Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Librarian Lowdown: Jennifer Reed

I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Jennifer Reed at ALA Midwinter last month.  It did not take long to see her passion for children, literature and her job as a teacher-librarian. Jennifer is the teacher-librarian at Mason-Rice Elementary School in Newton, MA.   I'm delighted that Jennifer was willing to join me for the second edition of The Librarian Lowdown.

Hi Jennifer.  Welcome to The Librarian Lowdown.  You are my second guest.  Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions...

How long have been a school librarian?  Tell us a little about your school.

This is my 11th year as a teacher librarian. That I can state that number of years catches me off guard, as I feel like I just started this new career yesterday – partly because it still feels so fresh and fun and partly because, as with all teaching jobs, I am always learning and improving my craft, so it never feels old. I work in a school with 22 classrooms and about 470 students. (Newton is a big little city. We have fifteen elementary schools, four middle schools and two high schools and educate about 12,000 children.) The library space is small but bright. There are windows on three sides! The space has dictated a more flexible teaching and learning style, which I think has added to the sense of exploration and discovery.

What is the best part about being a school librarian?

Hanging at the intersection of reader and story. As much as I value and integrate technology and believe strongly in giving students ample opportunities to express their opinions and ideas through various media, there is nothing like seeing children engage in reading and connect with a piece of literature. The favorite part of any day or week is a student coming up to me and saying, “Mrs. Reed, I just finished (insert name of book here)!” A conversation about the book usually ensues. I also really love when a student comes to return a book and brings along the person who wants to check it out. They are the best source of reader’s advisory. I know there is talk about the future of the physical book and the growth of eBooks, but from my vantage point, children still love actual books and I love witnessing that connection.

I know that you've been making some changes to your library space.  Can you share them with us?

Absolutely! In fact, here’s a post with a before and after video: The New Library Space is Here! The New Library Space is Here!  The bigger changes were precipitated by a smaller change. I have been teaching with a terrible technology set up for about three years. The projector and laptop were on a cart behind the students, so I could never see their faces or I had to dash back and forth like an arcade duck. I have been waiting for a white board and interactive project, but the process has been held up because of all the windows. About three weeks ago, I bought a 25 foot VGA cable and set up my laptop and Elmo on top of one of the book cases next to the projection screen. Voila! I was now in front of the students and able to model and click through pages without running behind them! This small (but significant) change lead to the much bigger change – making my space more flexible and improving the flow between work areas.  I still have some work to do – changing signage, shifting parts of the collection, and finding comfortable seating – but the initial reaction from teachers and students has been quite positive!

You do a lot to connect with other libraries/librarians.  Would you share some of your collaboration projects?

Sure! There are two ways that I connect and collaborate. The first is through literacy initiatives like Dot Day, Picture Book Month, and World Read Aloud Day. I am hoping to get involved in Dia this year as well. For these events, we generally connect our students via Skype and share a related project. The other way that I have been connecting and collaborating is with year long learning partners like Shawna Ford in Texas and Kathy Schmidt in Atlanta. We connected specific classes and have met via Skype to share projects and learn from each other. For example, my students showed Shawna Ford’s students how to use the Tellagami app and shared Internet Safety projects that they created. Shawna’s students then demonstrated how to use the green screen and shared some of their projects. With Kathy Schmidt, we’ve been connecting around literature by practicing book talks and commenting on blog posts. Laura Given in Minneapolis and I have been connecting the same grade of students for three years. We began with a shared blog and have morphed into connecting for specific projects like our recent Mock Caldecott unit.

What are your future goals for your library program?

Think. Wonder. Ponder. Imagine. Play. Explore. Tinker. Build. Make. Create. Innovate. 

I want these words to come to mind when people think about the library program. (Read is not there because it is inherent in each of these ideas.)  In more practical terms, I want teachers and students to see our library space as a place to both consume and produce information. For me, this means being involved in not only the research part of collaboration with classroom teachers, but in the entire project from start to finish. In addition, I have a fixed/flex schedule and so it also means demonstrating the value of the ideas above so that teachers will use the flextime within my schedule. Time on learning puts much pressure on classroom teachers so I need to show the value of time spent doing the things above and how time spent tinkering, building, and creating are necessary components of the CCSS.

...and now for a little fun...

If you could have dinner with one book character, who would you choose and why?

Ack! I really don’t like these questions because I am terrible at choosing that one book or one movie or one character. I also have a hard time choosing which books – those that I read when I was young versus those that I read now.  There are also the books for the “above age twelve set” that I have read. I am also assuming that we are talking about fictional characters.  (If we were talking about subjects of biographies, I would begin with Eleanor of Aquitaine and Eleanor Roosevelt).  Also, should I assume we are talking people? If we're talking animals then I would choose Winnie-the-Pooh, Beekle, and the little fish from This is Not My Hat).  Back to your question! I would not be able to invite just one person because I am having a dinner party! Watch out, I’ve invited some sassy, smart and strong characters; this dinner will be full of storytelling, dramatics, and laughter. These are only the first five guests, but I am off to a great start!

Flora Belle Buchman (Flora & Ulysses) because she is a “natural born cynic.”  I need that person that makes me question life, but who, like Flora, has a heart made of gold. We also share a common interest: reading the “idiotic high jinks of comics.”

Mo LoBeau (Three Times Lucky) because she is earnest and adventurous.  She reminds me that the thing that I am looking for might actually be right in front of me. I am also secretly hoping she’ll invite me to Tupelo Landing, a place that I would love to call home.  

Lizzie Scatterding (The Great Unexpected) because she believes. She reminds me that we are all connected – that a “delicate cobweb links us all.”

Grandma Dowdel (A Long Way from Chicago) because she is a good person. She reminds me that it is not who we are but what we do that matters. She always does the right thing, and she does it in her own (often unconventional) way.

Junie B. Jones (Junie B. Jones series) because she is funny. She reminds me that perspective is important and to think about other people.

This sounds like a dinner party that I would love to attend! Awesome!

Thanks, Jennifer, for taking the time to stop by my blog and for sharing the amazing things that are happening in your library!

You can follow Jennifer on Twitter: @libraryreeder

Learn more about her library at: