Roar for Teacher-Librarian Karen Kline!
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 is teacher-librarian Karen Kline.
Karen Kline with author/cartoonist Dana Simpson
Hello, Internet Readers. If you’re here, I’m guessing you are an enthusiastic reader and fan of Janet Lee Carey’s, so we have a lot in common! I am the teacher-librarian at Sunset Elementary in the Issaquah School District. This is my sixth year at Sunset. I’ve had a fairly wide-ranging career in school libraries taking me from Arizona to Washington state and serving in twelve different libraries in my eighteen years as a teacher-librarian. Serving in so many libraries has given me the opportunity to see how lots of different librarians before me have set up their programs and libraries.
Of course, I was a big reader before I became a librarian. My mom is a retired English teacher, and I credit her with my intense love of reading.
My mom taught me to read at an early age. In fact, she had me reading out of a simple workbook by the age of four.
She cleverly told me I wouldn’t get my reading lesson if I wasn’t well behaved. She would let me look one lesson ahead in the book at the end of the day’s lesson, and no matter how much I begged I didn’t get to see more until the next day. Mom also told me if I spent my allowance buying books, she would double my allowance. That was great motivation for me!
What I love most about being a librarian is pairing the right book with the right reader that will ignite or feed a love of reading! To do this I’ve learned I must get to know the readers that visit my library, so I can suggest just the right book at the right time. Getting to know the readers that visit my library is also one of my favorite things about my work.
A Mighty Roar!
The libraries I’ve worked in have had a wide range of funding. A library requires time and money and a professional librarian to be fully functioning. Many school libraries are struggling to remain funded and staffed. This goes right along with the struggle that schools are having with funding. Here in Washington state our schools are waiting and waiting for the legislature to decide how to implement the court order from the Washington State Supreme Court decision in the McCleary case (http://www.k12.wa.us/Communications/HotTopics/HotTopic-McCleary.pdf) in which the legislature was found in contempt of court due to the fact that they weren’t funding schools at the basic level that the legislators themselves defined. What this means for school libraries is that there are more students and staff to serve with less funding.
I work with my PTA and other non-profits to bring more money and literature experiences to my students, and this requires me to do quite a bit of advocacy. All advocacy has to be done outside of my work day. In my community, I recently wrote a grant to fund a school garden outside the library. The students at Sunset had taken a student council survey asking kids what they most wished our school had that it currently didn’t have, and most students said they wished we had a garden. This was exciting for me, as I was a biological science teacher before becoming a librarian and I saw this as a perfect marriage of my interests too!
In April our garden was going strong, and I was fortunate to have caught the attention of my state legislator Cyrus Habib.
I had invited him to visit my fourth graders who study Washington state government, and he agreed. While visiting our library,I was able to help students harvest our first clippings of kale to present to Senator Habib. We told him that kale represents the strength and vitality that a senator needs to serve so many constituents. the photo below shows our group with Senator Habib holding the kale.
The Roman philosopher Cicero said, “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” If kale can strengthen our elected officials to fight for funding school libraries, then I think Cicero may be right!
We recently acquired some newer chairs for the library. The chairs are molded plastic and have a nice curvy design – kind of a bucket seat style. Students and staff were thrilled to see the newer chairs, and I credit my principal for finding them for free at a nearby school in our district that was rebuilt and was going to send them to our warehouse. I was sure that one of my returning students was going to comment on the chairs when he called me over to his seat one day and gestured to me to ask a question. As he sat down on one of the form-fitting chairs and glanced backward at the rear of the chair, he leaned toward me and said, “Mrs. Kline, don’t you think these chairs make our butts look big?” I really can’t look at those chairs every day without having my own private chuckle.
More laughs from Crazy Hair Day
A Lion’s Pride of Programs
One of my favorite programs each year is a collaborative program that some school libraries including Sunset’s library and the public library do each year called Global Reading Challenge. The King County Library Foundation funds the program bringing multiple copies of six books into schools each year. Students read the books, teachers act as coaches, and the public librarians hold a challenge in each school asking questions about the books to determine the top team. The selected teams come together for district and regional challenges. In recent years, there has also been a writing contest separate from the challenge. Sunset has done well in the challenges and the writing contests, and we are so proud of our continued participation in this fun program that gets kids to read books they might have never considered reading. Read more about the Global Reading Challenge
Readers Roar: Let’s hear from the kids!
I love the notes that I get from students, and they may not know how cherished I find them. I like to tuck students’ notes around my desk and at home to remind me at the end of a long day of their special words. Here are a few quotes from student notes and where I have them squirrelled away—
– squirreled in my inventory file. It helps motivate me to know that kids actually appreciate an organized library when we start the task of scanning 15,000+ items.
— squirreled in my professional evaluation folder. I find I need a little pick-me-up to prep for the ever-more-intensive evaluation process each year.
— squirreled in my plan book. It helps to reflect on my next lesson about “the online book thing.”
We love hosting authors at Sunset Elementary.
Every author brings different and exciting things to share and inspire our readers. Students love to hear about what authors were like as a child. Some authors have brought photos and writing from childhood memory boxes to show us – even better! Some authors have demonstrated yoga poses that help them focus. Some authors are also illustrators, and they draw for us.
Once when an author/illustrator was late due to terrible traffic, a student and I had a drawing contest to see who could draw the author’s characters faster and better. The student artist won that art contest!
If I could mix up the perfect author visit recipe, I’d say we need equal parts of teachers and students reading the books before the visit, a dash of technology, and a pinch of serendipity. Crazy things always seem to come up, and as long as the excitement of the day doesn’t get lost in the shuffle it all seems to work out.
Author/Illustrator Raina Telgemeier
One Last Roar
One of the best things about working at my present library is that my son was a student at the school for six years. I know many of the programs, parents, and teachers from both sides of the desk so-to-speak. Now that my son goes to the middle school, though, I haven’t really let go of the fun of sharing the library with him. He still comes in after middle school dismisses sometimes and helps me with everything from inventory to co-reading at story time. He’s not the only student who comes back to volunteer either. A lot of former students seem come in to formally volunteer for service hours credit and such. It really makes my day when I get to have former students come back and enjoy giving back to the current students. It makes me feel like I’ve come full circle!
Library Website: SunsetElementaryLibrary
Thank you, Karen, for the terrific interview showcasing Sunset Elementary School Library!
Note to Librarians: If you’re a Youth Librarian working in a school or public library we’d love to hear about you and your library. Email Janet via the Contact page on this website to set up an interview.
Note to Authors: If you’re interested in Roaring for Libraries on this blog, contact Janet.