In this Q&A blog post, 2021 School Librarian of the Year Award winner Amanda Jones, Teacher-Librarian at Live Oak Middle School in Watson, Louisiana, describes what her role means to her, and the importance of having a certified school librarian in every school. A Q&A with Diane Mokuau, Librarian at Molokai High School in Molokai, Hawaii, also a 2021 School Librarian of the Year Award winner, will be featured on the blog in the coming weeks.
This year, School Library Journal and Scholastic Book Fairs named Amanda Jones from Watson, Louisiana, and Diane Mokuau from Molokai, Hawaii, the 2021 School Librarian of the Year Award winners!
The annual award recognizes K–12 library professionals for outstanding achievement and the exemplary use of technology and services to engage children and teens toward fostering multiple literacies. This recognition is especially important as librarians nationwide have undoubtedly stepped up to support students, families, and educators through a year unlike any other.
Amanda Jones, has been a teacher-librarian at her alma mater, Live Oak Middle School, for six years. With over 20 years of experience, Amanda’s favorite thing about her job is that she has the opportunity to teach every student in the community. Amanda’s library is the heart of her school. She describes it as an active and bustling place where students are free to laugh and learn. Amanda has received a variety of honors and awards for her work as a teacher-librarian, including 2021 Library Journal Mover & Shaker, 2020 Louisiana School Librarian of the Year, and two national awards from the American Association of School Librarians: 2019 Social Media Superstar Program Pioneer and the 2019 AASL Inspire Special Event Grant. Amanda’s goal for the future of her library is to continue finding innovative ways to keep books in kids’ hands, while continuing her work as an activist for the importance of the profession on a state and national level.
Learn more about Amanda and her incredible work here and in the Q&A below. Congratulations, Amanda!
Q. Why did you decide to pursue a career as a school librarian?
Amanda Jones: School librarians have the best job in the world! When I was 20 years old, working on my elementary education degree, the first three Harry Potter books became popular. Those books reignited a passion I had for reading, and I knew that I wanted to ignite that same passion for reading in students. The day I finished reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, I began taking steps to get my school librarian certification. While modern school librarians do so much more than connect students with the perfect book, it is one of the most rewarding aspects of the job.
Q. Based on your experience, why are libraries and librarians so essential in every school?
Amanda Jones: School librarians are in a unique position to foster a love of reading with every student in the school, while teaching research, news literacy, and digital citizenship skills, and collaborating with teachers in every grade level and across subjects. School libraries provide a safe space for students to think, read, learn, and grow, and a well-stocked school library can provide books to meet the interests and needs of students from all walks of life. School librarians are integral to successful schools and have the ability to disseminate important information and resources to students, faculty, family members, and the community.
Q. Of all of the initiatives you’ve created and hosted as a teacher-librarian, which do you think has had the greatest impact on your students and why?
Amanda Jones: Several years ago, I read Donalyn Miller’s The Book Whisperer, in which I learned about her 40 Book Challenge, which encourages students to read 40 books across a variety of genres. I hosted a book study with our school’s faculty, and we began our first 40 Book Challenge in 2017 to encourage our students to set goals for themselves, help them develop a love of reading, and embolden them to read outside the genres of their comfort zones. We have had over 1,000 of our fifth and sixth grade students complete the challenge, but more importantly, we have seen the impact it has had on our students’ love of reading. Each year, students love to share with me that because of this reading challenge, they discovered new genres and authors that they normally would not have read. Many of our students, who were formally self-described non-readers, have become avid readers, and many of our students’ family members also have completed this challenge.
Q. What is one of the most powerful ways you have seen reading impact a student’s life?
Amanda Jones: Many of my former students have grown up to become English and reading teachers because they were impacted by having teachers who created and cultivated a love of reading when they were at our school. One former student, who is very open with her struggle with Dyslexia, discovered audiobooks the year I taught her. She became an avid reader that year, continued to love reading, and now teaches reading strategies to elementary students with Dyslexia.
Q. What is one encouraging message you have for educators and librarians heading into the next school year?
Amanda Jones: The past year and half has been rough for educators. Learning to navigate hybrid and virtual learning was difficult, but it was also a time for school librarians to shine. School librarians all across the nation helped their students, teachers, and communities by providing resources such as technology tutorials, virtual field trips, collaborative lessons, access to e-books, and more. We must keep the momentum going and continue to show the world the value that school librarians bring to our schools.
Q. What book are you reading right now?
Amanda Jones: I am currently reading Keep It Together, Keiko Carter by Debbi Michiko Florence!
Photo by Kathryn and Travis Photography