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Between the Lines: December Member Spotlight

Between the Lines: Member Spotlight, TLA News

Jennifer Coleman
School Librarian
Murchison Elementary, Pflugerville ISD

What inspired you to become a librarian?
My mother, Lorraine Bingham! She was a Cataloging/ Government Documents Librarian at Texas Tech University from 1977-2004, and she encouraged me. I had been a classroom teacher a few years before I took mom’s advice and specialized. We ended up having the same library professors through UNT’s library science program, including (the late) Dr. Yvonne Chandler.

What is an innovative practice at your library that you’d like to share with others?
I won a grant and also an award for my “Ride and Read Initiative,” which brings bicycle desks into the library. Students crave kinesthetic opportunities…the kids love to pedal and read; the bikes are in use constantly (I want more!) My library’s bicycles were featured on the local news and subsequent social media posts were shared — I heard from librarians statewide, and even a few outside of Texas, wanting to know how I made it work in my school. Connecting with creative librarians from all over was extremely rewarding.

If you could have dinner with three authors (living or dead), who would they be and why?
Calef Brown
, because his work is pure genius, and I love how he interprets the world in a wild, whimsical way.
Sharon Draper, because her books always hit me right in the feels; she expands my views.
Beverly Cleary because Beezus & Ramona was the first chapter book I ever checked out and read, and Beverly is an ICON.

What are you reading right now?
Show Me a Sign by Ann Clare LeZotte.

What is your most memorable Texas Library Association Experience?
My mom and I would attend TLA for years together in the 1990s and early 2000s, before she retired. Though we attended different sessions, we would meet up to grab lunch, walking by the TLA Autograph area. I’ve been a children’s writer as long as I’ve been a librarian, but the publishing path is different for all of us, and mine has taken the scenic route! I used to say, someday I will be on that TLA Author Autograph board. In 2018, 22 years after my first TLA Conference, I finally got to be on the Autograph board for my Pelican Publishing title, The Texas Nutcracker. My mom was so proud! It was a ‘come full circle’ moment for me, and I look forward to being on the Autograph board again in 2022 after my next release, Come and Git It! Cookie and his Cowboy Chuckwagon’s Day on the Trail.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, how have you had to adjust the way you provide library services? How is your library operating for this fall?
As a solo librarian with about 860 students and 50+ faculty, it has been a huge adjustment to be told I can have no parent volunteers right now. If I am the engine of the car, my beloved volunteers are all the other moving parts that help me achieve a high level of service and collaboration that I am accustomed to providing. Adjusting to no outside assistance has been tough, but I’ve altered my schedule with my school administration’s support and reduced the number of materials circulated to make it work. With reduced numbers of students allowed in, I’m able to open space for small group Interventionists like Speech Therapy who need a larger area for social distancing teaching. I look forward to the day where full normalcy can return. I miss the constant buzz of energy in the library.

“I am a TLA member because…” of the networking and educational opportunities that TLA has provided for me over the years. Dollar for dollar, there are both intrinsic and extrinsic rewards to be had by being a TLA member!