Q&A with Terri Grief, president-elect of the American Association of School Librarians

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Terri Grief
Terri Grief

Terri Grief, school media librarian at Reidland High School (McCracken County), has been elected as the 2014-2015 president of the American Association of School Librarians (AASL). She will serve as the president-elect for AASL during 2013-14.

Grief has served as president of the Kentucky Library Association (KLA) and president of the Kentucky Association of School Librarians (KASL) (formerly KSMA). KSMA recognized Grief as the “Outstanding School Librarian” in 2001, and the McCracken County Education Association awarded her “Teacher of the Year” in 2002.

Q: Tell us about your involvement in library professional organizations and how that has helped you be a better school librarian.

A: Most school librarians are an “only,” so we have no group at our building level that gives us support. If I had not been involved in my professional associations, I would not have the skill set that I have now. Students often ask me if I learned computer skills in my college classes. I tell them that the only computers that I knew about in college were as big as a room and there was a card with holes in it that somehow a computer read! I remember hearing about the Internet at a KLA/KASL Fall Conference, and I couldn’t wait to get back to school to work on a dial-up connection so I could get students information that I didn’t have in the library. I can’t think where my students would be if I hadn’t kept up with new ideas, technologies and ways to reach them that I’ve learned about due to my involvement in my professional associations. Being a member of KLA and KASL has allowed me to have “experts” at my fingertips, from public librarians and academic librarians and the whole state of Kentucky’s school librarians. Learning what other librarians across the nation are providing for their students is the best way that I know of to give the students in Kentucky the same benefits.

Q: What is/was your platform during the election process?

A: I truly feel that school librarians impact students’ lives in ways that aren’t always measured on a test. We help students become lifelong lovers of learning and reading. We encourage students to be inquisitive, to be critical thinkers and to love reading for enjoyment as well as to learn about things that interest them. We don’t seem to want to tell anyone about it. We have to become more proactive in telling administrators, school board members, parents and teachers that we are an important wheel in the education of our kids. My platform this year is all about advocacy and how we have to be able to brag a little on ourselves, not in a self- serving way but because we really do impact the well-being of our nation!

Q: What are your big goals during your presidency?

A: I hope to give librarians throughout the nation the tools they need to become more proactive. Many states are losing librarians due to budget cuts, and we really aren’t peripheral. We can’t be replaced with computers or with aides. My biggest goal is to help reverse this trend. Librarians have to begin speaking out about what we do and why it is so important. With this, I want to grow the membership of our professional association. We are so much more powerful as a group than we are when we stand alone.

Q: How do you think Kentucky school libraries are viewed by other states?

A: Very positively! We have a good reputation for having librarians in every school, even though that is reversing here as well.

Q: How can Kentucky school librarians become involved in local, state and national professional organizations?

A: Join! It isn’t expensive when you look at dividing it up. KLA and ALA are the “mother” organizations to the school library division. Joining those larger associations gives us contacts with librarians who are going to serve our students as college students and as adults in the real world. Joining our specific division helps every librarian in the nation because those associations have contacts outside to the library world, like PTA and NEA. Why should they? We have the duty to belong. If legislation passes that helps librarians, it helps all librarians, not just those who are members.

QYou are famous for reading hundreds of books each year in order to match the right books to your students. What are a few of your favorites from this past year?

A: I don’t really read HUNDREDS, I read at least 100. This year, I love The Right and the Real, I’ll Be There and Boy, Nobody. I could go on and on, but I will stop with three!

Q: Anything else you’d like to share?

A: I want librarians to realize that we are important to every child that we touch. Sometimes we get overwhelmed with all the extra duties that we take on and all the other things that go along with being a school librarian, but we need to remember that we are special, and we are vital to a well-rounded education for the kids of Kentucky.

 

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