Katelynn Scott from Alfred G. Waters Middle School selected for state award

Katelynn Scott at Alfred G. Waters Middle School shatters the stereotype of a stern librarian constantly scolding students to be quiet.

Scott has become such a favorite of the students that there’s a line to visit the library during lunch, the “Makerspace” has become a popular spot for budding inventors, and the Girls Who Code program she co-leads has started selling snacks as a fundraiser for the group since there are so many students in the library after school.

For her accomplishments and her innovative programs, she was recognized by the Delaware Association of School Librarians with the School Librarian of the Year Award at the Appoquinimink Board of Education meeting June 12.

Scott took the time to answer questions about her service at A.G. Waters Middle School in these excerpts from a story provided by the Appoquinimink School District. The full story is available on the school district’s website.

What does it mean to be honored as Delaware's School Librarian of the Year?

I feel very honored to be given this award. It reflects what has been some hard and purposeful work as well as the wellspring of support I’ve received from my peers and the community. I have been mentored by an amazing group of Appoquinimink School District librarians, affirmed by my school administration, and enjoy the backing of the community.

Without the army of AGW staff, parent volunteers, excited students, friends from other buildings, my family, and funding we’ve been able to secure, our library program would not be half of what it is today. As I am honored, I hope to shine light on all that is wonderful about our school and district.

Does your new title come with certain duties/responsibilities?

My new role doesn’t carry any specific expectations, but I feel it’s important for librarians (teachers, school administrators, parents, and school boards) to advocate for strong library programs in our schools.

Librarians wear many hats. I build digital literacy by guiding students through the research process utilizing iPads, online databases, and resource analysis. I encourage reading literacy through literature circle discussion, book talks, and general book promotion. I assist teachers in their quest to help students become better writers by co-teaching writing lessons. But I also seek to expose students to new and exciting technology through our library tinker times, and facilitate relationship building and friendships by providing a safe space in the building for all to gather.

Having trained library staff in our schools increases test scores and provides crucial support for teachers as they execute research projects with their students.

What drew you to the profession and what keeps you passionate about it?

I credit my mother with establishing the spark. My family visited the library on a weekly basis growing up, and getting my first library card was a big deal! I’ve always loved libraries and reading.

It wasn’t until I was a teacher (at Redding Middle School) that I decided to pursue my master’s degree in library science. I credit Redding librarian Tamra Pearson with giving me the professional support and encouragement I needed to follow my dream.

My first year as a librarian at Waters Middle School showed me that I’d made the right choice. I love the collaborative nature of my work, and the ability I have to assist teachers as they plan les¬sons and educate their students. A typical day can include library administrative tasks, co-teaching in core classes, accompanying students on a field trip, and book clubs at lunch. It’s extremely satisfying to know my contributions are making a difference!

How do you keep the role of librarian relevant?

Who doesn’t love a place where they can engage in learning about topics they enjoy, explore new technology and ideas, hang out with friends, and know they’ll be welcomed with a smile?

As librarians we need to be attuned to the goings on in our buildings, active in our pursuit of literacy and strong research practices, committed to collaborating with teachers, focused on engaging with students, and dedicated to implementing changes in our programs and collections to meet the changing needs of our school community. If we’re doing these things, our students’ attraction to the library and its services will be natural and overwhelming.

On an average day, how many students will you work with?

When I’m teaching lessons in the library or in a classroom, I typically interact with 120 students. If we’re doing book checkout for an entire grade, that number can soar to more than 300. When I’m hosting the Lunch Bunch, it’s not uncommon to have 30 kids at a time in the library for each lunch shift (we have three), plus random visitors throughout the day, not to mention library aides, and the teachers who come through to collaborate. It’s always fluctuating and always an adventure!

How can you tell if you’re successful?

To see the whole picture, you need to look beyond circulation numbers and test scores. I also measure things like the number of teachers who seek my help from year to year (it’s growing!), the number of programs I initiate, and the attendance at those programs.

I see success when students chose to search on the University of Delaware library databases instead of Google, when they have the vocabulary and knowledge to discuss the importance of search engine filters, when they explain to me how they’ve solved a glitch in their HTML code, or found a solution to a problem with some of our library tech. All of these are measures of growth, improvement, and satisfaction in their education.

Can you tell us about Girls Who Code (GWC)?

GWC is group that encourages students in their quest to become proficient in computer science. It’s one of my favorite parts of the job, because I get to encourage the girls and boys to become more confident and creative in an area that is quickly becoming one of the most exciting career paths in our country.

This year, GWC’s leadership team also took on the responsibility of running our Shark Shack. (We sold after-school snacks to hungry learners.) So, I made lots of trips to Wal-Mart!

Would you explain how the “Makerspace” program works?

The “Maker” movement grew out of the idea that libraries should provide the public with materials to increase their literacy in many areas. At its most basic level, it’s a space where you can make things (electronics, robotics, woodworking, sewing, programming …or some combination of these skills) or attend events run by qualified libraries to learn more about technology, grow your creativity, and build technology and digital literacy.

At AGW, our makerspace is an open area in the library where students can gather on a daily basis to create, invent, tinker, explore and discover using a variety of tools and materials. It includes a collection of items: power tools, hand tools, Play Doh and clay, Legos, two 3D printers. We also have a technology sandbox where kids can come learn to fly drones, code Ozobots, make stop-motion animation videos with our green screen and their iPads, and so much more!

Why has it become so important?

It opens a whole world of creative opportunities. In our makerspace, I see students exploring all kinds of self-selected topics and they’re constantly collaborating to build and make something new. If I let them, I have a group of sixth-graders who would probably build 3D creations on the library computers all day long. I have to shoo them away at the end of their 30-minute lunch with the promise, “Yes, I will print your fidget cube pieces.”

Some of our students come from homes where tech toys are available – but others do not. The library is a place where they too can play with tiny robots, and in the process, become more fluent in the language of coding, circuitry, gyroscopes, hardware, and photography. It closes an achievement gap of sorts to offer exposure to all of our students.

Where do you see libraries heading in the future?

I had the opportunity to present a paper at the national Young Adult Library Services Association conference in Louisville, Kentucky this year and was overwhelmed by all the fabulous ideas I heard. Libraries are offering classes about topics like filing taxes, navigating the health care system, and even “adulting” for the millennial generation (teaching members how to sew on a button, shop for auto insurance, and balance a checkbook). Attendance at toddler story time is high, and the use of online databases continues to grow. Despite what some people say, the printed word is still popular – even if more people are buying their books through Amazon than physical bookstores. In this generation of #FakeNews, certified school librarians are a necessity to help students traverse the ocean of information available online. If we keep our focus on providing the tools necessary for a literate and well-informed society, even if the vehicles we use to get there change, I think we’re going to be just fine.