you don’t, someone else will, and you may not like the way they tell it.

Erika leads a PD session on graphic novels for MNPS.

What inspires you and helps challenge you to grow professionally?

Amazing librarians! ( And I say this with so much passion.) A lot of what educators do daily is all about creating and sustaining relationships. There is nothing like seeing librarians and educators provide phenomenal academic experiences for students. As a librarian, you often wonder if you’re doing enough or how you could do things different. It’s always refreshing to see the tremendous work of my peers and the impact it has on students. If you really care about your students and school community, you can’t help but be fueled by the outstanding work you see others doing. The greatness in others should always challenge you to do more.

Erika with TASL colleagues Jennifer Sharp and Vicki Winstead at ALAYMA19.

Thank you, Erika, for answering my questions!

Follow Erika: Twitter @ErikaSLong, Instagram: @notyomamaslibrarian

Catch her at the 2019 Scholastic Reading Summit in Austin on July 16!

WMS Library
When it comes to advocating for your school library, the work you do every day matters. As the Advocacy Chair for the Tennessee Association of School Librarians, I spend a lot of time talking with political leaders about school libraries, making asks that relate to needs on a larger scale. But every single day, I show up to my school library, and it’s every day that I consider what I’m doing to make the library the heart of the school, how I’m contributing to the value of school libraries, and how I’m working to expand and change the narrative of the way school libraries are viewed in my community and beyond. Creating value for your library and value for your role at your school impacts our profession as a whole and the future of school libraries. Here are some essentials to everyday advocacy for your school library.

  1. Put your students first.

Do your best for students every day. Do you have books and resources to support all of your student populations? Do you have spaces that invite students and welcome all students? What changes need to be made to give students greater access? Examine your space, examine your programming, examine your collections. Ask students. Regularly seek their input. The library is there for them. You are there to support and to guide them. Make sure the needs of your students are at the heart of any ask you make.

WMS Students at SE-YA Book Fest

My students love connecting with authors. We attended SE-YA, our local teen book festival.


  1. Grow professionally.

Students deserve to attend schools with a certified school librarian on staff. I’d like to take that one step further- an awesome certified school librarian on staff! Grow your personal learning network through joining your state librarians’ organization, national organizations like AASL, and connect with librarians and educators in your district, at conferences, and on social media. Grow your network, which will not only encourage your professional growth, but connect with those who inspire and challenge you. Your professional growth directly impacts the health and strength of your library programming. Support, volunteer, participate in organizations that are positively furthering school libraries.

nErDcamp MI

Check out any conference or (un)conference that inspires you!


  1. Be a go-to person in your building

Part of positioning your library as the heart of the school is being someone at your school that people can count on. They seek your input because it’s thoughtful, helpful, encouraging. You have the capacity to listen, to brainstorm solutions, to support the goals and initiatives of your school, to participate in a positive way. You’re willing to collaborate, support, to go the extra mile, and sometimes, that means offering to do the task that no one else wants to do. You’re contributing to the positive culture in the building and beyond.


  1. Don’t major in the minors

Help create and contribute to a positive school library culture. What rules do we create for our libraries that prevent access that discourage usage that create barriers, that ultimately impede growth? Library fines? Limits on book checkouts? Examine your rules and policies and make sure they support full access by all students. Also, avoid getting bogged down with the negative attitudes that so easily spring up in school culture. It’s easy to gripe about too much testing, value added scores, observations, changes in leadership, and district policies. Block that out and think about the kids who have to show up every day to your school. Focus on creating a welcoming, loving, exciting space for them. Focus on the bigger picture.


  1. Be visible.

Take part in your school community. You make a point to show up to support your students at games, performances. Rave to the kids about their extra-curricular activities. Celebrate them! You say yes to the library being used as an event space. Attend events out in the community and connect with local businesses and community leaders. Make connections at your local bookstore by attending their events, reach out to your local public librarians and invite them to your school. Be a librarian who participates in the world going on outside the library.


  1. Tell your library’s story

If you don’t narrate the story, who is? What avenues do you have to share what’s happening in the library? Get the message out via any means possible. There’s a story happening every single day at your library. What avenues of sharing information are available to you that reach students, parents, community members, faculty, admin, district staff, etc? From newsletters, intercom announcements, pto meetings, and social media, get the word out. The library’s story matters.

