Courtney Ahearn is the lead elementary librarian for the North Andover Public Schools, working at both the Sargent and Thomson Elementary Schools and received a 2017 President's Award.
I have a sneaking suspicion that many elementary librarians have some kind of theater background. We’re a generally colorful bunch, we’ve got to have the drive to captivate an audience, and we tend to give every character in a story their own unique accent. While I’ve only ever dabbled in the theater, I do feel that one particular branch of dramaturgy has a lot to offer, specifically to library media specialists who are employed in districts who are working to rebuild library programs from the ground up, and that is improv.
Every September the school nurse at our high school announces that we have a new student with serious, life threatening allergies and that no food will be allowed in any classroom. We wonder who this student is so we can be mindful. This student could go into anaphylactic shock in the library. I’ve practiced plunging an epi pen into an orange just like everyone else, but I do not want to do this in real life.
When the announcement is made, we acknowledge that we have not officially allowed food in the classrooms for years, yet every year we have food in the classrooms, the hallways, in the library, in staff offices. Administrators stock large urns with candy to lure students into their gingerbread houses. We’ve seen our principal walk down the hallway with the urn in his arms, a smile on his face. But, no more. This year it will be different. This year we mean it.
Amy Fiske is the Librarian at Wellesley High School and winner of a 2016 MSLA web seal of excellence award
As I sit down to write this article, I am partway through a multi-year process to change the culture in our high school library. I am changing it in a direction that will surprise some, who may remember me presenting at MSLA on the subject of Innovation Centers in school libraries. However, not every new trend is appropriate in every setting. What I and my colleagues have learned in the last three years is that it may be far more effective to find the niche that is empty at your school...and then fill it.