Posted in Ask the Librarian

Jennifer Barber

Name of Library East Clayton Elementary School @ecereads 

Media Center’s Website

What kind of librarian are you? Definitely not a traditional one..The library is the heart of the school where children feel welcomed and loved. At my school, the kids want to stop in and get a book. As they are getting new books, they are chatting with me about the ones they want me to purchase or telling me their likes and dislikes about the one they just read. As a librarian, my main goal is providing quality literature for the students to enjoy! When they visit the library, they get a book that they absolutely love so in hopes they go home or back to class to read the book! My school library is twenty-three years old and my drive is to keep it updated as much as possible with the little money that they give me! So as a librarian, I have to advocate for a place that I feel may disappear which makes me so nervous! With the updating of books and resources for not just the kids but the teachers also, my library gets the opportunity to be enjoyed and appreciated! So when kids grow up, they hopefully will know what a library is and take their kids to the library to enjoy books! When the students arrive, we have community time in which we may share some of the books that we have read, read a picture book together that deals with a concept or standard that connects with the grade level that I am working with, and the students will head into stations such virtual reality, Legos, Merge Cubes, 3D printing, green screen recording, or Apps on the ipad. All the stations are centered around the book that we are concentrated on. WHile students are working on their stations, we rotate through to check out books! 

How long have you been a librarian?  This will be my third year in the library however my 18th year in education! Prior to becoming a librarian, I taught 12 years in second grade, 2 years in third, and 1 year in 5th grade! 

What lead you to wanting to be a librarian? So this is an interesting story on how I became a librarian..I have always had a love for books as a classroom teacher, parent, and even growing up as a kid. Three years ago, our school librarian retired two weeks before school started. My principal emailed the staff on a Sunday night, letting us know that the librarian was retiring and she would begin looking for someone to fill her position. When I read the email, I asked myself..”I wonder if I could do that job?” The next morning I visited the office of the principal and the assistant principal was with her at the time. I inquired about the position and she asked me if I wanted the job. The words were YES and she turned to me and gave me the job position. I remember asking her..”Do I have an interview?” She replied, “No, if you do all the amazing lessons and get the kids to love you like you do in your regular classroom; I do not have to worry at all that I gave you that position.” My main goal is helping our youth enjoy reading. I hate that the kids think reading is homework. I couldn’t see myself heading back into the regular classroom. I love having the opportunity to work with over 700 kids weekly.

How do you pick books for your library? You shared that your library was in desperate need of updating! So my first priority is making sure that the resources match the curriculum. When I entered this position, my nonfiction collection was a 2002 collection. A priority for the collection was updating the nonfiction to have books that have current facts and books that the kids could relate to and enjoy in nonfiction. My Donors Choose Projects are fiction books and graphic novels. The kids love them and we did not have any graphic novels in the library when I became a librarian. With the help of Donors Choose, Grants, and Donations, we were able to put a whole new section in the library of graphic novels! We had a successful book fair which allowed me to purchase new picture books. Unfortunately, the library is an older library so there is constant upgrades in our books. This year throws another challenge with a budget cut in our state money. So I will have to write a few more grants to get the kids their LOVES! I also work at purchasing books that showcase ALL types of cultures, ethnic backgrounds, and topics. I want the children to have a diverse thinking and reading can help form that thinking! 

Do you have a favorite author? Oh..this is a challenging question! There are so many! For chapter books, Alan Gratz! I absolutely love historical fiction so his books have that and a wonderful message tied together! In October, he is coming to Raleigh and I am counting down the days! For picture books, my favorite would be Dan Santat. After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up) is my ultimate favorite! 

Can you suggest a new or lesser known author to check out? When I entered into this position, I started to follow a lot of authors on twitter. Ame Dyckman and Josh Funks’ books were not in my library! They are amazing! I have placed a lot of their books into the library and my teachers use their books for instruction also! 

How do you decide what book to recommend to a specific kid? Surprisingly with 700 kids, I am able to personalize in helping them find books. If a kid likes Pokemon, I show him/her the Pokemon books! After he/she is finished reading those, I might encourage a book that takes in a video game world. In my lessons, I often teach about authors and showcase all their books that we have in the library. With the centers in the library, I can take small groups and assist them in finding their book. It does help to have read a lot of books so I can chat with them about the book to know if they are interested in it. The catalog on the computer is a great help so I can type in a subject area and it will populate the books that are related to that subject. 

-If you could portal into any book, which would it be? When I was little, my mom always read me the book, Cloudy with the Chance of Meatballs. The book was way better than the movie! I would portal back into that book as a kid! 

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