WMS Library Read2Me program

Every day there’s a story from your library that’s worth sharing.


  1. Invite and welcome decision makers to your library.

  Open your doors to your administration, district leaders, local and state government leaders. What ways do you have for them to participate in your library? You don’t have to wait until School Library Month in April! You have exciting things going on all year, like read alouds, book clubs, makerspace, 3D printing. Invite them to see what’s happening on a regular basis. When they are asked about school libraries in their district or in their community, let yours be the one they know.


  1. Create a growth plan

What will your library look like in the next 5 years? Develop a collections plan that helps you prioritize sections of the library that are in need of updating and expansion. Is the curriculum changing for a subject area? Is your collection ready to handle those changes? Is your population changing? Does your collection reflect the needs of the student population? Consider not only print and digital resources, but programming, your professional development, and space needs.


  1. Create a snapshot

Do you have something at the ready to show a new principal? A new pto president? Newly elected local and state leaders? Create an infographic about your library that reflects the most recent school year that can easily be shared in your community as to the state of your library. Show your print and digital checkouts, number of books per student, student involvement in book clubs, most popular sections, number of classes taught, budget, book drive results, number of special events, like author visits, number of 3D prints, etc. Provide the data that best shows the value and your needs.

WMS Library School Year Snapshot


  1. Be prepared to make your ask

There’s never enough money, the schedule is never ideal, the library is yet again under-staffed. Where do you start? This is where you reach out to the decision makers, those you’ve invited in, those you’ve shared your story with, those you’ve taken the time to estable positive relationships with, and you make them aware of the challenges that prevent you from offering the best services for students and providing the best resources. Offer your research based ideas and solutions, and resist offering complaints. You ask for their involvement in problem solving and their support in reaching the best, student centered outcomes. You seek assistance and guidance from your PLN. You stay the course, and no matter what happens, at the end of the day, you do the best you can, with everything that’s in your power and within your control, to make your school library the best it can be for your students.


Our very own cardboard Schu stem project

Two awesome school library advocates!

What you do each and every day matters. Let’s do what’s in our power to create student centered, strong school library programs that are valued by our communities. The stronger we are individually, the greater impact we have as a whole. We raise awareness, add value to our profession, and we impact future generations of leaders, decision makers, and citizens, which ultimately impacts the future of school libraries in our world. 

If you’ve ever managed AR for your school, you may have heard and witnessed things like this:

  • “I didn’t even read the book and I got a 100!”
  • “I didn’t have time to read a book. I guess I’ll take one on something I read a few years ago.”
  • “I read the book three times, and I still failed the quiz!” (Cue tears…)
  • Teacher: “What do you mean did you didn’t read a book? The due date for your AR quiz is today! Well, you better take a quiz on something.”
  • “I didn’t read a book, but I know a lot about football, so I took a quiz on a football book.”
  • “I read (insert title here), but now I hate that book because I failed the AR quiz.”
  • “I failed the AR quiz, so my teacher wants me to read a short book and take a quiz by tomorrow. Got any short books?”
  • “I need a really short AR book because I’ve been reading this new book that just came out, and it doesn’t have an AR quiz, so I need to read something really fast so I can get back to what I really want to read.”

Did you ever hear- “I love taking quizzes on books!” I sure as hell didn’t. I saw straight A students and avid readers not care, I saw students who don’t read very much give up, and I saw students spend more time trying to figure out a short cut of the system than actually read a book. If I could go back and do anything differently in my career, I would have yanked the plug on this program years ago and instead, built a culture of reading based on choice, based on interest, based on curiosity.

Woulda. Coulda. Shoulda.

Do students love to read at my school? Yes! A resounding yes! They love to read because we share books all the time. We have numerous author visits. We speed date, book taste, have book clubs, show book trailers, and share book talks. We have a thriving reading culture. Did AR have anything to do with that? Not one thing. By requiring this accountability piece, that came in the form of the AR quiz, we were ultimately stifling our readers. It’s as if we had this beautiful garden with this one giant weed casting a shadow over everything.

