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Between the Lines: September Member Spotlight

Between the Lines: Member Spotlight, TLA News

Jenny Filardo
Middle School Librarian
Presbyterian School in Houston

What inspired you to become a librarian? When I began my master’s degree at UT Austin over 28 years ago, it was with the intent of working in museums or archives. The very last class of my degree, however, was Materials for Children, and that one class changed the trajectory of my life. While I was always a huge reader, it was in that class that the proverbial light bulb went off – I wanted to share my love of books and reading with kids.

What is an innovative practice at your library that you’d like to share with others? I know I don’t teach lessons any better than other librarians across the state. My strong suit, I feel, is in the connection I’m able to create with students. In my middle school of 225 students, I know the reading tastes of most kids, and I’m able to make helpful book suggestions. If I come across a book that I know a kid will like, I’ll check it out to that student and put it in his or her locker with a note that says I think they’ll enjoy the book. Instant smile generator!

If you could have dinner with three authors (living or dead), who would they be and why? I’d like to thank Louise Penny, author of the Canadian mysteries featuring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, for her books. I read all 16 in the series last spring/summer 2020; a time when COVID-19 was changing everything about how the world functioned, our country was experiencing political unrest, and my mother’s health was declining swiftly. Gamache, with his unerring moral compass, kindness, and overall genius, provided the perfect balm for my spirit. Plus, who wouldn’t want to hang out with all the fabulous folk in the Three Pines community?  Leigh Bardugo, author of Shadow and Bone and the other fantastic books in her Grishaverse. I just finished Rule of Wolves, perhaps my favorite of the lot, and I need to know what happens next in Ravka! And finally, Jason Reynolds. Because he’s a rock star. ‘Nuff said.

What am I reading right now? I just finished all the books in Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse, so now I can watch the Netflix series Shadow and Bone. I’m looking forward to discussing and comparing the books vs. the TV program with my students. I’m reading the gothic mystery Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier now and will begin Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia this week.

My most memorable Texas Library Association experience: My mother joined me at the TLA Annual Conference in San Antonio about 15 years ago. I got my love of reading from my parents, especially my mom, and I knew she would love the workshops and presentations. Sharon Creech, Walter Dean Myers, Avi, and Sarah Weeks staged a reader’s theater of Love That Dog. Both Mama and I were in tears by the end, it was such a powerful performance.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, how did you have to adjust the way you provide library services? How is your library operating now? How will the fall look? While the virus changed everything about the 2020-21 school year, the administration at my school handled all the daily changes incredibly. We were in the building from the beginning of September through May, and even though the students were confined to their homeroom classrooms, we got to see each other face-to-face, or more appropriately, mask-to-mask every day. The physical library was closed, but I was able to get books in the hands of students using a Google form. The kids sharpened their skills at using the online catalog and filled out and submitted a Google form with the books they wanted. I’m thrilled to say that the library will be open when school begins in August, and I can have classes again.

I am a TLA member because: How can a Texas librarian not support TLA? Everything they do is to make our libraries stronger. They help and fight for every type of library and every type of librarian, whether your title is teacher-librarian, media specialist, or librarian. Education, resources, support – TLA provides it all. We all win with TLA watching over Texas libraries.