Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Kathy Bennett

What’s your current job? 

I became teacher-librarian at Lincoln Trail Elementary School in the Mahomet-Seymour school district in 1989, following stints in similar positions in Champaign, Illinois, and Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania. Lincoln Trail has 650 students in grades 3-5, and I see all of them each week, as well as serving roughly 50 staff members. My job changed radically last spring when my full-time assistant’s position was eliminated and my budget was cut in half.

Who is your greatest ally and why?

The building technology teacher is a great ally. Classroom teachers have each other but we are both solos in our building. We use each other as sounding boards and help troubleshoot technology problems. Both of us help teachers integrate technology into their curriculum and our areas of instruction overlap so it creates a great opportunity for collaboration.

How do you stay current (in technology, literature, instruction, pop culture, etc)?

I’ve been a long-time member of the American Library Association, the Illinois School Library Media Association, and Illinois Computing Educators, and I frequently attend their conferences and conventions. The Illinois Education and Technology conference is another I attend.

I follow quite a few blogs. At the top of my “go to” list you’d find Doug Johnson’s Blue Skunk, Joyce Valenza’s NeverEndingSearch, David Pogue’s Posts, and John Schu’s Watch.Connect.Read.

Another way I keep current and connected is by subbing in the children’s room at the Urbana Free Library. . . and perhaps my most important habit is that I read . . . read . . . read children’s literature.

Regularly offering staff in-service sessions is a way to force myself to be at the top of my game on whatever topic I've chosen to tackle.

Oh, and another thing I should probably add here is that working regularly with practicum students and student teachers helps keep me fresh.


Think of your school library as an extension of the classrooms not your private kingdom. You are the caretaker of the space for the entire school.

How do you get the most out of attending conferences?

Attending a variety of conferences has been a main source of my professional growth. My school district only pays for one conference a year but I feel I need professional development in both the library aspects of the job as well as the technology aspects. So I have chosen to go to more than one conference a year, paying my own way.  

I read the description of the programs very carefully and I rarely have been disappointed in the sessions I chose. By being active in a variety of professional groups, you get to know the names of the movers and shakers in the library world. I always seek out their sessions. I often look for sessions in my areas of weakness.

How do you defy the librarian stereotypes?

I like cute shoes and refuse to wear Birkenstocks!

Paper or digital?

I’m afraid paper. . . but I’m shifting as a result of being in love, love, LOVE with my iPad.

Where can you find Kathy?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A Voice from the Past: Margaret Edwards

For me, Margaret Edwards was a consummate pragmatist. For decades beginning in the early 1930s, she tirelessly advocated for the value of library work with teens through her position as a librarian at Baltimore's Enoch Pratt Free Library. In 1988, with a gift from Edwards' estate, the American Library Association established an award in her memory, which honors authors of books for young adults.

Edwards had much to say about youth services librarians' fetish with card catalogs, which still apply to the profession and OPACs today. Here's one example from The Fair Garden and A Swarm of Beasts: The Library and the Young Adult (original published in 1969, reprinted by ALA in 2002):
If we gave up our futile attempt to teach everyone to use the catalog, the time saved could be spent in the intensive promotion of reading. We could use the time for more class visits to talk about books, assembly programs on reading, book lists, reading clubs, and above all, work with individuals on the floor of the library (p. 79).
I see many lessons to be learned from this thought, but most important is questioning tradition. What do we value? What do we do that is inessential? What might we do instead?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Kim Anderson

My current job? 
I’m happy to hold one of the best jobs in education—that of school librarian.  I spent my first seven years as a middle school classroom teacher (reading, language arts, algebra, social studies,  and science), but I didn’t find my true calling until I become a librarian eight years ago.  

My first library gig was in an elementary school but it wasn’t long before I realized my middle school heart could not be broken and I found my way back “home” to Jefferson Middle School (Champaign, IL).   I’ve completed my MLS and CAS at GSLIS (the best educational and professional experiences of my career) and earned National Board Certification in Library Media. 
How do you stay current (in technology, literature, instruction, pop culture, etc)?
This is the hardest and most exciting part of my job.  Staying current on all things tween can only happen one way.   Work.  I read constantly, I subscribe to tons of blogs—both book and professional, and I talk regularly with my nieces, nephews and the students at Jefferson.   I even scan through the different teen magazines to attempt to stay current (trust me—this only takes a second because they all pretty much look the same). 

How do I measure success?
It’s always nice when a teacher tells me I’m doing well, but my real test is feedback from students.  Sometimes I ask the students directly and we have discussions about the library as a group or they complete short polls or surveys.  

My favorite measure of success is the spontaneous one.  My heart sings when I see a student jumping up and down because the sequel to a book they’ve been waiting for is in.  Or when someone races up to tell me how much they loved the book I recommended and could I please, please help them find something else "just like it."  And of course, it makes my day when I get an email or visit from a graduate that says they miss having me as their librarian.  That’s a success. 

What’s the worst part of my job?
Lost books.  It makes me crazy.

Have some passive reader’s advisory tools available for student to look through (lists, read alikes, displays, etc).  This is great for students who aren’t as excited about interacting with you as you are about interacting with them. 

I pulled out my most popular genres into special collections.  This makes it so much easier for kids to find the horror, mysteries and sports books.  It also frees me to help students that really haven’t figured out what they want.

You probably won’t have a budget that will allow you to purchase everything you want.  It was liberating when I stopped trying to purchase every book immediately and started waiting for paperback on some.  I also do a better job of purchasing more of what I know kids will read and fewer of titles I think they should read.  

How do I defy the librarian stereotypes?
I never, “Ssshhhh.”   I love fashion, have tattoos and have happily sported a range of haircolors (pink, red, copper, blue, teal, purple…).  And I try very hard to be helpful and friendly.  Smile. Smile. Smile!  I remember when I was just starting out and someone jokingly asked, “Well, how long before you become a b*@$%?”  It struck a chord.  I never want students or teachers to feel anything but welcome when they come into this space.  Now, don’t mistake my perky nature for being a pushover because I’ll also fight tooth and nail for things the library needs.

What fictional character would you most like to be for a day?
Ugh..this changes regularly but right now I’ll say Karou from Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor.  She’s amazing! 

You can have any superpower, what would it be?

Paper or digital?
Paper.  Except when I’m traveling then it’s Kindle city sweetheart. 

Where can you find Kim?


Children's librarians - teen librarians - school librarians: they're all youth services librarians. I was one of them in another lifetime, a high school librarian in Indiana. For the past dozen or so years, though, I've been teaching the people who want to join this profession.

Stories matter. Those of us who work with young people understand something about the capacity of stories to define us, sustain us, and empower us. Too often, though, we lose our own stories, our own voices.

This blog has a simple purpose: to capture the stories of youth services librarians so that more people know what we do. Maybe you're an LIS student on your way to joining these ranks or a parent with a child in school or a library administrator looking for fresh ideas or just someone curious about the world.

Once a week or so, I'll post responses to a few questions from a youth services librarian. The respondents have a choice of what questions to answer and what information to provide about themselves, so not every post will look the same. I hope you'll stop back regularly to learn more.