To celebrate School Library Month, teacher-librarians have been sharing their stories of why they went into the profession. These stories have resonated with me, so as April draws to a close, I’m taking advantage of a window of rare quiet time at home to share my story. To read other #whylib stories, check out this Why We Became Librarians Padlet.
I’ve always loved children’s books. After graduating from Willamette University, I moved up to the Portland area and worked for several years at a local independent bookstore. I soon began working in the children’s area of the store. My work ranged from ordering books, supervising other children’s area staff, helping coordinate children’s author visits and even dressing up as Sister Bear from the Berenstain Bears. After three years, supervisory positions were downsized and I chose to leave my position and work as a library assistant in a local elementary school.
While working as a library assistant, I was able to take evening courses at Portland State University in their library media program. The next year, I entered their Graduate Teacher Education Program full-time. This involved student teaching in the classroom and library and resulted in a teaching license and library media endorsement. That spring I landed my first job as an elementary teacher-librarian. I worked with K-5 students for 5 years before moving to a district librarian position. I’ve continued to work at the district level since 2003, except for my leave of absence last year during which I substituted K-12 in 32 out of 50 schools in my school district.
So, what compelled me to become a teacher-librarian beyond my love of children’s books? I strongly believe that libraries are wonderful equalizers. School libraries provide students from all backgrounds with access to books, technology and other resources. In addition, teacher-librarians develop an environment in which students explore their interests and curiosities, developing success as readers and learners. Teacher-librarians have an opportunity to impact every student in the school and see them grow as they transition from grade to grade.
I smiled when I read on NPR’s breaking news blog, the two-way, recently about a study from the UK showing that going to the library made people feel as good as receiving a small pay raise. I know this is true in my family, not only for myself, but for my two sons who often ask if we can go to the library and then check out a large bag full of books each time. Their development as readers is largely supported by having access to lots of books and being read aloud to daily.
Sharing my story has triggered more thoughts about the value of staffing schools with teacher-librarians. Stay tuned for a follow-up post with more ideas and information to consider.