Interview with Deb Logan, Pleasant Local Schools, Ohio
What would you say to your middle school librarian if you met now? Well, JLG Marketing Manager Joel Franklin had that opportunity recently, without first realizing it!
Joel met with Deb last month and after introductions and a few moments of reviewing Deb’s background, it became clear that Deb had been Joel’s former middle school librarian-in a different school district (with a different last name)! They reminisced, and Deb shared some insights and tips from working in public and school libraries for three decades.
In Deb’s words . . .
I wanted my library to be a joy. I want students to feel good about being in the library. Teaching skills in isolation is not good practice, my goal was to go to collaborative and integrated instruction. It was a 7-year process. It came in stages. I collaborated with almost all the teachers.
But it doesn’t happen overnight. You have to sell it to the teachers. Teachers traditionally work independently. I call it “bending backwards”. The onus is on me to work in such a way that the teachers would want to work with me. I got very good advice from other librarians—the way to get to students is through the teachers, you have to build the relationships with the teachers.
When you’re trying to sell something, find out the needs of the person, then align with their needs. When I went to a high school, my first year the teachers weren’t using the library. One of the few teachers was a chemistry and physics teacher. I worked with one student of who had just moved in, and, after he saw what I had done, the next time he scheduled he said “what you did for him I want you to do for the rest of my class.” Identify (the teacher’s) needs and develop a service to meet those needs.
One librarian wanted to buy me lunch. I said the best way to thank a librarian is to tell the others!
Let them know that this really works. It’s a process. Find someone with a problem, let them know you can help. Classroom teachers never have enough time. I’ve offered to help with grading!
In the end, do something you’re proud to have your name on. Do it right.
Collaborative and Integrated Instruction
In early days, a language arts teacher approached me—she wanted her kids to research animals. At that same time, the math teacher was teaching decimals, so we were going to reinforce that with the Dewey decimal system. That same week, like magic, their science teacher was getting ready to do biomes. The first part of the week we did animals using World Book. We worked on note taking. Then we did Dewey decimal system in conjunction with decimals. 100% of those students could find a book by decimal. When they came in to do biomes, they knew how to find the animals, they knew note taking. I had a kid say at the end of the week, “I really feel like I know what I’m doing!” Any time you can allow kids to make choices about what they’re doing it’s better. Give kids choice, because they get engaged.
Find a student with a problem and say “This is the skill that makes it easier.” Make it relevant and it will stick with them and they will actually use it.
My goal was to get the kids to think outside rural Ohio, from a very homogeneous area—I really feel like it’s my job to open windows and doors and viewpoints.
Or if you’re feeling like you’re the only one, (finding) a book that shows you that there are other people with those feelings or experience—it’s essential. They’re needed.
Collection development is a passion for me, it’s a joy. It was in the areas where I was challenged that I turned to Junior Library Guild.
JLG was a real value. They were parts of my collection I had trouble developing. I had such limited funds.
I felt JLG does a good job finding the best of the best. I struggled with good high-quality sports stories so that was one [category] I used. I also wanted to build graphic novels. That was another area. My last year we had more students who spoke little or no English, so I got the Spanish [category] to help that part of my collection.
The Importance of Professional Associations
The times that I go to OELMA or AASL or ALA, I am home! We speak the same language, we have shared experiences. I have friends there that are mentors, I hope I have mentored some people. They’ve become close personal friends. They help me build and improve my practice. I would not be where I am without the contacts I’ve made in my professional associations.
Librarians in schools tend to work in isolation. The other teachers in the building have some shared experiences that you don’t. We have to build relationships. It can be hard. It can be challenging. Everything you do has to be ubiquitous.
When I was in middle school I wanted to be an artist. Those art skills aren’t there, but this is my art. How I teach, what I teach, coming up with a different way of doing it. This is my art.