Teacher Librarian Shares a Lion’s Pride of Programs
Library Lions Roars for eight years of posts featuring outstanding youth librarians in schools and public libraries! Thanks to each and every one of you for your commitment to excellence and your stand for literacy. This month we interview Teacher Librarian Elizabeth Shepherd.
Thanks so much for including me in the Library Lions Roar club! I’m the teacher librarian at Discovery School, a K-6 school for gifted and high-achieving students in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. This is my fifth year as a librarian and my thirteenth year as an educator.
This fall will be the start of my third year at Discovery and I am loving every minute of it. Our library is in a tight space and I’m constantly looking for better ways to organize our collection as well as doing some serious weeding to make our collection as accessible as possible for each and every one of our 400 students. My first year here I had the 5th and 6th grade students work with me to genrefy our fiction section, using the experience to teach about types of genres as well as give my students some hands-on experience with categorizing books.
The Skinny What do you love most about your work?
It’s tough to say what I love the most about my work. Seeing my students get excited when they’ve found the perfect book is definitely one of my favorite things. Out of all the things I do as a librarian without question reading aloud to my students is at the top. Ultimately, I love the opportunity I have to make a lifelong difference in my students’ lives, to foster a love of books and reading as well as lay a foundation for research and critical thinking skills that they will build on for years to come.
A close second would have to be supporting my teachers with whatever media and materials they might need. I want to be seen as a resource to make their lives easier, not just one more thing they have to deal with. I really do love pulling materials, there’s nothing like showing up at a teacher’s door with a stack of items and seeing their faces light up. I love knowing that I’ve helped them out and provided some fantastic books and resources to make student learning more engaging.
A Lion’s Pride of Programs
I’m a firm believer in collaboration and I’m always looking for ways to increase that cooperation with classroom teachers. Over the years I’ve worked with various grade levels and teachers in reinforcing research skills while also providing support with classroom research projects.
I tell my kids all the time, anyone can be an author or an illustrator. All you need is a good idea and the perseverance and determination to put that idea on paper. We have bins full of student work on display and the kids love to see their work in someone else’s hands. Some items we barcode and allow students to check out, others we treat like rare books and students can enjoy those during class or open check out.
We have a full-time makerspace in our library that students can access throughout the day. I also serve on the STEAM committee at our school and we are in the process of becoming STEAM certified this year which is very exciting. With my background in Instructional Technology, I am always looking for ways to integrate tech into my library lessons as well as assist teachers with their technology needs.
I’ve sponsored our school’s Boro Book Battle team for the past two years as they have competed after reading books from Tennessee’s Volunteer State Book Award list.
We have an annual Book Character Parade every Halloween, I coordinate the Hour of Code for our school, and I host at least two book fairs a year and serve as Reading Club coordinator for our entire school. I present as often as I can at Tennessee Association of School Librarian (TASL) events, and I am currently serving a term as TASL’s Treasurer. My TBR stack never seems to get smaller (but neither does my books to order list) and I can’t walk past a bookstore without going in and scoping out what’s new.
A Mighty Roar!
Funding for libraries, especially school libraries, is currently under threat. Here’s a chance for you to roar about the importance of the library in your community, and in schools and communities across the US.
It’s so hard for me to imagine a school without a library or a school without a certified librarian. The news this year about librarians in Oklahoma and other places who had less than nothing just broke my heart. Every child deserves access to quality books, a wide variety of choices, and the time to enjoy reading. Reading is the foundation of all other learning and one of the best way to build better readers if for them to have school libraries, classroom libraries, and home libraries stocked full of books they love to read.
I make every effort I can to stretch every dollar I’ve got to make each of these things happen. Book fairs bring in extra funds to buy books for our library. We take donations of slightly used books for our Little Free Library and our classroom libraries. I make sure to attend as many conferences I can, collecting books given away there and gifting them to my teachers for their classroom libraries. Thanks to Scholastic Reading Club I’ve been able to beef up our literature sets as well as earn enough points to give each and every one of our students a new book to take home and keep for the holidays.
Some of my all-time favorite memories as a child are of libraries. The public library where I would sit in an old clawfoot bathtub filled with pillows and read to my heart’s content, my elementary library where the librarian would read and read and read to us and the smell as I walked in never failed to make me smile, and countless classroom libraries that I literally read my way through… those are the memories I want to make a place for at my school. Those are the memories every child in every school should have the chance to create.
Author! Author! Describe the perfect author visit from a librarian’s point of view. It’s hard to imagine a more perfect visit than the one we had from Nathan Hale this past year!
Scheduling was a breeze, we worked with his publisher and with other local librarians to bring Hale to our area. Leading up to his visit I did author studies about Nathan Hale where I booktalked his books and showed some of his YouTube videos, we set up a preorder with a local bookstore, I put posters up all over the school, and a fabulous PTA mom created banners that we hung at the entrance and in the library.
The day of the visit he did a total of three presentations and every single one was AMAZING. He was hilarious, he knew just how to talk to kids, he stayed on schedule, he had pre-signed the preorders but also took the time to sign books that the kids brought as well, and he even took the time to create a unique poster just for our library! The kids and the teachers just absolutely loved it and I’d recommend him to anyone.
One Last Roar
I would be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to all the parents who have volunteered to shelve books or work the book fair or offer up their artistic skills to decorate the library all year long. I also have to give a huge high five to my administrators who love books and reading just as much as I do and have always been so supportive. And finally the biggest hug ever to my part-time assistant, she’s my right-hand woman and I’d be lost without her.
Thanks again for sharing your library and library programs with us, Elizabeth!
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 programs. Contact Janet for an interview slot.
Note to Authors: If you’re interested in Roaring for Libraries on this blog, contact Janet for an interview slot.