LIBRARY MEDIA SPECIALISTS ROAR!
Welcome to Library Lions interviews Raising a Roar for libraries and the outstanding librarians serving youth in schools and public libraries across the U.S. Please Roar today’s guest Library Media Specialist, Julie Hembree! This is the first of two posts with Julie Hembree. Welcome Julie!
I’m the Library Media Specialist at Bell Elementary in Kirkland, Washington, which is located in the suburbs of Seattle. This is my 9th year as a librarian after many years as a classroom teacher. We are a K-5 school with about 340 students. After being in the midst of a two year construction period, our old school was torn down in the summer and our new school opened in September.
The library is on the second floor with huge windows where we can view the playground and trees that surround the property. We have reading posters all over our walls celebrating reading, lots of fun cubes and couches to sit on and great display areas to showcase books.
What I love about my work is that I get paid to be a reading and technology cheerleader! I believe that my job is to sell the importance of reading and research. To do that I try to merchandize the “reading product” in fun and engaging ways. I try to make sure my students understand that they are part of a global reading community by taking part in larger activities such as International Dot Day or World Read Aloud Day. We have bright book displays that draw students into the library from the busy hallways.
My students and I love to make book trailers to showcase new or well-loved books in our library. I have found that this type of visual advertising really connects with kids. As soon as the trailer is over, the arguments begin about who gets the book first! Using technology makes my job as a reading advocate so much easier because I am talking the language of today’s digital learners. The students also find making trailers a fun and engaging way to share books they love with other students.
Our trailers are hosted on our Bulldog ReaderBlog where anyone can view them. I also have a great time showing other librarians and teachers at conferences the process to make their own trailers. We are all connected and the more we share with one another, the more it positively impacts our students.
Libraries are vital in schools because they are nurturing the imagineers of our future. Libraries are the place where anyone can freely come to seek information, become engrossed in a book or daydream about what could be. In an age where classroom lessons are becoming increasingly prescripted, the library is one of the few places where creativity has a home. Everyone is trying to find the way to obtain test scores that match or exceed the students in Asia and Finland. In that pursuit of test scores, creativity and innovation is shoved to the side.
Once a year we have a favorite character day. Everyone, students and staff included, is encouraged to dress up as a favorite book character. I have dressed as Little Red Riding Book, Captain Underpants and Viola Swamp.
In the week before the event there is a reading buzz around the school as kids and staff have conversations about who they will choose and how they will dress up as that character. I never reveal who I will be ahead of time. It’s hysterical to overhear whispered conversations as kids speculate what character I will choose for the year. One year, I thought I had kept my ideas firmly to myself. Yet, on Favorite Character Day, I found that I had lots of company when I arrived as Fancy Nancy! Twenty girls also came dressed in their finest Fancy Nancy clothes. It’s too bad that Jane O’Connor wasn’t here to see all that glitz and glamor!
A few years ago Matt Holm came to our school and entertained all of us with his Babymouse stories and drawings. The kids talked about him for weeks afterwards. The Babymouse books are still some of the most popular books in the library.
We have had large author assemblies, and author Skype visits. However, we had the perfect author visit nearly two years ago when Katherine Applegate came to our school. This was a year before she won the Newbery Award. A student had given me a copy of The One and Only Ivan, insisting that I read it right away. I took it home and fell in love with Ivan that night. I made a book trailer for Ivan and put it on YouTube. Somehow Katherine Applegate saw it and wrote to me sharing how much she enjoyed the trailer and asking if she could visit our school the next time she was in Seattle.
Her visit was a wonder from beginning to end. She shared her story in a dynamic slideshow about how she developed the Ivan story with photos that were both age appropriate and engaging. She had lunch with a group of students and talked with them, answering their questions about her life as an author. She signed books and allowed students to have their picture taken with her.
We tried our best to treat her like a rockstar and she captivated us with her stories and love for her work. It was a magical day. This year we are looking forward to some graphic and mystery fun when Jarrett Krosoczka, author of the Lunch Lady and Platypus Police Squad series visits in February!
I’d like to make a big roar to all the librarians and teachers who come early and stay late to make sure that kids have what they need to be successful. They not only work hard to make a difference for the students in their classrooms and libraries, but they also share their ideas with others. It’s through collaboration that we can learn from one another and strengthen how we teach.