Dr. Margaret “Gigi” Lincoln was teaching high school in Australia 37 years ago when she spotted a student carving a Swastika into a desk. The 2008 “I Love My Librarian” Award winner and part-time SLIS instructor not only took the student aside, she decided to make Holocaust education a key part of her mission as she shifted into her new job as school librarian.
“I asked the student to tell me the population of Australia, and then I connected the same figure of 6 million people to the number of Jewish Holocaust victims,” said Lincoln, who has been a school librarian since 1973 in the Lakeview School District in Battle Creek, Michigan. “At the time (1972), we were only some 30 years removed from the period of the Holocaust and it was not yet being addressed in the public schools.”
Lincoln’s library is literally at the center of Lakeview High School, sitting in the middle of the academic wing, with student lockers on the other side of bookshelves. Lincoln is similarly immersed in school life beyond the library, heading up Lakeview’s Quiz Bowl team decades ago and mentoring National Honor Society members.
Lincoln’s efforts also include bringing traveling exhibitions from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to Battle Creek, working with another teacher to design a WWII unit based on the Library of Congress’ American Memory collection, and organizing an ongoing volunteer service project inspired by survivor Gerda Weissmann Klein.
Lincoln’s work “may start in our school library, but it extends into our work as teachers, our minds as learners, and our hearts as human beings,” wrote Scott Durham, a teacher at Lakeview High School, in his nomination.
Lincoln, who teaches the LIBR 233 School Library Media Centers course, began working as a school librarian “long before technology started to impact instruction,” she said. Now she teaches an online course in information literacy to high schoolers, sets up blogs so Lakeview students can discuss books with students in other states, and creates online curriculum.
Lincoln is one of 10 winners of the inaugural “I Love My Librarian” award presented by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the New York Times, and the American Library Association. More than 3,200 librarians nationwide were nominated for the award, given in recognition of the librarians’ commitment and service to their communities and schools.
For Lincoln, the award ceremony had personal resonance because it took place 10 blocks from where she was born and raised in Manhattan. She invited her fourth grade teacher, high school French teacher, and two close friends to the ceremony. And when news of the award appeared in her local paper, the Battle Creek Enquirer, students from long ago reached out to congratulate her or say that they decided to go into library science because of her example.
“It was so important to me to have people there who inspired me and made me who I am,” she said. “As a teacher, it means everything when a student finds you years later and says you made a difference.”