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