The only thing Christy Payne loves more than young-adult literature is helping young adults find the literature they love.
“For me, it doesn’t get any better than connecting a student with that one book that’s going to open their eyes to a lifetime of reading,” the Appoquinimink High School librarian said this week. “When they come back to me and say, ‘That was perfect. What else do you have,’ those are my best moments.”
Receiving the 2013 Librarian of the Year Award from the Delaware Association of School Librarians on Monday also was a good moment for Payne, who earned the honor for the second time in five years.
“The first time I won was great because I had also just earned my national board certification,” said Payne, who previously worked at Olive B. Loss Elementary and Alfred G. Waters Middle School. “But this one means a little more to me because being at the high school is a lot more challenging, so I actually feel more accomplished this year.”
In just her second year at Appoquinimink High, Payne’s work establishing classroom-based literature circles and lunchtime book clubs has helped increase circulation at the school library by 400 percent.
Last year, she also took over responsibility for the Festival of Words, a daylong literary conference for teens that previously had been hosted by the University of Delaware. This March, the event moved to Appoquinimink High, where it featured award-winning author Walter D. Myers, the U.S. Library of Congress’ National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.
She’s also rought nationally-recognized writers like Mike Mullin, the author of the popular novel “Ashfall,” to the school, while organizing student trips to meet their favorite authors at the National Book Festival in Washington D.C. and Carnegie Hall in New York City.
And she’s continued to run the school district’s successful “Real Men Read” program, an annual event for boys and their male reading role models that she founded five years ago.
“Ms. Payne is widely-known in the district as an exceptionally-skilled librarian and we’re really lucky to have her,” said Aaron Rush, who chairs the English department at Appoquinimink High. “She’s a perfect collaborator and an all-around incredible resource for us to have.”
Payne, a former linguist for the U.S. Army who went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Delaware and a master’s degree in library science from Drexel University, said she believes school librarians have to be more dynamic and instruction-focused today than ever before.
Page 2 of 2 - “One of the most important things a good librarian does is work closely with classroom teachers to deliver the common core instruction and standards,” she said. “In addition to my library administration duties, I also spend a lot of time teaching students about how to conduct research, how to use citation and how to avoid plagiarism. I also help grade a lot of the students’ research papers.”
Yet the 39-year-old mother of two says her favorite part of the job remains her direct interaction with students, particularly when it comes to discussing their shared love of young-adult fiction.
“I think we can all remember what it’s like to be a teenager with all their fears and concerns about fitting in,” she said. “That’s what I love about young-adult literature. It really gets to the heart of those issues and I think being able to talk to students about the books they’re interested in really helps me to connect with them, as well.”