I’m embarrassed at how many years I tried to make it work because we have a large school. Teachers needed a quick way to account for outside reading assignments. I used to be a 7th grade ELA teacher. I know that if you have the choice between spending a weekend grading 160 reading projects or running an AR quiz report, the AR quiz report seems very appealing. I now know that AR may be a temporary win as a timesaver, it’s a loss in the long run for students. It doesn’t create life long reading habits. It doesn’t create readers. It doesn’t grow readers. I can’t name one positive thing it did.

In recent years, I discovered some incredible voices in literacy education, like Donalyn Miller, Pernille Ripp, Mr. Schu, Colby Sharp, Chad Everett, Penny Kittle, Jarred Amato, and I started listening. Really listening. I started really understanding what made readers, and I started envisioning how our reading culture could grow even more. What if our students could read a book purely for the sake of enjoyment? Do we have to have an accountability piece? Do we have to have a system?

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I created a Padlet of resources to share with ELA teachers as we shift into choice based reading. If you need resources to help start this conversation at your school and break out of AR, you can access this padlet here.

I’m excited to report that we’ve yanked that ginormous weed out of the ground! We said no more AR, and  we are starting this school year with choice based reading! ELA teachers have been following the leads of Pernille Ripp with the 25 Book Reading Challenge and Donalyn Miller with the 40 Book Reading Challenge and creating a vision for our school based on their examples. Together, we’re collaborating more than ever before and discussing ways to grow readers this year. We’re asking our PTO to help boost classroom libraries, and for the first time in a long time, the ELA teachers are excited. They are excited to create classroom reading cultures based on loving books and not based on keeping track of who hasn’t completed their AR quiz yet. When teachers are excited and motivated, watch out! Their excitement is contagious. I can’t wait to see what happens!

As I begin my 19th year in education, here’s what I know. It’s not too late to amend a broken system, to forge a new path, to seek the advice and expertise of others, to change. If it’s not good for kids, throw it out! Don’t be afraid to try a new way. We still have questions as to how our reading challenge will work, but we’re forging ahead, and we’re giving this our best shot because we know that freeing the kids up to read based on choice, is what’s best. There’s nothing that has to be perfect about it. It’s already perfect. The ground is clear, and I can’t wait to see how students and teachers blossom this year!


Rhonda Jenkins with readers at Kendall
When I attended the Scholastic Reading Summit in Chicago in 2017, I had breakfast with Mr. Schu, I heard Kwame Alexander, Donalyn Miller, Colby Sharp, Sue Haney, and I watched Mr. Schu interview Kate DiCamillo. Every bit of it was positively amazing. And, getting the opportunity to finally meet fellow librarian Rhonda Jenkins in person is also one of the highlights from that day. Rhonda is the amazing librarian at Kendall Elementary in Naperville, IL, and she is a wealth of great ideas that make the library the most happening place in the building. She is a star in my Twitter Personal Learning Network, and she inspires me to reach greater heights as a school librarian.

She empowers kids as library users. Even the kindergartners are checking out their own books! She fosters a love of reading through exciting team reading challenges, and the her makerspace is a dream! A cake decorating club? In the library? Why not? And, her “Think Write Board”, puts a smile on my face every day. I love reading her questions and the student responses. I think her student, Emma, said it best, “She is booktastic!” (I agree, Emma).  If you are organizing a One School, One Book event, check out the her display for Wishtree. What a creative way to generate increased excitement and interest in the story!

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It would be a dream to spend a day in her library, and guess who else thinks so? Mr. Schu! He frequents her library, and in case you missed it, CBS This Morning tagged along on one of Mr. Schu’s visits to Kendall. If you go to the 2018 Scholastic Reading Summit in Chicago or in Raleigh-Durham, you are definitely in for an unforgettable day, and you can also meet Rhonda in person, as she’s presenting! You won’t want to miss her session and all of the ideas has to share, and I bet you’ll see just how “booktastic” she is, too!

Mr. Schu in the Kendall yearbook

Mr. Schu is in the Kendall yearbook!

Meet Rhonda Jenkins!

How long have you been a librarian?I have been a librarian for four wonderful years.

What do you enjoy the most about being a librarian?

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The selfie station lets students show off what they’re reading.

