I'm pleased to post this interview with my friend, Ramona Kerby, Ph.D., a professor and Coordinator of the School Library Media Program in the Graduate Studies at McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland.
1. Mona, I know you and your husband used to own a bookstore in Texas. Can you tell us your pathway to your current position at McDaniel College?
I earned my Ph.D. while I was a school librarian, but liked my job so much, I stayed for a long time. After I had learned as much as I could, I saw an advertisement that McDaniel College (formerly Western Maryland College) was looking for a Coordinator of the Graduate School Library Media Program, so I applied and got the job. Maryland was an adventure for us, and it turned out great.
2. School librarians are now called Media Specialists. How have their positions and duties changed over the years?
Not all states use the term media specialists. In Texas and Pennsylvania, for example, they are school librarians. Another term that is now being used is teacher librarian. That is probably my favorite term. Nowadays, school librarians should be among the best teachers in the building. They need to teach the teachers and all the children. They are in charge of reading guidance and promoting reading for pleasure. They show everyone the latest in technology and how to use it intellectually and creatively. They help students with the learning process--how best to learn.
3. Hundreds of new children's books are published every year. When teaching children's literature, do you concentrate on classics and award-winning books, or do you try to include some recent releases, as well?
In my children's literature class, we don't really read the classics. We read books that appear on ALA book lists, including the Newbery, Caldecott, Coretta Scott King, Pura Belpre, and the Notable Books lists. We read current titles that appear on the Maryland and Pennsylvania State Reading Awards lists. We read books--fiction and nonfiction--that are likely to be found on library shelves. We read books by some of my favorite authors.
4. What is the best way for new authors to get their books into the hands of school media specialists and students?
The best way is for that book to receive multiple positive reviews in professional selection sources.
5. How are books chosen for awards and state recommended reading lists, and must these recommendations be made during the year the book is released?
Each award has its own criteria. For state lists, books are typically chosen by a committee of librarians (or in some states by reading teachers). Some states will consider a book that has been published within a three year period; other states will only consider that year of publication.
Thank you, Mona, for your insight into the field of School Library Media Specialists! In addition to her position at McDaniel College, Mona is the author of thirteen books, two of those for school librarians. For children, ranging in age from 4 to 14, she has written biographies, science, history, and fiction. Owney, The Mail-Pouch Pooch, edited by Frances Foster of Farrar, Straus & Giroux is her latest. It's a true story about a mutt that rode the mail trains and became one of the most famous dogs in the world. If wishes come true, Mona wishes "the book stays in print for a long time and is read and loved by children all over the world." You can read more about Ramona (Mona) Kerby at http://www.monakerby.com.