An Interview with Mr. Schu

Mr. Schumacher outside of the Matilda musical reading "Rabbit and Robot: The Sleepover" by Cece Bell.

Mr. Schumacher outside of the Matilda musical reading “Rabbit and Robot: The Sleepover” by Cece Bell.

How far would you go to inspire your students to read? Would you cover the school restroom walls with lists of new books? Would you take your students’ favorite book character on vacation with you? Would you use Skype to connect them with schools around the country to improve their multiple literacy skills? If you incorporate similar stunts in your library initiatives to encourage reading, you might be an “xtreme librarian” like 2011 Library Mover and Shaker, John Schumacher.

In February I attended a professional development in Edinburgh, Texas, and I was so glad that I went. When I arrived, I was prepared for the typical professional development experience. You know, the kind that makes you fall asleep because you didn’t go to bed on time the night before. Boy, was I pleasantly surprised. The presenter was John Schumacher. He is affectionately known among the school librarian community as Mr. Schu.

After listening to him speak, I knew that I had to interview him for the Knowledge Quest blog. His presentation and message were amazing. If you ever have the opportunity to see him present, I recommend that you go. Just in case you are not aware of what John does, he is the official “Ambassador of School Libraries” for Scholastic Book Fairs. 

An Unlikely Librarian

The first thing I wanted to know was how John got his unique job with Scholastic. Well, the path to his current position is just as creative as his job title. There were a couple of twists and turns in the journey. He is actually certified to teach grades K–9 and began his career as an educator teaching ESOL in a foreign country. After returning to the United States, he taught multiple grade levels.

John wasn’t comfortable in libraries when he was growing up. As a child, he identified them as “shush zones.” While completing an educational leadership degree, his cohort regularly met in a school library. One day, he picked up a copy of School Library Journal because he needed a journal for a class project. After that, he got hooked on libraries. Reading School Library Journal convinced him that librarianship was the field for him.

He was fascinated by what was happening in school libraries. When he finished his educational leadership degree, he immediately enrolled in a librarianship degree program. During the last year of the program, he transitioned out of the classroom to the school library. He spent the next 9 years there.

Becoming the Scholastic “Ambassador for School Libraries”

As you can tell, John embraces change and his career has flourished because of it. A vocal advocate for libraries and reading, he found himself blogging and sharing information about reading and his experiences with libraries on social media. In the summer of 2015, his hard work was recognized when he presented at all of the Scholastic Reading Summits. As he spent time at the summits, he noticed Scholastic’s mission to promote access to reading, student choice, and the power and importance of independent reading. Conversely when Scholastic representatives observed his dedication to reading and education, he was invited to be Scholastic’s Ambassador of School Libraries.

Now he travels around the country providing workshops to teachers and librarians where he talks about connecting students with books and being a champion for reading. He inspires people to remember why they are librarians and educators. In addition to working for Scholastic, he also teaches library science for Rutgers University.

John’s Advice for School Librarians

  1. For John, leadership for school librarians is the ability to connect the whole school through the nurturing of students’ reading lives. He stresses that a school librarian that leads realizes that the school library is the heart of a school. Because librarians are in the position to create a school-wide reading culture, he encourages them to serve on committees to give the library program a voice in the school.
  2. Create your own Personal Learning Community (PLC). John suggests that school librarians should have a group of people that they can brainstorm with outside their buildings to receive candid advice. He blogs and communicates daily on Twitter. He is also a part of the Nerdy Book Club. This network includes great educators such as Teri Lesesne, Colby Sharp, and Donalyn Miller (the Book Whisperer). Because of his PLC, he regularly receives feedback on his ideas.
  3. In addition to volunteering to serve on committees in your school, get involved in national organizations such as ALA, AASL, ALSC, and YALSA. John asserts that being involved in such groups helped him to feel as if he were contributing on a national scale to library science. State organizations are also crucial to professional development as well. Volunteering to organize activities and advocate for libraries enables librarians to bring what they have learned back to their buildings.

Opportunities to Learn More From John

If you are like me, you would like to hear more of what John has to say. This summer he will be presenting again with other well-known educators at the Scholastic Reading Summits. There are many offered in different locations. Some of the benefits of attending them include:

  • Networking with educational leaders from across the country
  • Discussing innovative strategies to promote student reading and to engage families
  • Hearing from nationally recognized authors and reading experts

In the meantime, I have shared some professional development opportunities taking place this month below.


May Professional Development

Title: Use Google to Enhance the 4 C’s (Creation, Communication, Collaboration & Critical Thinking)

Title: Educator Viewpoints: Personalized Professional Learning Today

Title: Listen Up! Turning Library Agnostics into True Believers

  • Organization:Texas State Library and Archives Commission
  • Date:Wednesday, May 4, 2016 @ 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm CST
  • Description: Those who don’t care about libraries or believe that they aren’t relevant in the 21st century are exactly the ones who can hurt the future of your library. Learn how to educate the library agnostics in your community about the value of your library. Sally Gardner Reed, executive director of United for Libraries, will discuss strategies for making the case.
  • Link:

Title: Project Ideas and Free Tools for Collaborative Learning

  • Organization: Simple K12
  • Date:Saturday, May 7, 2016 @ 10:00 am – 10:30 am EST
  • Description: The Web is full of great free tools that help and encourage our students to collaborate on projects. Join Shelly Terrell as she covers various free Web platforms that support effective collaboration and team work. Discover tips, project ideas, and lesson ideas for effective, meaningful collaboration.
  • Link:

Title: Easy QR Code Projects to Differentiate and Energize Learning

  • Organization: Simple K12
  • Date:Saturday, May 7, 2016 @ 11:00 am – 11:30 am EST
  • Description:  In this session, join Monica Burns as she introduces you to QR codes and discusses how to create QR codes, how to access them using mobile devices, and how to manage a classroom of enthusiastic students engaged in active learning and projects with QR codes. She will provide examples of differentiated lessons and projects that use QR codes and share tips for designing these lessons and projects for your classroom.
  • Link:

Title: Using Social Media to Build Your PLN

Title: Technology Integration Made Easy with ThingLink


Schumacher, J. (Photographer). (2012, July 12). I think Robot and Robot love Matilda. [digital image]. Retrieved from





Author: Daniella Smith

Daniella Smith, PhD. is a former school and public librarian. She is currently the Hazel Harvey Peace Professor in Children’s Library Services at the University of North Texas.

Categories: Advocacy/Leadership, Blog Topics, Professional Development

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