Everything. Seriously, I enjoy everything about my job. I love that I get to know each and every student at my school. I love that I get the chance to expose students and teachers to great books. I love teaching students and staff how to use technology available to us. Books, oh how I love buying and reading books. This job is the perfect marriage of everything I love, teaching, students, technology and books!

What is an activity, event, or lesson you enjoy doing with students?

All year long, we look forward toApril for our Spark a Fire and Read contest. We start to prepare for April in March. As a school community, we sign up and join squads, staff and students mix together, we pick our leader – whom we call our Top Dog, come up with a fabulous squad name and get ready to read during the month of April. Our goal is to beat our goal and for the past three years, we have blown it out of the water! I find any kind of way to reward the school spirit we show . . . first squad to sign up, first to report their minutes, longest squad name, smallest squad, best team name, best T-shirt design, most improved over previous week, etc.! We end the celebration of reading and teamwork with a dance party! So much excitement for reading is shown throughout the month. We love it and I love hosting our Spark a Fire and Read contest!

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Spark a Fire & Read Team Challenge generates competition and fun with reading!

How do you partner with or collaborate with faculty?

I have a regularly scheduled, once a month planning time with each grade level team. This is the formal time, but I meet and talk with teachers about the needs as frequently as possible.

What challenges do you regularly face and how do you overcome them or handle them?

One major challenge is a budget to support my cravings for new books. Good books are published constantly and I love to fill my shelves with them. A limited budget forces me to rethink and modify my decisions. Sometimes, I just spend my own money.

How has your job changed over the years?

I’ve only been in the position for four years. The changes that came about, I believe they were necessary. Most of the changes were ideas I felt I needed in the library – having a makerspace in the library was one major change.

I have also seen a shift to using more technology as tools to meet educational goals. I am the technology guru in the building and feel that it’s a very important role that I must manage.

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Kendall Library’s Makerspace is always packed with students creating.

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Why do you enjoy being a teacher/ librarian? Being a teacher/librarian is the marriage of everything I love about the profession – students, books , technology, and teaching. What more can I ask for?

What advice do you have to share with librarians?

Don’t be afraid of change . . . it’s coming! Keep up with what’s happening through social media, professional journals and your Personal Learning Network – branch out and tell your story.

School libraries...and school librarians are the heart of the school. Make sure everyone feels the beat as it speeds up and slows down when necessary!

What inspires you and helps challenge you to grow professionally?

Knowing that I am a lifelong learner, I understand that there is usually a new and inspiring way to do something. Being free and undaunted by change helps me to accept the things I can, change the things I must, and just truly look for the positive in everything around and inside me.

Thank you, Rhonda, for answering my questions! 

Connect with Rhonda on Twitter @luv2teachtech, read her blog to get great ideas for your book fair, and be sure to catch her at the 2018 Scholastic Reading Summit!

IMG_9612Have your oldest students help your youngest students get to know their new school library by creating book marks that share a favorite book. This gives your graduating class a chance to reminisce about the books they read during their time at your school and to share a heart felt recommendation for their favorite book. Your incoming class will love exploring the many wonderful messages and recommendations left behind by former students. This immerses your new students immediately in the culture of reading and sharing books, and it helps them feel welcome in their new library. 



BookLove Legacy bookmark template (I used card stock.)

Art supplies: scissors, markers, pens, pencils, sharpies


15-30 minutes


May 2018 Library Day



Students enjoyed thinking about that one book from their middle school years that really shines. They took pride in sharing their reading legacies, and the end result is I now have a wide variety of books to share with our new students and a special way to bring my newest and youngest readers into the fold of our thriving reading culture. The message? Here, we share and we connect through our reading. The journey at your new school and in your new library begins today, and it’s my goal to help you love reading for a lifetime, and someday, I can’t wait to see the book from our library that you choose to share as your reading legacy.  


Jeff Schreiber, the “Jockbrarian”

Do you ever feel like as the librarian, you are on your own island? Maybe you’re part of a small school district, or your professional network lacks inspiration, innovation, or is… non-existent? Fortunately, I have a local network that is thriving, but in recent years, I’ve connected with with tons of amazing educators, authors, and librarians around the world, who continually challenge and inspire me. One of those amazing librarians is Jeff Schreiber, aka the Jockbrarian. How’s that for a Twitter handle? We connected through our mutual love of the book Strong Inside by Andrew Maraniss. His excitement for the library and his students is contagious! Meet the Jockbrarian!

