Tracey Newman, Library Media Specialist/Librarian at Scituate High School
2. How did you come to librarianship?
The long way! It seems so cliche, but I’ve always been a book-lover, and enjoyed organizing my various collections, including books and comics. My undergrad degree is in English, and I worked a few English-related jobs, such as one of the founding editors of the indie paper now known as Dig Boston, and in educational publishing editorial at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Educators Publishing Service. JoAnne Vernacchio, my high school English teacher, gets credit for pushing me to become a teacher, when I saw her at a friend’s wedding in 2008. When the Ed Pub industry was consolidating and changing, I passed the licensure tests as a backup plan. After my second child arrived, our family moved to the South Shore, where I grew up–the commute to Cambridge really wore me down. I took a job as the secretary to the Coordinator of Technology and Library Media in Plymouth. Going to conferences and meetings with librarians and tech specialists gave me fresh direction; that’s when I applied to the Library Media K-12 program at Salem State. Switching gears to teach and work as a para for ELA and in the Library at Hingham High in 2015 was a fantastic experience, and they were wonderful people to work with. In January of 2021, I became a long-term substitute Librarian for grades 3-5 in Duxbury, and then got the position at Scituate High. I still feel like a new librarian, though!
3. How would you explain the importance of your role to a nonlibrarian?
The other day I described weeding and curation to a new staff member, who admitted those were things they’d never considered. Most people don’t understand that libraries need curating, especially when the collection has books that are outdated or damaged. More books does not equal a great library. On the flip side, people are surprised we still have books, too.
Librarians manage a whole space and everything in it: people, books, tech, events. Especially in high school, the library is a gathering place before, during, and after school. My job is as much teaching kids expected behavior in a shared space as it is teaching how to access online resources or find a book to read for pleasure. Dedicated, licensed Library Media Specialists and Librarians are crucial in elementary and middle school, too. We bridge the gap for reading and research in ways that most classroom teachers or digital literacy and reading specialists don’t have in their wheelhouses. Older students get their information from the internet and social media, and it’s important to keep up with those trends. Our information needs to stay current in so many ways.
4. What are you working on right now?
A Lego and puzzle drive is currently running to revive a mini makerspace for some creative brain breaks. After not having a full-time librarian for a few years, there’s some catch-up, maintenance, and cleaning-up, plus future planning in the pipeline. The catalog in Destiny needs lots of love, along with weeding in the fiction section and 300s. When the library was remodeled a couple of years ago, all the furniture— including any shelf not attached to a wall— was thrown away. The two-fold work of updating the collection to fit on the shelves that are left plus planning how sections of books will eventually be configured is a fun challenge.
5. What is going well?
Having a teacher in the library all day has a positive impact on students and staff, and re-establishing systems and routines was needed. Even though I don’t teach any dedicated classes, I see everybody, and I’m here to help, whether that’s lending out Chromebooks, finding a book, helping to print, citing text correctly, knowing where all the study halls are, or having lots of supplies for last-minute projects. I’m on pretty much all day.
6. What is the most challenging thing so far?
Being on pretty much all day! But that’s a good challenge. Changing the culture from when teachers had to find workarounds or adapted to not having as much library support is challenging too— but that culture is slowly turning around.
7. What's the most unexpected thing about your new job?
How much students want to be in the library, and the even balance of who wants to hang with their pals versus those who need a quiet spot. We have a learning media commons— basically one big room with different zones— that actually works.
8. What are you reading or watching?
I’m savoring Paul Tremblay’s new book, The Pallbearer’s Club, and finally reading All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson. On Hulu, Reservation Dogs is amazing. I love the gorgeous new serial adaptation of Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire.
9. What do you hope the MA School Library Association can do for you?
Connections, connections, connections! Learning from peers, at the conference and online, in such a specialized field, plus combining resources or finding local colleagues through MSLA is a huge benefit.