Say Yes to That Practicum Student Librarian

“Example isn’t another way to teach; it is the only way to teach.”
                                                                                                              – Albert Einstein

Throughout the years, I have been so fortunate to host library practicum students who are training to become school librarians. Student librarians must complete many hours of service in school libraries (usually around 100+ hours), depending on the graduate school, in order to earn their degrees. Rather than exploit the free labor, I enjoy collaborating with them on lessons, book clubs, and other fun activities. Yes, they still have to do some inventory scanning, but I’m right beside them.


With Emily King Echols (one of my favorites) and Gene Luen Yang

The beauty of mentorship is that it’s a reciprocal win-win. I get to model and teach the student librarians, but they also teach me, especially about the latest technology and library practices. By working with these future librarians, I learn what they are studying in their classes, adding to my own professional development. For instance, when I went back to graduate school to become a librarian in 2002, we did not have to take a course in advocacy. Now that’s a given for most graduate library programs.


I recently returned from the Texas Librarian Association convention in Dallas, and I ended up running into and spending time with one of my favorite former student librarians, Emily King Echols, who is now the librarian at St. Francis School in Austin. I think of Emily as my “career daughter.” I laugh that she has totally surpassed me in her enthusiasm for the latest books and in her ability to snag the best author visits for her students! My dream is to keep as current as she is on the latest young adult books.

My current practicum student, Lori Van Dike, joined me at TLA. We had so much fun together, attending different sessions and then meeting up to swap notes. When co-leading my book club, which was reading Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin, Lori created a wonderful “Amazing Race” activity, dividing the students into teams, representing Japan or Germania, as in the book. I was so impressed with her creativity, energy, and enthusiasm. Just as working with young people keeps us young, mentoring fledgling librarians keeps us young in our professional hearts and mindsets.

With current student librarian, Lori Van Dike


I’ve also gotten to know many future librarians who go on to be stars in our community and beyond. It is so gratifying to witness them grow in their own libraries and to observe them doing amazing things. When I retire, I will think about the legacy I leave at my school, including the collection I have shaped for years and the reading climate, but I will also remember the librarians I’ve trained who will continue to represent our profession. I am so gratified that such talented, passionate teachers are making the lateral career move to become school librarians, men and women who will continue to represent us well as they stand up for intellectual freedom, allegiance to the truth, and access for all.

Here’s a video about another favorite former student librarian, Emily Hersh of Austin ISD. I am so proud of Emily.


Author: Sara Stevenson

I’m a reader, writer, swimmer, and a public middle school librarian. I love all things Italian. I was honored to be Austin ISD’s first librarian of the year in 2013.

Categories: Advocacy/Leadership, Blog Topics, Community/Teacher Collaboration, Student Engagement/ Teaching Models

3 replies

  1. Sara,
    I LOVE this post and plan to share it with prospective practicum supervisors in the future. As a school librarian educator, I sometimes wonder how cooperating librarians truly feel about supervising future school librarians. I am pleased to read that like most mentoring situations, the supervisor can benefit as much as the candidate!

  2. Absolutely, Maria! Thank you for sending us the best. I am SO impressed with my student librarians.

  3. Yes, to Sara’s post and Maria’s comment. The reciprocal mentorship between supervising librarians and practicum students provides a learning opportunity for both… as well as for students, classroom teachers, and administrators. What a powerful way to pay it forward!

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