MY STORY ABOUT WINNING THIS YEAR'S "I Love My Librarian Award!"
On November 19th, I was enjoying my fifth year leading my annual all school reading program called "Sakai Reads" when I received an interesting message on my voice mail. Would I please return the call of Maureen Sullivan, Past President of the American Library Association???
I found a free moment and, since our building has cellular dead spots, I ran out into the parking lot in front of our building. From her I found out that I was one of ten winners of the New York Times / Carnegie Corporation's "I Love My Librarian" award.
I burst into tears.
While I knew that one of my fabulous para-educator colleagues had been nominating me for the last three years, I never ever thought that I would win. It was humbling enough to know that she thought well of me and found enough other kids and teachers that thought the same.
After finishing my call with Maureen Sullivan, I ran back inside because the next thing on the schedule for that busy day was to host a pizza party for a group of 6th graders who had all read Edward Bloor's Tangerine. We had a great time talking about that book and others and the news started to sink in:
It is unheard of to love what you're doing, feel good about your contribution... and then get recognized for the work that you do. It is like being struck by lightning.
The weeks that followed were a blur of quietly planning to go to New York with so many people helping me financially to buy plane tickets for myself and my son. My husband used his frequent flier miles to get there and someone else gifted me with two nights at a hotel. I was asked to keep the news quiet, which was hard to do! I eventually told all the teachers at my school.
The trip to NYC was amazing. Having once been a New Yorker, I had a great time sharing my love of the city with my son and husband and visiting old friends.
Meeting the other honorees was very humbling as well. There are so many ways to define what it means to be a librarian and I think that there was an amazing mix of innovative ideas paired with the very traditional notion of library service: who is it that is benefiting from your work? Is it the college undergrad who gets to touch a 500 year-old book for the first time and finds himself turned on to history? Harold M. Forbes is responsible for this.
Is it the high school kids who lost their rural bus service to their homes and spend their time every afternoon in the public library in their small community where they are loved and valued to the point where one in their midst wrote a very eloquent letter for their public librarian -- Holly Camino?
Those are only two of the amazing librarians that I was able to talk to.
But what has happened since returning to the Island has been even more exciting. There was a big banner in the front of my library and my students had taken turns signing it. There was an even bigger banner in a central location of our island, which is called the "Roundabout." There was an article in the Bainbridge Review in the Kitsap Sun and on the front of my school district's Web site.
For the two days before we went on winter break, I would walk into a classroom and the kids would break into spontaneous applause. I went on our morning broadcast system on the first day back and I hope that they heard what I said to them. I don't always get it right ALL the time, especially in terms of finding just the right book for them. BUT I always want to get it right. And I won't give up on my efforts to help them.
For the last month and a half I've had a little bit of celebrity on my small island, with parents who's kids have passed through my school coming up to me in the store to congratulate me and to tell me that it is well deserved. I was at our Foundation Auction last night and someone came up to say how proud they were of me. While I'm still having trouble knowing what to say (I'm a very private person, actually!), I am exceptionally grateful that I've made people on my island proud.