MSLA President Jen Varney is the Librarian at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr School in Cambridge, MA.
Hello and welcome to a brand new school year! My name is Jen Varney and I am the new MSLA President. I’m looking forward to serving you and making sure that MSLA is all that it can be. As a new school librarian 15(!) years ago, MSLA was a lifeline for me, connecting me to other people that had my job and could answer my questions. It was nice to know that I wasn’t alone.
Luke Steere is the librarian at Wilson Middle School in Natick
Happy New Year:
Reba Tierney ended the Spring Forum Editor’s Note in the way I would like to begin mine: thank you Katherine Steiger. Your service and dedication to the Forum, the pulse of the MSLA, allows for a deep dive into our organization. The Forum provides a throughline of professional development from within. Massachusetts school libraries are an affinity group with talent and insight, and this is the platform. Katherine’s meticulous organization of this newsletter— including all the invisible back-end stuff— has left a legacy and made putting together this issue smooth and exciting. For me, getting first read on the award winners’ experiences and column expertise we have below has been rewarding. Thank you for your stewardship Katherine, and we hope to see you in print again soon.
Liza Halley is the Library Teacher at Plympton Elementary School in Waltham, MA
Many schools turned the lens on social emotional learning (SEL) as the stress of COVID impacted students’ lives. As a librarian, you can serve as an asset to teachers within these SEL initiatives. I urge you to keep in mind graphic novels for your own lessons and as you recommend tools to teachers, social workers, and support staff in your schools.
Francesca Mellin is the Head Librarian at The Pike School in Andover
Wordless picture books are the ultimate example of “show, don’t tell.” Artists using this format have fewer constraints (no blocks of text to plan around) but also the greater responsibility of creating characters and advancing plot solely through visual means.
Michelle Laflamme is a MLIS Graduate Student, Simmons University School Library Teacher Program and a recipient of a 2021 Audrey Friend Scholarship Award.
Recently I found myself talking to a colleague, speaking in broad, sweeping statements about social justice and school library programming – a tune I’ve been humming ever since I began my LIS studies. And as we discussed the ways in which library programming and services can support, and even lead, equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) initiatives in schools, we found ourselves on the subject of collection development and, more specifically, diversity audits.
Maureen Riordan is the Library Teacher at Bowen Elementary School and Underwood Elementary School in Newton, MA.
Shortly after being hired as an elementary library teacher, I opened a closet in the library looking for a place to store extra supplies and found numerous boxes stacked inside. After checking in with my principal, I learned that the library was the unofficial archive for the school and those boxes housed documents and photographs related to the school’s history.
Deeth Ellis is the Head Librarian at Boston Latin School in Boston, MA, and a Doctoral Student, School of Library Science, Simmons University.
As a doctoral student at Simmons University, my teachers and advisors stress the importance of choosing courses and topics for assignments that will eventually guide you toward a dissertation topic. One such assignment last year was a conceptual framework, or a visual representation of an information phenomenon underpinned by theory.
Jennifer Edwards is the Library Media Teacher at Dennis-Yarmouth Regional High School and a recipient of the 2021 Judi Paradis Action Grant.
The pandemic afforded an opportunity for the school library that, in a regular year, would never have happened. In many schools the individual departments are somewhat isolated from each other. Teachers do work cooperatively with their own department colleagues, but libraries can have opportunities for inter-department co-teaching and cross-curriculum projects which help to promote the school library program and to connect patrons to resources.
Sarah Murphy is the librarian at Kennedy Middle School in Natick.
In this new column, we're thrilled to feature a librarian new to the profession. We hope you enjoy this chance to meet someone at the start of their school library career!
1. What's your name, title and school?
Sarah Murphy, librarian at Kennedy Middle School in Natick.
2. How did you come to librarianship?
After spending time as a second grade classroom teacher and a middle school reading specialist, I realized my true passion was literacy and wanted to be able to share that with a whole school community and not just small groups of students.
3. How would you explain the importance of your role to a nonlibrarian?
Librarians do so much more than check out books. They have the power to reach all students, whether through the lens of books, providing a safe and inclusive space, and/or helping students tackle the task of making sense of the world around them. Libraries have the potential to be the heart of a school community and I find that both thrilling and a little daunting!
4. What are you working on right now?
I am working on learning this new job, developing curriculum, and getting to know students and staff at my new school.
5. What is going well?
I truly feel like I have landed in the exact right place for me. I am enjoying this work so much already and I have so many ideas for what I hope I can bring to the table. It has been a far easier transition than I anticipated.
6. What is the most challenging thing so far?
The newness of it all has been challenging. I am working on learning new systems, new people, and a new school system, as well as trying to be seen as a resource to other teachers, develop curriculum, and gain a rapport with as many students as I can. It is all very exciting but it has been a lot!
7. What's the most unexpected thing about your new job?
I think the most unexpected thing for me has been just how happy I am in this role. I have cried happy tears more than once since I started and I don't think I knew how fulfilling a job could be. It also surprises me how fast the work day flies by. I am working on coming to terms with the fact that my to-do list may never be finished.
8. What are you reading or watching?
I'm reading The Pants Project by Cat Clarke. I'm listening to November 9 by Colleen Hoover and I am watching the LuLaRoe Documentary on Amazon.
9. What do you hope the MA School Library Association can do for you?
I am hoping the MSLA can help me stay current, connected, and inspired in this new role.
Colleen Simpson is the Library Media Specialist at Lester J. Gates Middle School in Scituate.
After a year and half we are as close to normal as we have been since that fateful day in March 2020 when schools shutdown. Our district spent three quarters of last year hybrid before students all returned in person mid-April. It was great to have everyone back at the time, students were excited to see friends, and school is just easier in person. This year many of the parameters have been lifted and, with exception of masks for everyone and a lunchroom with desks instead of tables, things look about where they should be. While our schools across the state may look different, I would imagine many of us are having similar experiences.