If you want to go fast…

I have been active in AASL and AISL since I began as a librarian 20 years ago. I won’t be at AASL in Tampa this year. I always learn so much at these gatherings, and I will miss the learning and the fellowship (not to mention the free books and swag 🙂). I served on this year’s AASL social media committee, and I will miss seeing my fellow committee members in person (our work was virtual), and will diligently read social media to follow along as best I can.  

If you haven’t heard me talk about it before, both my kids are/were rowers.  As my oldest is an English teacher and rowing coach (and Masters level competitor) at an Independent School in Princeton, NJ, I still follow the rowing scene closely (don’t get me started…). Today I saw this in a social media post.

True, that!  Attending conferences, especially in person has confirmed this over and over.  There is always something new to learn, even if it’s not something you can apply In toto to your personal practice. Meeting and talking with other Librarians brings us so much.  These takeaways can come in bits and pieces.  They will form connections to other snippets, many from your own experiences. You might make something no one has thought of before (and you can present it at your next conference)!

A few years ago, in Louisville, KY, I was fortunate enough to attend a session with a Battle Creek, MI high school librarian.  Her students participated the National Holocaust Memorial Museum’s History Unfolded project.  This crowdsourced collaboration allowed the students to learn just what America knew about Hitler and the atrocities in Germany, and when they knew it. These scholars-in-progress (aren’t we all?) searched and read newspapers on historical events from the 1930s and 1940s.  Their project culminated in town-wide exhibits, visits from Holocaust survivors, and an award from Michigan’s governor, among other accolades and opportunities.  

After the session (which was too short!), many of us gathered with the presenter, Gigi Lincoln, and chatted.  We exchanged takeaways, business cards, and a promise from Ms. Lincoln to respond to any questions we had.  For the next several months (until the pandemic), we exchanged ideas and resources and cherished the wisdom of Gigi Lincoln.

While I have not put the entire project into use, I have used many smaller aspects.  

Crowdsourcing:  The Library of Congress is crowd-sourcing its collection of musical theater sheet music.  Our musical theater students have been pouring over the collection…adding lyrics, composers, titles, and publishers to the LOC archives, while adding to their knowledge of themes, techniques, and the history of American musical theater. 

The Research Sprint: Gigi Lincoln spoke in detail about the “research sprint”. The state organization in Michigan provides a robust suite of databases to its school and public libraries.  However, these would not be enough for her students to find the local newspapers needed for information on the project. Gigi’s idea?  A “research sprint”!  Students visited Michigan State University’s libraries.  In collaboration with an MSU History professor, and the US History librarian, the students used America’s Historical Newspapers to search for information.  The students enjoyed lunch in one of the cafeterias and also had a tour of the MSU campus.  In our Advanced US History (offered through Indiana Univeristy) we didn’t travel far – we searched African American newspapers available at the LOC for an “in-school field trip”.  With the assistance of the History Librarian from a nearby college we spent four hours (and a pizza lunch) pouring over the magnificent collection, looking for evidence on the social accomplishments of significant African Americans in the late 1800s.  The kids loved it (and not just the pizza and Halloween candy)!  I’m always preaching the “community of scholars” (thanks Courtney Lewis!), but on this occasion, they experienced it for themselves.  

Attending conferences – whether local or far away – is one way to experience the “together” we need to continue to advance our practice and our profession.  I encourage you to take advantage of as many as you can!  And, registration is open for AISL 2024, in sunny Orlando.  Together we’ll go far!

On Mentorship


Here at Interlochen, the summer is a magic place. Since 1928, the National Music Camp (now Interlochen Arts Camp) has run for 6 (formerly 8) weeks. More than 3,500 campers, ages 8-18, spend time on the shores of 2 beautiful inland lakes experiencing music, dance, art, creative writing, and theater. They rehearse, practice, paint, draw, and write with dedication and drive.

On Memorial Day (graduation), the library moves from Academic to Camp mode. Our constituents change from High School artists and faculty to faculty and staff with mostly recreational pursuits and “kids at camp.”

