Library Stile

Ideas & Inspiration for School Libraries


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.


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