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Between the Lines: July Member Spotlight

Between the Lines: Member Spotlight, TLA News

Donald Cummings, Librarian

Lady Bird Johnson Middle School

Irving ISD


What inspired you to become a librarian?
I have loved reading and libraries ever since I was a kid. I grew up in Conroe, and I was always at the local branch of the Montgomery County Library. I loved getting lost in those rows of books, feeling like there was so much there to discover and learn. As an adult, I taught English for twelve years. I loved teaching English, and the parts I loved the most were talking about the books my students and I were reading, suggesting new books, reading aloud, and trying to help my students that “didn’t read” see that reading was for them, too (even if they didn’t realize it yet). Becoming a librarian seemed like a way I could get to do all of the things I really loved, full-time, and with the whole school!

What is an innovative practice at your library that you’d like to share with others?
COVID-19 has put many things on hold and forced us to change the way we reach our students. During the end of the 2020 school year, when everyone was homebound, I used Flipgrid pages to promote eBooks to each ELAR class, and to get conversations going about reading. This year, our district has been using Canvas, and I was able to enroll all students in our library Canvas course. This has been a great tool to communicate with both in-person and at-home learners. I have been using Canvas to post fun Check-It-Out Challenges to engage students and to promote reading and our district online resources. I also hope that soon we will be able to start up gamer’s club, D&D club, and our Family Library Open House nights again. It’s a lot of work to put those events together, but when they go off well, they are the best. It is the greatest feeling to see our students, families, and teachers in the library learning, creating, and having a good time together.

If you could have dinner with three authors (living or dead), who would they be and why?
My first would probably be Roald Dahl, because his books were really what started me reading as a kid. I had a second-grade teacher who would read his books aloud, and those books were just magical to me. If I met Roald Dahl I’d tell him thanks for all of those wonderful stories (which I still enjoy).

I think my second choice would be Ray Bradbury. Ray could tell such a great story, and with the most beautiful, poetic writing. I would love to just listen to Ray talk about books and libraries and outer space and automatons and anything else he felt inclined to talk about.

And for my third choice, I would probably pick Neal Stephenson. I love his books. His characters are unforgettable, his ideas are so inventive and smart, and every book feels like such an epic journey. I’m not sure what I’d ask him, but, again, I would love to say thank you for the amazing trips he has taken me on.

What are you reading right now?
Charlie Thorne and the Last Equation by Stuart Gibbs. It’s our current book club selection and we are enjoying it!

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, how have you had to adjust the way you provide library services?
At the beginning of this school year (2020-2021), I feel like most of us were scrambling to figure out how to best meet student needs within crazy pandemic parameters. Students couldn’t just come to the library to browse for books, so how could we still support them as readers and make our library resources available? Well, librarians have been rising to the challenge! Our district has a robust eBook collection, and we heavily promoted those titles on our Sora platform. As far as physical library books, for months I loaded up carts of books and took them to English classrooms on their library day. My wonderful English department also regularly let me join their Zoom classes to present library lessons. During that time I would also booktalk a handful of books and deliver them to interested students immediately after. Thankfully, we are starting to be able to have students in the library again. It’s great getting back to normal, but also good to know that we are capable of coming up with creative solutions when we have to!

I am a TLA member because:
I love being a school librarian. It’s great to have an organization that is there to promote my profession, and to support me professionally. I look forward to TLA sessions helping me grow and learn so I can be my best for my students and my school.