How long have you been a librarian?

I have been a librarian for 10 years.  Before that, I was an English teacher for 16 years at various levels between 7-12th grades. It makes me feel old.

 What do you enjoy the most about being a librarian?

 It probably sounds geeky, but I really enjoy collection development!  I’ve found it has one of the most profound impacts on kids—which on course it the most exciting thing!  I feel like my library is my own little book store, and what I put on the shelves deeply influences the lives of my patrons.  I love seeing kids browse around and find a special book that “fits” them or piques their interest.  I also love it what a student comes up to me asking for a suggestion or a specific type of book, and I can walk them over to a section and give them some ideas knowing a have a strong collection at my back!

What is an activity, event, or lesson you enjoy doing with students?


Author Andrew Maraniss speaks to Jeff’s students at Germantown High School.

I really loved the author visit I did with Andrew Maraniss this past December!  Author visits are very uncommon in Wisconsin schools for some reason.  We are not well on the beaten path of author tours, and it’s just not a norm for librarians up here to plan them.  I was inspired by you (Lindsey) to invite Andrew for a visit!  (Yes, I did refer to your past blog post on how to do an author visit!)  While it was a crazy amount of work and planning, I found the visit to be one of the most enjoyable activities I’ve done–and it was the activity that gathered by far the most, “That was sooooo cool!” responses from the students!

 How do you partner with or collaborate with faculty?

High school faculty can be very hard to collaborate with.  Let’s just say that sometimes their egos can get in the way of wanting/asking for help from the librarian!  I found middle school teachers to actually be far more willing to collaborate and share ideas.  There is hope, though!  Our school has just introduced an AP Capstone Research course this year, and I have been working closely with the teacher and the class on the research process, including the QUEST model of research and inquiry based research.  We’ve had such great success, that we are going to institute the model school wide—which means lots more future collaboration for me!

What challenges do you regularly face and how do you overcome them or handle them?

Teachers that have been doing it “their way” forever and refuse to take the help I offer them.  Like the answer above, you have to keep clawing your way into the room, and also convincing administration to make systemic changes that will allow you more influence.  Another problem I faced when I arrived is a negative or nonchalant attitude towards independent reading.  In general, it’s just a bad attitude that says, “You’ll never get kids to read on their own.”  When I started, library circulation was at about 4,500 circs per year for a 1,200 person school.  Within two years, I was circulating 13,000 books per year!   To achieve this I sold the idea of mandatory outside reading to the English teachers, and most importantly, I provided the kids with a collection that would back this movement up with relevant and exciting titles.

How has your job changed over the years?

When I started, there were 2 secretaries, all the books were hand cataloged, and there was lots of teeth gnashing and hand wringing about being sure all rules were correctly followed, every record meticulously kept; in other words, the library was “rule” centered, not “kid” centered.  This model cannot work anymore, and we have changed to a student centered library where the customer is most important, not the rules.  The library has become a hub of activity where ideas are shared, kids can unwind and explore, and everyone is valued.  I’d say it’s quite the change for the better!

 How important is it to connect with fellow librarians?

It is very easy as a librarian to find yourself on an island.  In most places, you are the only librarian in the building—if not the district.  This is not healthy for professional development or sanity!  I have connected quite a bit with local librarians, and we meet a couple times a year to share ideas—and of course just sit and gripe for a bit!  I also present every year at the State School Library Conference.  This is a great way to connect with librarians throughout the State to see what is working in various regional environments.  My blog has been an absolute blessing.  It has allowed me to connect nationally with brilliant librarians and allowed me to be inspired by amazing people like Lindsey! (Aw, thanks, Jeff!)

What advice do you have to share with librarians?

It’s amazing how many librarians view the most important aspect of their job to be introducing and promoting technology.  Many turn their back on books and developing a strong collection.  My advice to you is that being a librarian is a people business—don’t ever forget it.  The most important thing you can do is develop relationships with the students.  Also, don’t underestimate the power of a book.  I have never seen a life changed by a Google app, but I have seen many lives changed by a book.


