I Love My Librarian

2015 I Love My Librarian Award Winner Dona Helmer: School Librarian and School Leader

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Dona Helmer is a school librarian who realizes that what happens at her library influences the world beyond it.

Tamara Ramsey, a teacher at College Gate Elementary school in Anchorage, Alaska, who nominated Helmer, school librarian, for the 2015 I Love My Librarian Award, said, “Dona feels that libraries and learning are for life. She works hard to help all our students understand that everything can be enhanced by going to the library for help. The library is larger than just a room.”

Helmer has worked with second-grade teachers on a Farm to School program. The second graders learn how to find recipes and nutritional information on the Internet. They also take field trips to the Alaska Botanical Garden and receive instruction from guests about plants and soil, as well as learn about Alaskan home grown vegetables.

The program also sharpens their cooking skills, with the second-grade chefs receiving a crock pot so they can practice at home with their families.  Ramsey said, “The program is awesome and Dona does the bulk of the work—she finds the grants, organizes the bus, finds the speakers and gets the crockpots and vegetables.”

Ramsey said Helmer is an integral part of the educational team at Golden Gate, saying that one sixth-grade teacher said Helmer is more than the school librarian – “she is a curriculum innovator.”

The Kid-friendly Library: 2015 I Love My Librarian Award Winner Leslie Koch

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At Armstrong Elementary School Eastover, North Carolina, more than 60 percent of the children receive free or reduced price school lunch.  Although poverty is perceived to be a predictor of low academic success, the students at Armstrong, despite high levels of poverty, excel in reading and library use.

A major factor is the school librarian, Leslie Koch, whose work garnered her an I Love My Librarian Award in 2015.  The numbers provide strong testimony to the success of her efforts.

During the 2014-15 school year, among the 400 students, the library circulated more than 32,500 books, an average of more than 81 books per student over the course of the year, or greater than nine books per month per student, according to her nominator for the award, Ardry Adams.

Adams said, “Ms. Koch recognizes the importance of reaching all children, and especially those from impoverished homes. Students who read, excel. Ms. Koch is raising the bar, encouraging each student to rise up, read, and excel in their individual academic endeavors.”

I Love My Librarian Award winner Sylvia Cieply: Opening the gateway to reading

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Sylvia Cieply believes that reading can make a difference. Her proving ground is Orange County Juvenile Hall, where Cieply, one of the 10 winners of the 2015 I Love My Librarian Award, serves as school librarian.  Cieply, who directs the Otto A. Fischer School Library, located inside the juvenile hall, has changed the culture at the library.

Her nominator, Dave Busch, alluded to Cervantes in characterizing her approach to running the library. He said that after Cieply took over in December, 2010, “Sylvia handled her new assignment with aplomb,” bringing nine years of experience to the program. “The first credentialed teacher librarian to run the library program, her quest to bring a love of reading is quixotic considering our student body.”

The result, he said, was the transformation of the collection that broadens the thinking of her students and exposes them to positive choices they may not have considered.  The collection has been upgraded to include a variety of faiths and philosophies; money management; career and college choices; LGBT themes; travel; art and YA series.

She explained her philosophy to the Orange County Register, “When students are able to find something they want to read in a collection that’s really diverse and has a lot of different viewpoints and genres, it’s very beneficial. It helps them find a reading level they want; it helps their writing, and it helps their fluency.”

Courage in the face of challenges: I Love My Librarian Award Winner Courtney Kincaid

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More than 50 residents signed challenge forms, aiming to get “My Princess Boy” and “This Day in June” off the shelves of the Hood County Library in Granbury, Texas.

But the library director, Courtney Kincaid, held her ground, refusing to cave under pressure.

“My Princess Boy,” written by Cheryl Kilodavis and illustrated by Suzanne DeSimone, is, according to goodreads.com, “a nonfiction picture book about acceptance. With words and illustrations even the youngest of children can understand, My Princess Boy tells the tale of 4-year-old boy who happily expresses his authentic self by happily dressing up in dresses, and enjoying traditional girl things such as jewelry and anything pink or sparkly.”