I ran dozens of statistical reports in the first week of my new job (August ‘22). Circulation during the six weeks of camp was one of the most eye-opening. I WAS ASTOUNDED when I compared it to the circulation during the Academic year. Camp has three times the circulation (per person) than we do during the academic year!

The uptick in use allows us to hire 18 summer interns. We have 14 in the Ensemble and Music Library, 2 in the Academic Library, and 2 in the Archives! It’s quite a process and also quite a crew.

The interns we hire come from varied backgrounds. Some are current MLS students, some are recent college graduates, and others are undergraduates hoping to give librarianship a “test drive” for the summer. They live and eat on campus and are part of the camp experience.

The most important thing we do for these dedicated “book jockeys” is mentorship. Establishing a personalized program for each intern gives them hands-on experience, chances to develop a passion project, and provide advice and guidance they won’t see in their Library School programs.

I will always remember my Librarian mentor’s vital role in my career development. She showed me daily what school librarianship could be, with directed learning and through her dedication to the students and faculty. In the early days of the Internet, she modeled a positive and enthusiastic attitude toward change as we removed laser disc players, sent out our card catalog for digitization, and discarded old copies of the “Readers Guide to Periodical Literature.” She allowed me to try (and struggle) with early database searching and taught me how important it would be to let my students see the progress and pitfalls in searching and to take failure in stride. And, perhaps most importantly, she allowed me to ask more questions in one hour than my then four-year-old son asked in a day!

At their exit interviews, our interns marveled at “being a librarian is SO much more than what we learn in school!” Whether they processed orchestral parts, did programming for our faculty and staff children, drove the bookmobile to the Junior Campers for their after-lunch rest time, or processed thousands of vintage camp photographs, each one learned more about the varied scope of “Information Science” in 7 weeks than they’d learned in years of academia.

At my mentor’s retirement party, there were 4 of us that had worked with her, who had returned to school and obtained MLS degrees. Each of us had significant Independent school Librarian positions, mainly due to our attitudes, experience, and philosophies about teaching, learning, and the lives of teenagers. I saw then that adding to the profession was vital (for me) to a meaningful career.

You don’t have to have a gaggle of interns to “mentor.” Each of us does it every day. Whether we kindly answer a question on the listserv, talk with a student about the benefits of our positions, enthusiastically help a parent or grandparent with a book choice for their child, or model the significance of the First Amendment, we mentor. In doing so, we grow respect for this unique profession. You never know…you may grow another librarian!

Now that Camp is over, I’m diligently working on our Koha catalog conversion. I learned early on that one of the most rewarding aspects of this career is the variety in the work. There is always something new to learn and a new challenge waiting for you.

Wishing you all a wonderful start to the new school year.



DEIBJ and Your Library — What’s Working?

I want to reflect on our efforts to promote DEIBJ in our schools and ask for your input and suggestions.

I need to start by acknowledging my privilege.  I am a white, cisgender, married, protestant woman.  I come from an upper-middle-class family.  Many things I enjoy now result from generations of accumulated wealth, much off the backs of marginalized groups. My school is built on land taken from the Anishinaabe Three Fires Confederacy, specifically the Odawa, Chippewa, and Potawatomi peoples. 

Recently, at school, we had an alarming post on social media. On the Monday before Spring Break, a 9th-grade boy thought it okay to post a video full of hate speech. The administration spoke with him and put him on disciplinary watch. On Wednesday of that week, the student posted a similar video. 

Students, faculty, and academic staff gathered for an update on Thursday. The administration (President, Provost, DEI Director, and Residental life director) stood and addressed the issues. Afterward, they invited the students to the stage if they had any questions. Students began asking questions from the floor. It was my first time seeing students stand up for themselves in a DEI environment.  I was thrilled for them and excited about what this could mean for our community.  

After the break, we gathered again in a town-hall meeting, where all were encouraged to speak.  Many students of all races, religions, and identities spoke out.  We were so proud of their bravery.  

