“I feel like I am officially a teacher-librarian... Having the Post-Master’s Certificate validates and qualifies me for my position.”
iSchool Alumna (Post-Master’s Certificate, 2015)
Patty Mapes spent seven years as a public elementary school teacher in Ohio, Florida and Georgia, working in environments where library media centers were crucial to instructing and engaging students. Then she transitioned to a position at a small private school and began charting a course to become their K–5 librarian. Armed with a love of reading, but no prior experience in the library and information science field, “I needed knowledge!” Mapes says.
Mapes did some research and found the iSchool’s Post-Master's Certificate in Library and Information Science program, “designed for information professionals who want to update their professional knowledge and expand their skill sets.” She continued teaching for four years and then became her school's librarian, while simultaneously working toward the certificate, and was happily rewarded with plenty of library knowledge—and happy students.
Student Learning Outcomes
Mapes, who holds a master’s degree in elementary education, decided on the iSchool Post-Master's Certificate because she wanted to learn everything she could about the role of the school librarian, so she could recommend and implement programs at her new school.
“I have always loved reading and literature, and as a classroom teacher I loved reading to my students and getting them excited about reading,” Mapes says. “But, in the library position, I knew I needed to learn about current trends and what the current school library environment was all about.”
She dove into the program’s Youth Services pathway and selected five related courses, allowing her to tailor her “in-depth learning experience to their career aspirations.”
Info 260A: Programming and Services for Children with Penny Peck, a seasoned children’s librarian, was particularly insightful for Mapes. “It was broad-scoped and required getting out in our community to observe library programs,” she says. “We reported on who attended (informal demographics) as well as details such as materials used, songs sung, multimedia used.” Mapes also learned a lot from Info 271A: Emerging Trends in Literature for Children and Young Adults with Dr. Susan Higgins, which provided in-depth reading and evaluation of current children’s literature, exactly what she needed for her new librarian role.
Public Classrooms to Private Libraries
When she transitioned to teaching in private school from public, Mapes was surprised to learn that there was no library instruction as part of students' weekly 30-minute library time.
“Five years ago, while still a classroom teacher,” Mapes explains, “I visited and researched what the schools (public and private) in our community were doing for the students during their library visit. Drawing on what I observed and learned, I developed and proposed a library plan for our school to the current headmaster, in hopes he would hire me to provide it.”
Mapes was hired to implement her library plan for the upcoming school year, and started the Post-Master’s Certificate in order to be more qualified. Then, relying on what she was learning through her iSchool classes, she created a library program from scratch. Using the Georgia Library Media Association's Elementary Information Literacy Checklist as her guideline, she purchased new books, current encyclopedias, atlases and thesauri for her library, and began building library lesson plans for students to consult the reference sources to answer research questions.
“It has been, and is, a labor of love!” she says. “I add new lessons every year. I visit my local fantastic Gwinnett County Public Library branch weekly to look at books—I will often see a book that I know my students would like and build a lesson around it.”
The program has been successful, and Mapes also works with K–5 teachers at her school, designing library instruction for students based on what they’re learning in class. “For instance,” she explains, “I saw recently that 2nd grade was working on synonyms. So I created a chart with the synonyms from the book Ella Kazoo Will Not Brush Her Hair by Lee Fox. We discussed the definition of ‘synonym,’ orally brainstormed synonyms for the word ‘good,’ went over the synonyms on the chart for ‘hair,’ then read the story. As a follow-up, they drew hair with colored pencils on an Ella Kazoo I'd copied for them and did a Word Find with words from the story. They loved it!”
A self-described “lifelong learner,” Mapes enthusiastically recommends the iSchool’s certificate program. “[The certificate] would benefit anyone who wants to learn more about their ‘trade’ and be up-to-date on it,” Mapes says. “Every instructor I had was very prompt at responding to questions—that made the online class experience positive.”
During the regular school year, Mapes would take her laptop to the public library’s quiet room and spend hours working on class assignments. It took her just over two years to complete the certificate program; she particularly enjoyed long summers off from work, when her LIS studies gave her something to focus on and learn from each day.
“I will say that technology comes slowly to me,” she laughs. “I had never worked on a group project in Google docs, or created a PowerPoint to present to classmates, or blogged, before spring 2013! Getting this certificate online caused me to stretch and learn and not give up.”
After finishing the program, Mapes submitted her transcript and her Post-Master’s Certificate to her school’s administration, and is waiting to receive a pay raise. But that’s not the part that she’s most excited about.
“I feel like I am officially a teacher-librarian,” Mapes says. “I love that title because that is my heart... to teach my K–5th graders about literature and what I call ‘library life skills.’ I also feel like having the Post-Master’s Certificate validates and qualifies me for my position.”