The Jockbrarian at work!

School libraries are…more important than people think they are. I have to admit, I am pretty used to being the punchline of most jokes.

Examples of sweet things my friends and family say:

You’re a what?…You’re a librarian?

My dad is a…um…a…librarian.

How lucky you are to have a job where you do nothing!

They still have those?

Wow, there aren’t many men in that line of work.

Yes, our son is a librarian. (Doesn’t impress many people at a cocktail party.)

Anyways, for the first couple of years, I just called myself a teacher, because I couldn’t stand the furrowed eyebrows I would get upon trying to explain my job as a librarian. Now, I wear the badge with pride. Other people may not understand or “get” what we are doing, but school libraries must carry on as the strong force behind the literacy and information movements.

What inspires you and challenges you to grow professionally?My own kids inspire me every day. What I do with my life professionally is a big part of who I am and the example I set for my kids. I want them to appreciate life, be good members of society, help others, develop confidence to go out into the world and succeed. These are also the ideals that I promote in those students I am lucky enough to work with every day. When people see me engaged in my work, I know they are proud of who I am- despite what their lame jokes may say about my profession!

Thank you, Jeff, for answering my questions!

Jeff Schreiber is the librarian at Germantown High School in Germantown, Wisconsin. Connect with him on Twitter @Jockbrarian.


I had the opportunity to hang out with Debbie in the beautiful Ingram Library at Ensworth in Nashville, Tennessee, a few years ago. The first thing I noticed is how many kids stopped by, just to say hello. She knew everyone by name and remembered exactly which book each student was reading.  And, as if that wasn’t enough, she told them she’d have the next book they needed waiting for them! It’s easy to see that she values the relationships she has with her students and faculty.  She’s not only created a warm, welcoming environment, but she’s established a high level of trust among her students. She’s a go-to person at her school, and there’s no doubt she makes the school library the heart of her school. She inspires me to be a librarian who is an asset to my school, to build positive relationships with students and faculty, to be a leader, to be kind,  and to make the library central to the school community.


How long have you been a librarian?

This is my 22nd year as a librarian. I have been in my current position for  21 years.


What do you enjoy the most about being a librarian?

I love to work with the students and teachers. I like to discover and share new books, help students with research projects, and work with faculty to enrich their curriculum.


How do you partner with or collaborate with faculty?

Most of my collaboration is done informally. I am a middle school advisor as well as librarian, so I see the faculty a lot and we are able to discuss what they are doing and how I can help.


What challenges do you regularly face and how do you overcome them or handle them?

We have a fixed schedule, and while I mainly identify as middle school faculty, I also teach fourth and fifth grade classes. When a special schedule is being run by either division, my schedule is disrupted. I have learned to roll with it and sometimes have two classes in at one time.


How has your job changed over the years?

My job has become less centered on me and more centered on what the students need our time together to be.


What advice do you have to share with librarians?

You have the best job in the world, enjoy it. You will never completely finish most tasks, but just keep plugging away.


School libraries…should be the hub of the school. School libraries should be the place where everyone feels welcome.


What inspires you and helps challenge you to grow professionally? 

The love of the students and the desire to  help my colleagues helps me find ways to grow professionally.


Thank you, Debbie, for answering my questions!


Debbie Sandwith is the Librarian for grades 4-8 at The Ensworth School in Nashville, TN.


In recognition of AASL’s School Library Month, I am highlighting librarians who inspire and challenge me. They are leaders in the school library profession, are movers and shakers in their school communities, and they are MVP’s in my professional learning network. 

“Use your privilege, power, and prosperity to help somebody else.” 

Alice Faye Duncan


Alice Faye Duncan speaks at TNLA18.

I recently attended the Tennessee Library Association’s Conference in Memphis, and I had the pleasure of meeting Alice Faye Duncan. She delivered the keynote address during the Children’s and Young Adults Luncheon. Not only is she a dynamic speaker, but she is a school librarian and author! Her book is  Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop, which is illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, is set to release August 28, 2018 and is a #1 Amazon early release.

How long have you been a librarian?  I’ve served as a school librarian for 25 years.  The last 18 years have been in a high school setting. 

