Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Librarian Lowdown: Cynthia Alaniz

After a week off, I'm so happy to be back with another edition of The Librarian Lowdown...and even more delighted that my guest is Cynthia Alaniz. Cynthia is the librarian at Cottonwood Creek Elementary. Cynthia and I connected almost two years ago as we both ventured into the world of being a teacher-librarian. I had the pleasure of finally meeting Cynthia this past January at ALA Midwinter in Chicago.

Welcome to The Librarian Lowdown, Cynthia. I appreciate you taking the time to join me.

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

This is my second year as a school librarian. Prior to that, I spent over 20 years as a classroom teacher, teaching 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade.

I absolutely love my school! It is a K-5 campus in a suburb of Dallas-Fort Worth with about 540 students. We are led by an absolutely wonderful principal in an awesome district! There are so many great things happening in our building that it would be hard to name them all. In the library this year, I held a Mock Caldecott, participated in World Read Aloud Day, Skyped on Dot Day with other libraries across the country, had two Scholastic book fairs, and hosted two fabulous author visits! One thing I particularly love about our school is our weekly Genius Hour. It is school-wide, and in the library, I support learners by providing space, research resources, technology, information literacy instruction, tech tips, an audience or a sounding board! We want our learners to find their passion and pursue it!

What I am also very proud of is this: we are definitely a school of readers!  

What is the best part about being a school librarian?

I can't pick just one! I love sharing picture books, recommending books, book talks, celebrating book events, assisting teachers, adding to our collections, and supporting learners as they pursue their interests! Showing students how to access information is also very rewarding. Recently, our students started constructing a marble run in the library, and listening to them plan and carry out idea brings me so much joy!

I see every interaction in the library as an opportunity to learn and teach.

Also, there is nothing like seeing the happiness on a child’s face when they are reading a book they love!

In the hallways, students will just start up conversations with me about the books they are reading! I absolutely love that!  

Can you tell us about something new that is happening in your library this year?

This year, I really wanted to dig into Makerspace. I knew the materials I wanted to stock, but because of how our library is used throughout the day, I knew I couldn’t have them out all the time. So, I got the idea to put them on a cart. But that library cart was old and not very nice to look at! Thankfully, I have a wonderful volunteer who decorated the cart for me, and not only that, stocked it with craft items and organized everything! Since I introduced it, our Makerspace Cart has been hugely popular. I wheel it out as needed, and now, after presenting to our teachers about it, Makerspace is part of our school vocabulary. Kids come to the library asking to use it! It’s so successful that I have to manage it in a different way! This is part of my own learning. I hope to expand this next year with more offerings and materials.

As a new librarian, you have been such an inspiration to me.  How have you been encouraged, educated and inspired by members of your PLN?

Thanks for that, Kurt! I think I first heard the acronym “PLN” years ago, but once I joined Twitter, I understood exactly what it was. I’ve connected with the most wonderful people, and I have learned so much from them. I have formed friendships with some of my PLN members, and even presented at national conferences with them! When we Vox, tweet, or post about the work we’re doing, we feed off of one another’s enthusiasm. We see that someone else is thinking through things just like we are. If they are taking these steps, so can you! I first thought that my ideas and musings wouldn’t be much to share at all, but I learned from my PLN that it’s our responsibility TO share – that someone will need to hear it, or that for someone, it will be just the thing they need. Our ideas don’t have to be large-scale projects to be of value. Something simple can be just as helpful!

What are your future goals for your library program?

One of my goals is to continue to curate our collection. I want to bring the very best literature to our readers, whether it is in the form of picture books, nonfiction, or novels. I enjoy reading galleys and ARCs to find books! I am very persistent when it comes to getting a book I’m looking for! I also am expanding our poetry collection. Poetry does so much for readers (vocabulary, fluency etc.); the benefits of reading it are many!

Additionally, I want to continue my work in establishing an online presence for our library, so that our learners can utilize the library even when they’re at home. We’ve expanded our e-books collection and catalog, and we have databases as well for research. I promote our library (and reading) through a library twitter account as well.

Also, I’m thinking about rearranging the shelving in my library as best as I can. I have a plan sheet I’m currently working on, and, ultimately, my goal is to open up spaces and continue to provide a responsive environment for our learners.

If you could have dinner with a book character (or a couple), who would you choose and why?

Well, there are so many characters I love! (I’ve often said that Hattie from Kirby Larson’s Hattie Big Sky is such an inspiring character!) I absolutely adore her! She worked so hard and was so determined! Reading this novel was a pivotal moment in my reading timeline!

But here is my answer – (one you probably don’t expect)!

I am a huge fan of Yuyi Morales and her work, and her book Viva Frida! was one of my favorites of 2014. And I am so intrigued by Frida Kahlo! Wouldn’t it be amazing to have dinner with Yuyi and Frida? I would love to listen to them chat and watch them create art together!

Cynthia, thank you so much for stopping by Kids Talk Kid Lit to share the amazing things that you are doing!

You can continue to follow Cynthia and her library happenings:

Twitter:  @utalaniz 

Blogs: http://librarianincuteshoes.blogspot.com