Outside the Classroom with a Middle School Librarian

Outside the Classroom is a series of interviews with professionals who work in education settings. From social work to occupational therapy, library science to administration, many jobs become a whole new ball game when students and academics are involved. Here are a few of our burning questions for the professionals that classroom teachers find themselves working alongside, and their advice for those who’d like to join them.

1. What’s your name, location, current profession?

Amanda Counts, Murfreesboro, TN, middle school librarian.

2. Where did you earn your certification(s) and where did you go to school?

I earned my bachelors and masters degrees at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro.

3. How long have you worked in your field?

This is my seventh year as a school librarian.

4. How long have you worked in an education environment, and in what capacities?

I’m currently in my seventh year as an educator, all of them in the school library. My first two years were spent in a fairly rural PreK-8th grade school, four years in an urban K-6 school, and now I’m venturing into the middle school setting for the first time and loving it!

I’ve also been blogging about books and librarianship since 2009.

5. What’s the most rewarding part of your job now? What do you find most challenging?

Making connections with the kids. Hands down. But most specifically, seeing the kids get EXCITED about these books! I view each and every reluctant reader as a personal challenge. I know there’s a book out there for them; they just haven’t found it yet. The most challenging part of my job has always been breaking all the horrible stereotypes out there about school librarians. So many people have memories of grumpy ladies who aren’t friendly and require everyone to be quiet. It makes me so sad that so few people have experienced a joyful school librarian.

6. Why did you decide to perform your current profession in an education environment?

Fortunately, I did have a joyful school librarian at the elementary level. My family is also a book-loving one. My mom is a high school librarian, so I suppose you could say this was destined to happen!

I view each and every reluctant reader as a personal challenge. I know there’s a book out there for them; they just haven’t found it yet.

7. What skills did you have to acquire to allow you to adapt to that environment?

Librarians in today’s world have to be extremely open-minded and flexible in order to succeed. The librarian of today is a collaborator, a maker, an advocate, and a digital explorer. We no longer just work with the reading teachers; we must reach out and collaborate with all subjects and all levels.

8. What advice would you offer a person with an education background who is considering entering your field?

Go and spend LOTS of time in libraries with vibrant programs. Develop a professional learning network online through social media. Go to conferences. Network. Know that the library atmosphere you grew up in at school is no longer what we strive for. Be ready to be innovative.

9. What advice would you give to a person working in your field about working in an education setting in general?

I view my job as a largely service-oriented position. I am in a school to help the teachers as well as the students. I love helping teachers find just the right book for a thematic unit, chatting about a new website I found that I think will help teach a standard, or co-teaching both in the library and in the classroom. Being a great librarian is largely based on building strong relationships and fostering rust with patrons, whether they be administrators, students, teachers, or parents.

This is Mrs. Counts' seventh year as Library Media Specialist, and her first year in the land of middle school. When not in the library, Mrs. Counts enjoys traveling, cooking, and of course, reading. You can connect with her on Twitter or on her blog, A Bookshelf Monstrosity.

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