What do you enjoy the most about being a librarian?  I enjoy organizing multimedia library programs that demonstrate student learning (i.e. essays, poems, artwork, dance and musical talents) that is related to books they read during school or independently. 

What is an activity, event, or lesson you enjoy doing with students? October is the month for “Teen Reading Week.”  During that month, I ask all the students in my school to read the same novel, short story or poem.  We call the annual program, “ONE STORY/ ONE SCHOOL.”
During “Teen Reading Week,”  I then asked students to respond to the literature in any creative way they choose.  When my students read the short story, “Spunk” by Zora Neale Hurston,  a young man responded by creating an interpretive dance for two. The music chosen for the dance was Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love.”
Students in the school assembly made the connection immediately.  While the main character, Joe Kanty,  was a timid man, he was deeply in love with his wife and driven to foolish behavior when she proceeds with a public affair. During the dance for two,  the young man dies of a broken heart and the young women moves on in life, without any signs of remorse. The dance was a genius idea!

How do you partner with or collaborate with faculty?I require students to do author studies on the poets and novelists that they read in class.  At the conclusion of these units, I ask a high school or college professor in my building to prepare and deliver a literature analysis/lecture for a school-wide assembly.  In the past, my colleagues have provided students an insightful analysis of Eudora Welty, Zora Neale Hurston, Guy Maupassant and Richard Wright. 

What challenges do you regularly face in your library and how do you overcome them or handle them?There is this perception often that the school librarian “doesn’t do anything.” Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Make yourself necessary and the world will give you bread.”  So to refute or negate this perception, I enter each school year,  inspired by my own personal vision of what my library program will look like, in terms of monthly instruction, monthly programs, and fundraising initiatives. My intention everyday of the week is to “add value.” 

Please share the inspiration behind your forthcoming book Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop. In 2005, I went looking for a picture book about the 1968 Memphis strike.  I wanted to read it with young children during a school visit. When I did not find such a book, I decided to write one myself. The book took 10 years to complete. Sometimes, big dreams require long gestation periods. Now, with the August release of MEMPHIS, MARTIN AND THE MOUNTAINTOP, I pray that young readers will find the book interesting, inspiring, impactful.

Please share about your collaboration with illustrator R. Gregory Christie.

In 2012, while riding a New York subway, I looked up and saw a Gregory Christie poster.  It was titled, “Subway Soiree.”  I told my husband, “One day I am going to own an original artwork by Gregory Christie.” Four years later, my editor, Carolyn Yoder, is hiring Gregory to illustrate my book about Dr. King.  It was a dream come true because Gregory is a Coretta Scott King Award Winner and he has won the Caldecott Honor Award.  I expect that our collaboration is a cosmic destiny.  I live in Memphis, the place where Dr. King lost his life in the struggle for justice.   Gregory lives in Atlanta the place of Dr. King’s birth.  Together, Gregory and I, represent King’s beginning and end.  Our collaboration is a metaphor of sorts.  And what will become of our book?  I say, “The best is yet to come!”

What advice do you have to share with librarians?  As you go about your daily work, keep one goal in mind–Be a Blessing!

What color nail polish are you wearing?  OPI Big Apple Red.

School libraries…that buzz and hum with the presence of students, who are busy typing research, printing school assignments, studying in groups, reading books, perusing magazines and chatting with friends, Imply that libraries are living spaces that will never die–ever. 

What inspires you and helps challenge you to grow professionally?  Both of my parents were exceptional educators, generous and wise. Rising to their gold standard keeps me striving forward.

Thank you for answering my questions, Alice Faye!

Alice Faye Duncan is the librarian at Middle College High School in Memphis, TN. She is a National Board Certified Librarian, author, and speaker. You can find her at, on Twitter and FB @AliceFayeDuncan, and on Instagram @AliceFayeWrites.




In recognition of AASL’s School Library Month, I am highlighting librarians who inspire and challenge me. They are leaders in the school library profession, are movers and shakers in their school communities, and they are MVP’s in my professional learning network. 


Scot (right) and I with author Chris Grabenstein at TASL 2017. Chris’s first author visit was at Scot’s school. Scot is married to Dr. Zinchenko, the world famous librarian in ESCAPE FROM MR. LEMONCELLO’S LIBRARY.

