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Between the Lines: May Member Spotlight

Between the Lines: Member Spotlight, TLA Annual Conference, TLA Membership
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Katherine Counterman
Library Media Specialist
David and Terri Youngblood Elementary School

What inspired you to become a librarian?
I am a quintessential child of books. Picture the first few chapters of Matilda by Roald Dahl and you will have a good idea of what my childhood was like. (The walking to the library, checking out 10+ books, and reading in my free time, not the terrible parents part). I like to joke that I became a school librarian to justify all the middle-grade and picture books that I still read as an adult! However, my true origin story began once I became an elementary school teacher. I didn’t know when I started that there was such a thing as a certified school librarian, and when I saw an advertisement for a cohort from the University of Houston – Clear Lake, I went for it. There is no other job where you get to work with all the students PK-5 in teaching them informational literacy and guiding them in learning about themselves as readers.

What is an innovative practice at your library/organization (current or former) that you’d like to share with others?
I’m not sure how innovative it is, but I always bring in the community as much as possible by partnering with the PTA and local organizations. Not only does it help with recruiting volunteers and receiving funding/donations for events, but it also spreads awareness of everything the school library has to offer. Unlike public libraries, where parents usually visit WITH their children, many parents never set foot in a school library except for the occasional book fair. I prefer to reach as many families as possible so they can help support library initiatives and see the value in what their school library has to offer. Typically, once parents are brought into the planning and implementation of special library programs and events, they have a much higher participation and success rate.

If you could have dinner with three authors (living or dead), who would they be and why?
I am going to choose authors that I have had the pleasure of speaking with before because I would hate to have dinner with someone only to realize they are incredibly boring or a terrible person. The first two would be Jerry Craft and Jarrett J. Krosoczka. They are all around nice guys who had me cracking up last year at TLA with stories of the pranks they like to pull on each other. The third spot is hard – there are so many amazing authors that I respect and admire. I’m going to have to go with whomever Mr. Craft and Mr. Krosoczka bring with them – like a surprise guest!

What are you reading right now?
I just finished What Lies in the Woods by Kate Alice Marshall. You’ve caught me in a rare moment where I’m reading books written for adults.

What is your most memorable Texas Library Association Experience?
Hands down, participating in the TALL Texans program in 2022 (#bestclasseva). I applied three times before being accepted, which made the experience much more meaningful. I knew I had areas to grow in, and this was the class I was meant to be in. It is truly an eye-opening experience where you learn about so much more than how to be a better librarian. I learned how to be a better person overall. I was privileged to be in a class with librarians and mentors that I was positive would look at me and wonder why I was there. Just seeing their names on the acceptance list gave me imposter syndrome! It was so impactful to listen and learn from each other. TALL gave me confidence and a toolbox to pull from when I feel unbalanced. It also gave me lifelong friends.

Advice to new librarians?
It is extra hard to be a school librarian in Texas right now. I probably don’t have to explain why – if you are starting this journey, you are already in the classroom and have heard everything. Just know that nothing that you hear in the media is about YOU. It is about certain groups trying to gain control of whatever it is they feel is out of control. Please don’t internalize it. Focus on your WHY and reach out to the community for support. The more you invite parents in, the more they become supporters who help spread the word about all the amazing things that happen in a school library.

Share your hobbies, hidden talents, anything people might not know about you.
I love to play tabletop games (board games; card games), travel with my family, read, and most things sci-fi/fantasy. Does “knows a ridiculous amount of random trivia” count as a hidden talent? Something people might not know about me is that I was born and raised in University Heights, OH (a suburb of Cleveland). No, I do not know LeBron James.

Anything else you would like to share?
I am a firm believer that the school library profession is a state of mind (or as I’ve recently come to think of it – a “whole mood.”) Every single certified librarian in a school is also a teacher. Every school librarian that I have the pleasure of knowing is fully invested in the whole school, not just the library. If you have children, please urge them to write a nice note or draw a picture for their school librarian. If you do not have children or your children are grown, please take a moment to e-mail the librarian at your neighborhood school. With news of budget cuts and school librarian positions being eliminated, they will appreciate it more than you know.

Please finish this sentence. “I am a TLA member because…”
I value the importance of libraries in our state (and beyond!) and TLA provides me with avenues to advocate this importance with like-minded professionals.