Member of the Month

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Member of the Month

Janice Newsum
Library Services Specialist, Houston Independent School District, Houston, Texas

Professional experience

Child psychologist was my intended career when I began college, but my life as a wife and mother lead to teaching instead. Remembering the advice of an elderly aunt that teachers had the best of both worlds, a career and quality time as a parent, I pursued a graduate degree in education after the birth of my first child. Finding that I actually liked teaching young children and being on the same daily and vacation schedule as my own child, I embarked upon a twenty-two year career as an early childhood and elementary teacher before becoming a school librarian.

My very first job as a teenager was working in the Memphis Public Library as a shelf reader. I made all of $1.25 per hour, working 20 hours per week! My work-study job in college was in the book repair department at Rhodes College (Memphis, Tennessee). My first job as a librarian was at Golfcrest Elementary (Houston), followed by five years as the librarian at THE Jack Yates High School (Houston). For the past 10 years, I have served the students of the Houston Independent School District in the Department of Library Services as a Library Services Specialist. I have a master's degree in early childhood education, an MS in Library and Information Studies, and I am presently pursuing my doctorate at Florida State University.

My library mentor insisted that professional development through conference attendance and seminars/workshops was a crucial component of a librarian's leadership. She personally drove me to my first TLA conference in 1998. She introduced me to TLA volunteer opportunities, the Black Caucus Round Table (BCRT), and the Children's Round Table. I have been a member of the TLA Program Committee, Local Arrangements Committee, Texas Book Festival Committee, and chair of BCRT. I am currently a member of the TLA Diversity and Inclusion Committee, vice-chair of the Upstart Innovative Programming Award Committee, and Alternate Councilor for the Distance E-Learning Round Table. Nationally, I have served as a member of the Library of Congress Professional Development Review Committee, as a program reviewer for the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), as a media representative for the National History Education Clearinghouse, and as a training partner for Teaching with Primary Sources at the University of Central Florida.

Innovative library practices
One of the most innovative library practices is the maker spaces movement in school libraries. Students and librarians are creating spaces where students can engage a plethora of activities ranging from building lego structures to learning coding. These dynamic places are bringing new meaning to the definition of a library. School librarians are at the leading edge of library transformation and revitalization.

Favorite literary character or book
My mother is an avid reader. Granted she read dime novels and romance magazines, but she modeled reading as an activity of choice. As a child growing up in a large family (6 siblings and 3 cousins under the same roof), books were plentiful in my home and censorship was non-existent. We read whatever we desired and "I'm going to the library" always liberated us to go wherever we wanted (just as long as we were home soon after library closing time). My mother read aloud to us, and my fondest memory is my mother reading the Sweet Flypaper of Life by Roy Decarava and Langston Hughes. To a poor girl in the deep South, Harlem, New York seemed to be a magically enchanted place. Langston Hughes remains my absolute favorite author!

Most memorable TLA experience
TLA has afforded me numerous memorable occasions. Serving as chair of BCRT stands out because that year, the inaugural BCRT Encouragement Award was presented to Catherine Lee. Mrs. Lee is a notable inspiration for many of us at TLA. I was so honored to recognize her for the devotion she brought to mentoring new TLA members and potential leaders.

Created on Nov 1, 2011 | Last updated December 01, 2014