Ask a librarian: Steve Reinke

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Name: Steve Reinke (most of my students call me Mr. Steve)

Name of Library (and website if it has one) Willow Woods Elementary School Library –

What kind of librarian are you? I am a school librarian, although I have many different titles which mean the same thing: media specialist, school media specialist and teacher-librarian are the other titles I have had when working in schools.  I’m not sure which name I like the best.  Probably media specialist suits me best.

How long have you been a librarian? I started my career as a public librarian in Houston in 1993.  In 1996, I moved back to Michigan and became a media specialist in Harper Woods.  My current job is at Willow Woods Elementary in Sterling Heights.  I guess that makes it 23 years.  There were 6 more years I worked in libraries at The University of Michigan as a student before graduation with my library degree.

What lead you to wanting to be a librarian? The first two people that had the most influence on my becoming a librarian was my mother and my aunt.  My mom was the school librarian in my elementary school.  My aunt was the head librarian at the Zauel Public library in Saginaw where I grew up.  My biggest influence was Mr. Gary Taylor, who was my high school media specialist.  I was a part of his student staff and worked in the school library for an hour every day.  That’s where I first learned about being a library manager, not just the guy who checks out books.

How do you pick books for your library? I pick books for my library in many different ways.  All of those ways involve someone suggesting or recommending a book to me.  I get recommendations from students, parents, other librarians and from online sources like the New York Times Best Seller’s List, or School Library Journal reviews.  I like it best when students find new books I’ve never heard of, and they suggest I buy them for the library for other students to read.

Do you have a favorite author? My favorite author for adults is Jim Harrison.  My favorite children’s authors are Mo Willems and Megan McDonald.  I guess that means I don’t have a favorite author, but 3 of them!

How do you decide what book to recommend to a specific kid? When choosing a book for a student I have to pay attention to many different things.  In a school, the most important thing is “can the student read the words.”  I try to teach kids to use the “five finger rule.”  Open a book to a random page and start reading.  You hold up a finger for each word to can’t read.  If you hold up 5 fingers before getting to the end of the page, the book may be too hard for that student.  They next thing I consider is the interests of the student.  What topic would get you “really into” a book?  Sports? Mystery? Vampires? Animals?  I ask a lot of questions!  Finally, I need to address the certain needs of students.  Many times, students come to me when they need a book for a class assignment.  When students need research books I use the “Super 3” method:  1. PLAN 2. DO 3. REVIEW  I need the student to ask themselves: 1. What do you need to do? What is your PLAN? 2. What are you going to create to complete your plan? What are you going to DO to fulfill the requirements? and finally 3. Look back at your notes and what you created.  REVIEW your work to make sure you’ve done your best.

In the long run, my job is to get the kids to decide what book they want or need for themselves.  I help create independent readers, which is the most important part of my job as a media specialist.

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