In ’91 or so when I was finishing my first Master’s Degree in elementary Education (University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC), I was scrambling for hours that could satisfy the last course requirements. I wound up taking an elementary education math methods course of all things, and driving all the way from the lower part of Orangeburg, SC some 60 miles southwest to Aiken, SC so I could wrap it up in a three week Maymester course and get the degree (and the much coveted step up in pay due to a higher degree.) My goal at the time was to just FINISH. This was pre distance-ed days, and even pre distance-ed via video tape. I know, that is hard to fathom. Every class had to be physically attended. I was teaching 7th grade ELA at time.
Teaching License Renewal
South Carolina at this time required teachers to maintain/renew teaching licensure every five years with graduate level courses. One could take 2 course (6 hours), submit them to the state department of ed, and be deemed renewed with teaching licensure for an additional five years. As a member of a family of educators, I understood well what having additional degrees could do for my pay. When it became time to renew, I applied to graduate school and initially declared my major as unknown. I explored administration first. I hated the two classes I took. I then looked at a Reading Specialist degree. It was okay but I was bored. I hated the thought that I would limit what I taught to just reading. I then explored guidance and counseling. I liked the classes, but the theory I was studying, and the actual practice I saw day in and day out in my teaching did not match. Even way back then (early 90s) I saw the heavy emphasis that testing played in the role of guidance. Finally I just opted for the same major, elementary education.
Because I had Dr. Whiten
The class met at USC Aiken and we had plenty of school visits to the Aiken schools. The instructor was Dr. David Whiten, a professor I’ve lost track of now, but he believed in authentic engagement, project based learning, and that the librarian could be a classroom teacher’s best friend. He made me realize I could touch every student, teacher, and curriculum area if I were in the library. Even better, we spent a day in USC’s education building exploring computer games that could impact student learning. This was a day of true revelation for me. I realized the LIBRARY was where I could have have major impact and really enjoy my contribution in a k12 environment. And Dr. Whiten opened my eyes to how I could become an integral part of the paradigm shift coming to education with technology and digital resources, through the hub of every school known as the library.
Finished and already wanting to start over!
I finished that degree, and I had just had my second son who wasn’t even a year old yet. With the completion of that class (and the degree) I came home raving to my husband that I knew I couldn’t do it right away (financially nor with a young second child in the mix), but even if I had to wait five years because I needed to renew my teaching license, I fully planned to enroll in library school somewhere, some how.
Fast forward, 1995
I enrolled in USC-Columbia’s College of Library and Information Science’s program for media specialist certification. The only way I could obtain it was to enroll in the Master’s Degree program. I think I misunderstood somewhere along the way, because I already had a Master’s Degree, and the next logical step was a Specialist Degree. But USC either didn’t have a specialist program at the time, or I just did not understand that to get my certification I had to take the same course work as the Master’s Degree seeking library school candidates. It did not matter then, as my goal was to become a certified school librarian, and that 2nd Master’s Degree was going to be the fastest route. So I applied.
“I just looooove reading!”
I had to sit through an interview with a professor from the (formally known as) USC CLIS Program, and I can remember being asked why I wanted to be in the program. Thankfully I never uttered the words, “Because I love books and I love to read.” I simply shared my story–same as above. Later in my library school classes with (now retired) Dr. Dan Barron, I heard him NUMEROUS times talk about the number of prospective students in their interviews declare their love of reading, and how loving reading was NOT enough! In my earliest courses I had Barron several times, and I must say he lit a fire in me for the profession like no other. I joined our state organization, as well as AASL and ALA due to him, joined LM_Net and our own SCASL listserv due to him, and discovered the power of a PLN and connected learning EARLY, way before it became the cool thing for educators to do, all thanks to him. I learned so much in my two year program, becoming instantly a tech savvy teacher and having a much better understanding of the school and community, which I can attribute to my days as a student of USC’s School of Library and Information Science.
USC-SLIS – still impacting me
It is now called USC’s School of Library and Information Science, housed under Mass Communications, and is still generating some of the most dynamic school librarians there are. I reflect at some of those professors and graduates who have impacted me as a working school librarian, including professors like Dr. Dan Barron, Dr. Donna Shannon, Elizabeth Miller (and by spring the last one I had classes under will retire–Dr. Shannon). I also am friends with USC graduates such as past SCASL Presidents and/or leadership members like Heather Loy, Valerie Byrd-Fort, and Martha Taylor. I’ve had previous USC library interns who have helped shape me and make me a better librarian as well, like Kim Isiminger, and recent interns Lori Willis-Richards and Elizabeth Graham. I have interacted with plenty of librarians in my state too, who amaze me with their stellar representation of school librarianship, including folks like Tamara Cox, Karen Meharg, Wendy Rollins, Liz Hood, Kelly Knight, Fran Bullington, Susan Myers, and so many more. Even my own co-librarian Melanie Dillard, a USC library school alumni, amazes me pretty regularly. (I tell her all the time how she “completes” me in the library!)
Still a long way to go
My path to becoming a librarian took me along many different paths along the way to certification and to where I am as a librarian today. I just saw this video shared by my friend Sara Kelly Johns, and it seems like a fitting close. You see Ive had wonderful principals along the way too, all who have supported each and every turn I took along my career path. After 28 years behind me in education (yikes I sound OLD) I’m still not done. And I can’t wait to make more of an impact at my local level, as well as county, state, and even beyond to national and international levels. THAT is why I’m a librarian. And I love it as much today as I did day one.