PASSIONATE ABOUT SCHOOL LIBRARIES

my origin story

Best job in the world

I completely and utterly love my job working in school libraries but I didn't always know I wanted to be a librarian.

Hi, I'm Madison and welcome to my library. If you have read this far, you might be wondering a little bit about who I am and why I talk so much about school libraries.

I am super passionate about school libraries, literature, reading, books, literacy (including digital, information and media literacy), the school librarian profession and how school libraries support schools, staff, students and their wider communities. I think working in a school library is the best job in the world, but I didn't always have that in my future. In fact, I didn't even know working in a school library was a possible career.

Floral background with headshot

You can work in libraries?

When I finished high school I moved straight into an education degree. I enjoyed working with children and there were always the school holidays to consider. It wasn’t until I was nearing the end of my degree that I started to feel that neither teaching nor working in human services (it was a double degree in these two areas) were for me.

In my second-to-last teaching placement I met a woman who was studying a diploma of library science. This didn’t really register with me, except to think 'I didn’t even know that was a thing,' until my last placement. One afternoon the school asked all preservice teachers to go and assist in the school library. It was a public school and while the school employed a “teacher librarian” that person was actually employed as a full-time classroom teacher, leaving the school library to be run by a grandparent volunteer. As we reshelved books in the dark library space, my fellow preservice teachers were complaining. They were here to teach, not hang out in the library. They were almost fully fledged teachers, what did they need to reshelve books for? What a waste of their time!! As they each left before their scheduled time, I stayed and I was overcome with the desire to never, ever leave the walls of the library. And so, I found a new direction.

I finished my degree and quickly discovered that a Master of Information Studies would open a world of doors into public libraries, academic libraries, prison libraries, medical and specialist libraries and even the CIA, if I so chose. After my time as a preservice teacher, I didn’t even want to consider working in a school.

But desperation makes fools of us all. When I was completing my course in cataloguing, and with no library experience, I found myself needing practical experience. I reached out to my local public library, but they were not taking volunteers, so I turned to my old school. It’s all about who you know and so, despite also not needing any volunteers at the time, they very kindly took me on as a volunteer.

Falling in love

And so began my headlong fall into love with school libraries. The library had changed a lot since I was last at the school. It had moved and instead of two separate buildings, the library was housed all together in a new building. Many of the staff were the same, others new. But under new leadership, this library had burst into life. Shelves and shelves of books offered little nooks for reading, booths for group work, a junior library space and expansive windows overlooking the grounds. It seems idyllic and mostly it was. The library was well supported by leadership and loved by the students. In my time there, I saw the start of a makerspace, genrefication of the collections, and continual movement of the collections. I volunteered and worked there on and off for the next seven years, taking part-time contracts, full-time contracts and full-time work when it was available. I also left for periods of time to work in other school libraries. I was no longer horrified by schools, nor afraid to take up my role as teacher, so long as it was as teacher librarian. I was offered short-term contract positions as teacher librarian and head of library at other schools, enjoying the flexibility my first school library offered me to come and go as needed. Slowly, I built my career as a librarian. Working my way through library volunteer to teacher librarian, library assistant, filling in as a library technician (though never truly having the incredibly full skill set that role requires), and eventually head of library. I highly value each of these specialist roles and the different skills they bring to a library team. 

I'm a librarian

So far, over my nine years volunteering and working in school libraries, I have had the privilege to work at five incredible school libraries and with five incredible school library teams. Each have been different, from P-12 libraries, junior libraries, and secondary libraries. Now, I wouldn’t leave working in a school library for the world. I love it. I love how varied each day is. I love that I get to dabble with everything from marketing and branding to fake news.

It always surprises me that I never considered librarianship a career path. I had been looked after by some incredible librarians during my schooling years, regularly visited public libraries and my mother even worked as a library assistant for a short time!! And yet, it never even entered my mind until many years later. I’m not sure why, all I know is that I am so incredibly grateful to everyone who influenced my journey (even that teacher in my last preservice placement who almost put me off teaching for LIFE) and especially my mother who guided me, introduced me to a love of reading, made sure I had constant access to books and supported me through all my twists and turns. Now, I make sure to tell my students that a career in librarianship is a possibility and a wonderful one. I try to turn as many teachers to the “dark side” (aka library) as possible and constantly talk about the importance of libraries. I hope that one day I too can inspire someone to enter the magical world of libraries. I promise, once you do, you’ll never want to leave.