“When a kid walks in the room, he knows what book that kid needs, Sixth grade teacher Janet Easterday talking with me about librarian Scot Smith.

I met Scot Smith when I served on the Volunteer State Book Award committee. Scot immerses himself in the world of books! He devours all types of books, visits books festivals near and far to hear authors, and he hosts numerous author visits at his school, Robertsville Middle in Oak Ridge, TN, which serves students in grades 5-8.

Scot inspires me to be an expert in the literature my students are reading. The more I read, and the more I learn about the books and authors writing for this age group, the better resource I am for my students and faculty. I love talking about all things books with Scot!

How long have you been a librarian?   I have been a librarian for 21 years. Before that, I taught English and History on the secondary level and was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ukraine where I taught English.

What do you enjoy the most about being a librarian?   I enjoy the diversity that librarianship affords me. I have the opportunity to do something different each and every day. I might teach literary elements to 5th graders in the morning and information literacy to 8th graders in the afternoon. Each day brings new and different challenges. Seldom does the present school day resemble the next.



Scot introduces author Jason Reynolds to his students.

What is an activity, event, or lesson you enjoy doing with students?  I love to tell stories. I use storytelling as a way to teach literary elements but also as a way to bring humor in the library.  Reading aloud to my students is priceless, both for them as well as for me. I also enjoy planning author visits. There are few things more professionally satisfying or rewarding than a successful author visit. The impact of a meaningful author visit can last for years.

How do you partner with or collaborate with faculty?  We work together on project-based learning (PBLs) and in profession learning communities (PLCs). Those are mandated by the school system. The librarians in our school system meet monthly in collaborative teams. I also play a large role in what books my middle schoolers study in the classroom. I helped to select most of the books my students read in their classroom as part of their ELA curriculum.


Library assistant, Julie Lee (Left) and former  library assistant Carol Husband (right) agreed that Scot has a knack for picking the right book for each student, and the kids love his book talks!

What challenges do you regularly face and how do you overcome them or handle them?   Too many responsibilities and not enough time to accomplish them. I have to plan my schedule and budget my time. Most importantly, I have to have the discipline to stick to my schedule.

How has your job changed over the years?  Our school went to one-to-one three years ago. Every student has a laptop. By choice, I elected to play a major role in that project. On any given day, I am likely to touch fifty student laptops as I help troubleshoot devices and assist the technician with distribution of the computers. The first and last weeks of school are now devoted to rolling out and rolling up the laptops. The one-to-one initiative has changed my library collection. My e-book collection presently exceeds 600 titles, and my students are as likely to read a book on their device as they are from library shelves. It is not uncommon for me to check the library stats at the end of the day and see that e-book circulation has surpassed book circulation for that particular day. That means I have to devote more time and resources to developing and managing my library’s digital collection.

What advice do you have to share with librarians?  Read, Read, and read. And when are think you are finished reading, read some more. Librarians need to be the reading role models in their communities.


Check out the amazing authors who’ve visited RMS over the years!

What book are you reading? Asking for It by Louise O’Neill, a Printz Honor from 2017.  I am saddened when I hear students and adults say that they don’t have time for reading anymore. Or that they hate to read. I try to read a wide variety of titles and authors….graphic novels, non-fiction, YA, middle grade, multiple genres, bestsellers–and aim for at least one book a week.

School libraries are sadly endangered, but not from the people who work in the schools. Those people realize the importance of a strong, well-funded library.  The existential threat comes from outside the school system. How many times have we heard “Today’s kids don’t read, so why do they need libraries” or “in the future, we won’t need libraries. Everything will be on the computer?” Just because the football team needs new uniforms does not mean the library should not have new books. We as librarians have to advocate for our students, our schools, and our profession.

What inspires you and helps challenge you to grow professionally?  Whenever a student asks “Mr. Smith, can you help me a good book?” That question never gets old.

Thanks for answering my questions, Scot!

Scot is the librarian at Robertsville Middle School in Oak Ridge, TN. He is Co-Chair of the Volunteer State Book Award Committee, a member of the 2018 Printz committee, and he is an instructor at the University of Tennessee, School of Information Sciences. Connect with him on Goodreads.