Meeting new school librarians thrills me. Through them I can experience anew the first year of being a library media specialist in a school. This year I hope to work closely with Piper Nyman in Nashville who is just one of many new librarians coming on board.When you are the only librarian in your school and don’t have an assistant (none in Piper’s case, half-time in mine), it is so easy to view your world in an educational silo. I thought it would be fun to take you, the reader, along on our journey this year with Piper.
I was thrilled to meet Kimberly Willis Holt at ALA this summer and have her autograph her new Piper Reed Navy Brat book to Piper Nyman. Isn’t that a great coincidence?! Wouldn’t you like to begin a new school with your own set of books, buttons, and bookmarks? Hope you enjoy learning more about this newbie.
You will be starting a second career as the school library information specialist at Brookmeade Elementary this fall. Tell us about your first career in libraries.
I have worked as a Children’s Librarian in public libraries for more than seven years. After I completed my coursework and student teaching for my MAT, I fortuitously fell into a corollary professional position (I did not yet have an MLIS) at the Central Library in Memphis. I loved it! The people there were fantastic, and I got to work with some wonderful folks including a mentor from a previous position as a graduate assistant. When I relocated to California I again worked as a librarian in the Children’s Dept. of a good-sized public library. Solano County was a dream – they had recently passed a local bond measure and the funding was in pretty good shape so the collections were improving every year and they really encouraged thinking "outside the box." At that time the California State Library offered a tuition reimbursement program for public library employees, so I completed my MLIS at San Jose State University during that time. I was busy, busy, busy, but so charged up! And I was part of an amazing team. While I was there we made great strides in programming and outreach, and cooperative work with schools and community agencies. I took three years off to spend time with my kids, and had just started to work at a branch of the Library system in San Antonio when we relocated to Nashville due to a great job opportunity for my spouse. Although I LOVE public libraries, I moved here with the intention of finding a library job that was Monday through Friday, so it was time to make the big change and get back into schools.
How do you anticipate the school library will be different from your public library experience?
The autonomy of the school librarian is thrilling and daunting. Teaching multiple lessons every day is also will also be a big change from doing multiple programs each week.
What excites you the most about the school environment?
Watching the children who came to library programs grow and change over the years was one of the greatest thrills of my experience. Building relationships by visiting kids in the schools, attending community events, etc. is great, but here I will get to really have a direct and positive impact on students’ lives. Even though the mission of the public library is to serve the entire community, the majority of library users already believe in the value of literacy and reading. This is definitely not the case in public schools.
What will you miss most from the public library?
I will definitely miss the diversity of the audience. Although there is a lot of diversity within a school, it is the same people every day. On the flip-side, that’s something I’m looking forward to as well!
If readers could give you one piece of advice, what area would be most beneficial? (teaching, administration, techniques, communication, lesson ideas, read-alouds, etc.)
My biggest concern is that my limited teaching experience is from so long ago that I will really flounder with that part of the job. I am hoping that enthusiasm will see me through! I am also concerned about developing good relationships with the staff, getting them onboard with flexible scheduling and the idea that I can be a valuable resource for them if they let me.
So, what do you think? Will this be fun? YES!
Piper, we wish you the very best of luck this school year. Enthusiasm and your connections to the profession through organizations, LM_NET, SLJ’s web site (!), blogging, and more will help you through this year. Best of luck!