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Inside Bowllan's Blog

Building Libraries: What Motivates You?

Many of you know me already, but for those who are new to this site, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Amy Bowllan and I have been blogging for the School Library Journal website since May of  2005.  

Rarely in my tenure have I shared information about my personal background (Although from time to time, I do throw in the kids and the mommy follies.). But as far as sharing my motivation for my work – well – until now – I haven’t revealed. Why? It’s probably the fear of being judged. So when I was asked to be interviewed for the Kabiliana website, I had to hesitate for a minute. 
I thought, aren’t I the one who’s supposed to be asking for interviews? It’s definitely a safer position. .

But that request forced me to go deep down into my past to ask myself the tough question – what motivates me?

Even though I am not a librarian, I do love libraries – I also am intrigued by people and interviewing everyday people doing amazing. I also tend to be a tech geek – looking for the latest gizmo and gadget that will enhance education. And lastly my love and obsession with news; here is where my earlier career as a journalist created the framework to enter the field of education – in a nontraditional way – which has benefited not only the hundreds upon hundreds of children I’ve taught; but it’s been rewarding for me.

Recently, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Italian writer, and humanitarian, Valentina Mmaka, whose questions allowed me to take a moment to reflect on why, I, Amy Bodden-Bowllan, do what I do? Have you asked yourself that before? What motivates you

Here are two excerpts from the interview. The full version is here at the Kabiliana blog (in Kiswahili, Kabiliana means to confront each other).

Here, I confront myself.

KABILIANAHow did your background influence your commitment in socio-educational projects?
AMY – As a kid, I remember my older sister, Joanne, she use to call me the civic-minded social worker because I always crying for the world’s people. Those who were suffering in the newspapers touched me at an early age. So crying for them was my way of helping. But that’s a good question and one I never connected with my background and now that you ask there are certainly definite correlations. As far as my commitment to projects, well, that started once I entered high school. You see, my Catholic school was one that fostered good behavior; meaning if you were “good” you did well academically. Unfortunately, there were really no expectations for academic excellence. Then when I went on to high school, I was overwhelmed by how much more the other students knew and how little I knew. I could tell right away I was out of my league, so I decided to approach college with a vengeance. I wanted to learn as much as I could as fast as I could. I will never forget what it was like to feel “stupid” and I always believed that the foundation wasn’t strong, academically. My parents did their best and I had to do the rest. But as far as resources, there wasn’t much. And back then I didn’t know they were important. It was only when I got older that I realized how important it was to be informed. It’s funny how people see America as this land of opportunity, and don’t get me wrong, it is. However, there are varied levels of the basics and needs that are not balanced in schools. If you come from wealth, you have the SmartBoards, whiteboards, technology, books, travel, language options, sports options, etc., in schools. If you are like me and did not come from wealth, then you’ll have the chalkboards, sitting in the same seat all day, and hope to have, maybe, one field trip a year. So my goal as an educator, blogger, and former journalist is to change that paradigm and help the world’s people. We have to be able to equip all stud
ents with the same tools. It’s only right!

KABILIANAFrom your resume I see you are a very eclectic person with lots of activities on your board. One of your main activities is building libraries for low income families. Can you tell us more about this? How does the project works in details?
AMY -About ten years ago, and after working as a journalist, I decided to get my start as an educator. I wanted to take my news experience and infuse into the students who needed it most, so I set out to work at a small Catholic school on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. It’s important to point out that with the exception of the principal, no one knew that I had just left a very successful career as a journalist – I wanted to be a part of the norm. What I found was that, again, these students in this school did not have resources – no library – no technology – no yard to play, “truly the concrete jungle.” And I was again catapulted to my past and saw, “my gosh this is not right.” It was almost as though time was standing still for these kids. I noticed there was no library or technology at the school, so I decided to work with the principal to bring in the right people who could make it happen. There are so many good people in this world who care and who are very giving. I’ve been trying my best to help schools ever since. I certainly don’t do enough, since I work full-time and am a mother but every little bit helps. One book at a time.

(image courtesy of Motivation Matters.)


  1. Basedow1764 says:

    Thank you for this interesting personal entry.
    I follow your blog at Potsdam/Germany with interest

    Merry Christmas
    Guenter Schlamp

  2. Amy Bowllan says:

    Thank you, Guenter! The comment was very kind of you. :)

  3. Valentina Acava Mmaka says:

    Thank You Amy for quoting our interview, was a lovely experience and hopefully in the new year we’ll do it again!:)