For me, this incident has brought so much to the surface. You can substitute any marginalized group for the specific racial attack here. Am I doing enough?   How does the library share marginalized groups’ struggles at our schools? This op-ed piece in the Detroit Free Press moved me. In it, Alemu says:

Solidarity means finding ways to relinquish the privilege that makes your whiteness inconsequential and my Blackness fatally consequential.  Here I’m inspired by the words of the Australian Aborigine activist, Lilla Watson: “If you have come to help me you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” Put another way, if you want to stand in solidarity with African Americans, then let it not be only because you want to save Black lives from our burden of oppression but rather because the consequences of your daily privilege on Black lives have become a burden you can no longer bear.

I have been a DEI advocate for many years. My collections have been through DEI audits, internal and external. My displays are varied, and my influence grows each week. Students appreciate my knowledge of our resources and see the library as a safe space. 

I’m feeling a need for some fresh ideas to help make a difference here. So, how can we awaken our library approach to DEIBJ?    Do you have any suggestions?  Programs that have worked, ways to help our communities “see” into the issues, things that help raise awareness and spark conversations? Exciting ways to make inroads with your community? 

I look forward to your suggestions and comments.  

Warmly (its 39° here),


Teaching an old dog…change is always good…stepping out of my comfort zone…or

Have you restarted your device recently?

In early June of 2022, I accepted a position as Director of Libraries and Archives at a world-renowned arts boarding school and summer camp.  It was a big upset to the apple cart for my family and me.  I didn’t like change much and was afraid that the change would be more than this old lady librarian could take.  

I spent the first 15 years of my professional life as a full-time performing opera singer. I have a doctorate in Voice and Opera and currently work as an Archivist. I love the location, and the facilities are beautiful and well-funded.

So, I jumped into the deep end! I was scared.  What if this is not the “right fit”? What if I’m too old to change?

This is what I’ve learned so far:

Change is okay!  It’s a wonderful opportunity to repackage things that haven’t worked well in the past and reestablish your “brand”. It allowed me to view faculty, staff and students, campers, and the community with new eyes, and they can do the same with me.  Twelve years in one place, and I think I was stale. I saw people as statues and created silos with different personality types.  I felt that I was no longer taken seriously, and my frustration appeared as indifference.     

I was able to think long and hard about what was important to my new community. I have a variety of stakeholders: campers as young as 8 to veteran staff — many of whom have been here for more than 30 years.  

Establishing my “brand”. 

I immediately went to the Provost (head of Education) and asked:

  • “Do you want rigorous research as part of your curriculum”?  And, if no is the answer, no is fine.
  • “What would a “portrait of an Interlochen graduate” look like to you”?  Is information literacy an important part of the portrait?  Are you willing to stand behind me in my efforts?
  • Will you support my efforts to work with each faculty member to achieve these goals?
  • I know all about the “artistic personality” Will you support me in some “necessary conversations?”

Establishing my boundaries, and letting the administration know what my priorities were has paid off in countless ways. More on that in another post…

Supporting my staff.

I’m managing a staff of ten now…I’ve not done that in years; even then, it was with college students.  Here’s what I’m learning:

  • You need a mission statement and collection policies we can all point to when needed.
  • Boundaries are essential – please don’t talk badly about each other to me (unless there is a serious problem)
  • This is not 1st grade – do your best to work out your problems yourselves (use your words 🙂).
  • Laugh  – a lot! 
  • Food always helps 
  • Be your staff’s advocate, and make sure they know that.

Access is important in the Library. 

  • Thousands of old books no longer supported current curricular needs. Crowded shelves with old books make the new ones hard to find.
    • When your staff spends more time filling ILL requests for other libraries than working on requests from students, faculty, and staff – you’ve got a problem. WEED. Ruthlessly.  
  • A poorly maintained catalog makes things almost impossible to find.
  • A radical welcome. A beautiful space, which like the collection and the catalog needed help to make it more accessible and supportive of student work.

I think the best part of the change for me has been the opportunity to “restart”.  I’ve always envied my phone and computers in that we could just push a button, and a fresh beginning would often clear out the nagging little problems. Here, I am able to do just that, and the results (for me personally) have been remarkable. Here’s to change!  

One of this year’s other changes is that I will miss seeing you all in Sante Fe. I look forward to hearing all about it.