It’s National School Library Month!
Every year, the American Association of School Librarians sets aside the month of April to celebrate the contributions of school librarians and the role of school libraries in students’ education. PCPS has been spotlighting members of our Library Media Services staff throughout the month.
Today we meet Carlene Skiles, the media specialist at Churchwell Elementary. She joined PCPS 28 years ago and has been a school librarian for nearly a decade.
Why did you become a school librarian?
To be honest I was really feeling burned out as a classroom teacher. I had taught every grade except for first in the elementary world and needed a change. I am the daughter of a school and public librarian, so it was already in my blood — and the transition was exactly what I needed.
What do you like most about your job?
I think the best part of my job is that I literally see over 700 students in a six-day specials rotation. Being a part of the specials rotation allows the students time to really dive deep into the library and not feel rushed to find a book and get back to class. I love seeing smiles on their faces, and always hearing “Can I come back in the morning if I finish this book tonight?”
What do you try most to instill in students, and why?
I would like to think that I impact all of my students to love reading just a wee bit more than they did the very first time they stepped into the library. To watch a student find out that they have a favorite series or author or realize that non-fiction books are cool to read, or that research isn’t as scary as they thought … that is what makes me love coming to work every day. I think it is critical to encourage students to enjoy reading at the very beginning of school. If I can instill that desire to read in kindergarten, there is no limit to what those students can achieve in their elementary career and beyond.
Describe the experience of visiting your library. What is the atmosphere you try to create?
Every year I transform the library with a new theme. Our library has been a campground, a carnival, under the sea, in space, cowboys, superheroes. Currently, we are “traveling” Route 66 from Illinois to California, learning about each state on the way. I look forward to hearing the students come down the hall on orientation day asking their parents if they can stop in the library to see what the theme for the year is going to be. I feel at my core that if you can get the kids in the door, make the library an inviting and safe space, then getting them interested in reading isn’t a mountain to overcome.
What is your favorite book, and why?
My favorite is “The Westing Game” by Ellen Raskin. I read this book in fifth grade myself and have read it every year to my students. It is a novel that reminds me of the game of “Clue.” So good … and just when you think you have figured out the “whodunit” another twist comes, and you are sent searching for the mystery to be solved.
What is the biggest contribution you think you make to your students’ lives?
That I have made them feel at home while they are in the library. I would like to think that I am the “fun aunt” who makes reading cool. The best thing for me is having past students — and I mean students who are in high school currently and used to be “mine” in elementary — recognize me at their places of work (grocery stores, restaurants) and come up to me and say, “Aren’t you the librarian from Churchwell Elementary? Mrs. Skiles? It’s me, (name), and I’m in high school now! I loved coming to your library!” Those interactions with students from six-plus years ago make me thankful that I am blessed to touch their lives every day.