Becoming a reader

I've always been a reader. I have fond memories of being read to by my mother, who instilled in me a love for story. We'd gather on her bed as she read to us. I remember very clearly when my grandfather gifted us a 4-in-1 copy of the first four books in the Famous Five series. So began a love for reading and disappearing into fictional worlds. I was a school and public library regular throughout my childhood, though I didn't always read what my teachers "thought" I should be reading. When I was in Year 8 I remember my English teacher sending me to the Secondary School Library. At this point I was still reading and borrowing from the Junior Library, aided and abetted by my favourite Librarian (who I'd later have the absolute privilege of working with). I'd sneak into the Junior Library and borrow my favourites, including the most gorgeously perfumed copy of Eva Ibbotson's Journey To The River Sea, and the Thoroughbred Series. After being caught one day by my English teacher, off to the Secondary Library I was sent. I had no interest in moving away from my favourite titles, particularly if they were anything like the titles we were being forced to read in English.

About

A reading adventure

However, off to the Secondary Library I went. There, the teacher librarian presented me with two recommendations. The first was something like Lily's Garden, about a girl who was growing and selling plants. A simple and fairly enjoyable story. The other was Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier. I remember being completed shocked by the rape scene and later love scene, though I enjoyed the fantasy and world building well enough. Being both scandalised and unimpressed, I returned to sneaking into the Junior Library and not telling my English teacher what I was reading and borrowing from the public library. I enjoyed everything from Australian classics including the Billabong series by Mary Grant Bruce to Harry Potter.

My reading world opened for me when I won a gift voucher for a local bookshop. There I met the most wonderful Witch of Literature and Story. And no, I'm not talking about Hermione or Rowling. I'm talking about a Children's Literacy Specialist by the name of Nina. I had first met Nina previously when I was collecting a preordered copy of the latest Harry Potter release when she was dressed as a witch but it wasn't until this second meeting that Nina truly changed my life. Nina ran a book club where young readers would read and review the advanced copies sent to the bookshop. As she helped me select a book to spend my voucher on (Nightpeople by Anthony Eaton) Nina mentioned this club. Half jokingly, I asked if I could join. Suddenly I was introduced to the towers of books hidden on the stairs behind the checkout desk and in storage behind (I kid you not) moving bookcases. These titles had covers removed or plain white covers with titles and release dates stamped on them. These were the books no one else had read. This appealed to my unique (and selfish) soul. I would take and read as many of these books as I could carry. I would then write out and then type my reviews to return with the books for Nina to add to her book club publication - a little printed book of reviews. These were my first published reviews.

While reading for Nina she introduced me to some of my favourite books and authors. I read an advanced copy of Twilight by Stephanie Meyer, when it had its original Australian cover - a purple beige ghostly type school hallway - and New Moon when it was still in manuscript form. I read advanced copies of Maria Snyder's Magic series and then worked backwards to complete the series. I read advanced copies of Hood by Stephen Lawhead, North Child by Edith Pattou, The Recruit by Robert Muchamore and so many more. Some I still own, their plain white covers now spotted with age and humidity (the tropics are not kind to books). Others are simply fond memories and a journey of love.

My secondary school library did eventually win me over and I found some titles to love, but I was mostly content reading my advanced copies. I credit my school library with getting me hooked on Christian fiction. I stumbled upon book 6 in the O'Malley series by Dee Henderson and fell in love with an adult world of crime fighting, romance and faith. I found I was now, as a 17-year-old, reading both children's fiction, young adult and adult fiction and loving it all.

Origin Story Review copy Books

I continued to read for Nina after high school and only stopped when the bookshop sadly removed her position. Such a loss for the world of children's literature. Nina would have made the most wonderful children's librarian, in a public or school library, and I so often wonder where her journey next took her. I can only thank her for her guidance and passion for reading, which she shared with me. She shared her story of struggle with dyslexia. She gave me my first public speaking event about reading, speaking to teacher librarians on a panel alongside Tristan Bancks, C.J. Burke and James Moloney, as well as another young reader. She also introduced me to a world of publishing and advanced copies, writing reviews and finding that perfect book for every reader.

Diving into online reviewing

In 2015 I started this blog as a way to continue reviewing books and sharing my love of reading with a wider audience. I now read for publishers around the world. This blog has also become a place to talk about school libraries and share my passion for the librarian profession. I love to share the things I get to do every day in my school library as well as research, resources and links to professional learning. I might be slightly addicted to professional learning and I love how there is still so much to learn about school libraries and improve in my practice.

If you would like to learn more about my reviews or review policy, you'll find it here. 

I love to hear from others who also love school libraries, so please do get in touch. Thank you for joining me on this wild and exciting journey. Happy reading.

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