The Styling Librarian

In my opinion, books are the best accessory.

Styling Librarian: How I became a teacher librarian #whylib

whylibI watched a stream of Twitter and then blog posts unfold a few weeks ago and thought it would be interesting to throw my experience of becoming a teacher librarian into the mix of voices. Here’s the original post that inspired me:

Here’s a pretty good explanation about what happened next:

All the participants of #whylib posted their story here: I spent a few hours reading over people’s experiences, wow. We’re so lucky to work in a sharing, caring field where we pass along ideas and enjoy inspiring others, especially lucky since people come to the library from so many diverse fields. I am quite grateful to be in a career that I’m passionate about and can express my interests in so many ways, including this blog!

bookdebbieI think what brought me to every stage of my education career was this question:
“If I don’t follow my passion now, then when?”

Back when I first officially became an educator, I’d finished my Bachelors in Education getting dual certified in Special Ed., Elementary Ed, and endorsed in Art Ed. and was so proud and excited to be hired at the school where I had student taught. I loved the colleagues, enjoyed working with the students and already felt part of the community when I settled in. I appreciated the district I was teaching in because they had extended education workshops offered throughout the year and within that first four months of teaching Special Education, I noticed I’d taken six classes in the evenings. I thought, “Hmm, I certainly am keeping up my momentum of learning… but I’m not as happy or passionate about this position as I expected to be.” I found myself drawn to the library. There was a fantastic school librarian and library assistant there who didn’t mind sitting down and chatting constantly about books, lucky me! I had always been honestly obsessed with children’s literature and found that I just kept wanting to understand more about the workings of the library, read more children’s literature, teach more technology, and integrate research skills into my student’s learning experiences….

So, soon I realized that my interests were actually leading me towards becoming a teacher librarian. “If I don’t follow my passion now, then when?”
I decided that even though I was just at the beginning of my special education career it would be wise to keep up my passion, interest, learning momentum and begin exploring the teacher librarian field. I applied and was accepted into a Masters program forty-five minutes from the place I was living and committed to driving there two nights a week plus weekends. I kept my teaching job and also worked on the Masters which seemed to go smooth enough considering. I loved applying knowledge I was learning in context and was able to reduce my position as special education teacher to .8 so that I could be in the library more often. I also loved working in the public library over the summer. I knew I was going in the right direction…


So… “If I don’t follow my passion now, then when?” – I got my Masters within a year of beginning it. I had drive, passion, and was really excited to jump into my “own” library. Luckily, it didn’t work out that way. I moved to a new state (just over the border from Washington to Oregon) was able to get a job at a school that already had a talented teacher librarian so I had the beautiful bonus experience of working with a fantastic colleague who helped shape, guide and inspire me! I loved being able to collaborate, share responsibilities, and learn with a colleague. I wish all educators could begin like this… even if you have a hard time sharing, it is extremely helpful to have a partner like this. I know now with online resources we have our PLN, professional learning network, and I’m constantly inspired by people all over the world but actually working together with another person every day was invaluable. *Still so grateful Heidi!!

DebbieandPeteAfter a year in that fantastic position, I knew that the position would soon be cut due to another school opening up down the street so I applied for another teacher librarian position and was hired… at my lovely library where I thrived for 12 years. I loved being there. It was a fantastic experience. I enjoyed growing, supporting others, adopting PYP, primary years programme, at the school, and more. It was a fantastic choice to shift to being a school librarian that was also still challenging, invigorating, and fulfilling. Once I was in the field of teacher librarians I was thrilled to meet up and collaborate with colleagues in my district and around the state. I enjoyed this field for thirteen years in Oregon. In around 2006 the teacher librarians in my district started feeling pinches in positions, the economy took a terrible turn. We had to fight for specialist positions for six years. It was exhausting and frustrating as the last year led to Beaverton School District cutting 51 of 52 teacher librarians. The library staff were shuffled into random positions based on their certification. It was heartwrenching. I now watch from afar and see how library assistants are now called librarians and the library programs have declined. I know fantastic library assistants work their hardest to maintain successful programs to accommodate readers. I honestly believe that having a certified teacher librarian at every school who is focused on literacy, technology, and research instruction, collaborating and supporting educators, and inspiring families to embrace learning in various ways is imperative.

Luckily for me personally I decided once again: “If I don’t follow my passion now, then when?” I saw through six years of fighting that the end was near and I wanted to be my own advocate, decide my fate, so I decided with my husband’s full support to look into teaching abroad. We were luckily able to move to Hong Kong after I had a Skype interview with four administrators at Bradbury School. I love being here as a teacher librarian, still able to pursue my passions, be a leader, inspire readers, celebrate technology, work with fantastic administration and incredibly talented colleagues, and support information literacy in this position. Sure, I look back on my past and terribly miss the colleagues, students, and community that I loved being with for 12 years but I’m also looking ahead and enjoying what life opportunities we have in the future. I’m in my second year as a teacher librarian at Bradbury and signed a contract to stay here for two more years. Feeling lucky every day…


Hope others are able to look within and find out their passions and follow them as I have… those passions might need to be supported with a second and third job but sometimes that’s what it takes…  How lucky we are to be in a time where we are connected around the world with a little electricity?
I’m so grateful to my parents for being my initial enthusiastic literacy support system, for my first school I was at that had NO school librarian so that when we moved and I went to my new elementary school and walked in the library I knew I was in my second home… and also fondly remember the friendly, welcoming eyes of the librarians who supported my daily visits in all my educational settings over the years. I feel incredibly lucky to welcome, learn from and inspire my students in my school library. I feel like this is one of the best jobs and careers…

If you enjoyed this post, please consider following my blog through email updates – (do so to the right of this blog post), my Facebook page, comment, or meet up with me on Twitter. I appreciate all of the support, makes my day! Honored by all the wonderful followers.

7 comments on “Styling Librarian: How I became a teacher librarian #whylib

  1. lenorelook
    April 8, 2014

    Brava, Debbie! And how lucky I am to have met you, and to know first-hand just what your passion for books means — for your lucky young readers, for lucky authors who get to meet you, for everyone! Thank you for giving us such a priceless gift — a person who has come alive.

  2. Wendy Holzman
    April 8, 2014

    I love your repeated comment about if not now, when? You have blossomed and grown, and it’s been fun watching, even if now from afar. You are a gifted teaching librarian. Your students are fortunate, as you teach them the literacy and technology pieces, but also the love of reading!

    • The Styling Librarian
      April 8, 2014

      Thanks Wendy, I know I’ve changed so much over the years- but also grateful for those first years that steered me in the right directions… 🙂 Also love that we’re still connected through the years, lucky… 🙂

  3. debraperrin8763
    April 8, 2014

    Having been on the receiving end of your passion and talent I can totally endorse your call for qualified teacher librarians in as many places as possible. I’m so glad you listened to your inner voice and followed your passion, I know Bradbury has and continues to benefit and I personally benefitted when we worked together and I continue to benefit when I hear your voice in my head encouraging me on. I’m sure that is the same for so many children whose lives you have touched and so many adults who have heard and watched you teach.

    • lenorelook
      April 8, 2014

      Agreed! Well put, Debra!

    • The Styling Librarian
      April 8, 2014

      Thanks so much Debra, means an incredible amount to have your support… 🙂 Hugs your way. x Always will support you too!

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