Sue Kowalski, 2012 Winner of the I Love My Librarian Award: 'It's all about the children'


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School librarians reach the students in our nation's schools in many ways.

They work with teachers as active players in delivering their curriculum. They interact with parents. And they participate in the daily give-and-take with students, giving them guidance on books and other library materials that will prepare them for future challenges in both school and life itself.

A living example of this kind of dedication is one of the recipients of the 2012 I Love My Librarian Award, Sue Kowalski, library media specialist at Pine Grove Middle School in East Syracuse, N.Y.

Nominator Zach Collins said Kowalski makes the library a better place.

Collins praises Kowalski as an innovator, citing one of those innovations, the  "iStaff Mobile Innovation Studio," which he called "a mobile station equip complete with an iPad, a projector, a computer or two, and the very smart students who would help other peers with work and/or projects."

Another nominator, Mary & Barb Kippley & Panarites, said Kowalski has an "it's all about the children" attitude.

They point to the recognition of Pine Grove as the National School Library Program of the Year (NSLPY) by the Association of School Librarians (AASL), a division of the American Library Association (ALA).

Sponsored by Follett Library Resources, the NSLPY recognizes school library programs that meet the needs of the changing school and library environment and are fully integrated into the school's curriculum. Each recipient receives $10,000 toward its school library program.

In the nomination, they said, "Sue always has an open door policy for everyone who seeks to learn not to mention just being there for a friendly chat, encouraging word, or a place to relax. Recently, she divided the library area in to 'learning commons' and shared space for learning, testing, quiet reads, relaxing, etc. This method of “common areas” can accommodate several groups and individuals at one time. Students flock to her for an uplift to their day and know her care and concern for them is genuine. Teachers and administrators seek her out for research, innovation and collaborative ideas."

The word "fun" crops up in connection with Kowalski. They mention such events as the 6th grade Mythapalooza, in which staff, teachers and students take part as ancient Gods and Goddesses in complete regalia for event that features time-specific foods, music, poetry and music.

She has also arranged author visits that engage students with the author's works, as well as Bookapaloozas, community reads that have featured a carnival (replete with dunk tank), a peace rally, a silent auction to benefit the fight against breast cancer and a "plate smashing" in which pieces of the broken plates despict strife and stress in the world were used to make mosaics illustrating how bad can be turned into good.

Kowalski has been instrumental in moving her school into the 21st Century; as the district began to implement the national Common Core Standards, she embarked on a  project to computerize the Pre-k library. This will enable teachers to easily match books to their curriculum.

In addition to being a leader in her school district, she is a leader within her profession. She is president of the New York Library Association - Section of School Librarians (NYLA-SSL) and has also served as president elect and in other capacities for that group.

She is also an active member of the American Library Association (ALA), American Association of School Libraries (AASL), New York Library Association (NYLA) and its affiliate School Library Media Section (SLMS).

An example of her advocacy was her trip with three students during Library Legislative Day at the New York State Capital in Albany, N.Y.

The goal was to remind senators and assemblymen of the impact of libraries on students achievement and their readiness for career and college.

As nominator Marcia Kelley wrote, "Students presented directly to our local Senator and to the aides of two local Assemblymen. Not every activity impacts the entire student body, but for these 3 students who expressed an interest to share their passion of libraries on lobby day, it was a (good) fit and a memorable experience that will last a lifetime."

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