AASL Social Media Superstars: Social Justice Defender Finalists

Please leave your testimonial for one (or all!) of the finalists as a comment below. Review all of the 2017 AASL Social Media Superstar Finalists here.

Erika Long

Librarian and Writing Center Coordinator at Bearden High School (Knoxville, Tennessee) Erika Long considers herself a professional learner and regularly shares her thoughts about children’s and YA literature through her blog posts. Her passion for reading and for the books she chooses to share is evident and contagious. That dedication prompted a nominator to write:  “Erika cares. Erika cares about her library and the teachers and students she serves. One of the things Erika is passionate about is equality for all. She promotes a welcoming environment within her library and wants every student to know that they are welcome to come and work, learn, or just be in the library without fear or hate.” By highlighting diverse books in her library and online, Erika encourages colleagues to look beyond what they already know to seek out authentic writers for students.

@bookishbulldawg  |  @BHSDawgLibrary  |  LinkedIn  |  Blog, Don’t Judge

Susan Polos

After the elementary librarian positions were defunded in her district, Susan Polos could have accepted the decision as a done deal. She didn’t, according to her nominator. “[Susan] continues to advocate for quality library programs and access to diverse literature for her entire school community and beyond. She questions posts, tweets, speeches and ‘popular’ chatter, and holds each and every person to a higher level on decisions that reflect significant and ethical impact for children, underserved populations, mainstream groups, and our future.” A year later and it appears that at least some elementary positions may be reinstated – but that doesn’t mean Susan is done advocating for libraries. “Susan is a walking/talking heart and soul for school libraries and the kids they transform” and anyone who knows her knows that her work won’t stop until all kids have the library program they deserve.  |  @spolos

Liz Phipps Soeiro

In her Twitter bio, Cambridgeport School librarian Liz Phipps Soeiro writes she “[b]elieves in the power of community.” Follow her posts or read her contributions to “Field Notes” on The Horn Book’s website and it’s clear that an important part of that power is listening to each member’s voice. Every Wednesday morning, Liz’s library hosts “Coffee and Conversation,” inviting Cambridgeport families to stop by and talk about what’s on their minds. Students at her school have successfully lobbied for the installation of a Little Free Library in a local park, petitioned to have the second Monday in October known locally as Indigenous People’s Day and chosen their own local projects based on discussions following read-alouds. “Your Voice Matters,” announced a sign advertising a library event in January;  working with Liz Phipps Soeiro, Cambridgeport students know the truth of this statement. Liz was recently named a Library Journal 2017 Mover & Shaker.

@reflectlibrary  |  The Reflective Library  |  Cambridge Book Bike  |  @book_bike  |  @cport_special  |  Creating Community and Active Citizens” 

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Author: Jen Habley

Jen Habley is the AASL Manager of Web Communications. She manages the AASL websites, writes press releases, coordinates AASL’s online learning opportunities, and oversees AASL’s web 2.0 tools. When not working, Jen spends time researching her family tree, reading, and watching hockey.

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106 replies

  1. In the short time I have known Erika, I have grown to consider her not only a colleague I can turn to for advice and mentorship, but also a friend. Erika cares for all of her students a great deal and continually seeks to improve her professional practices for the betterment of her school. Erika is passionate about getting diverse books in the hands of students and one way she accomplishes this is by turning to social media. I enjoy following her tweets, and look forward to each new blog post. She is very deserving of this honor!

  2. Erika has helped to create a space at Bearden High School where students can write, discuss, create, etc. together and know that their beliefs are valued and supported. It is a dynamic place and is not the “ssh, be quiet” library I remember from high school. On a daily basis she is helping students create podcasts, making suggestions on a new read for a student (or teacher), assisting students through the writing process or helping a colleague get their students acquainted with the many features of the library. Her impact on our school is immeasurable and I am thankful to have her in our building!

  3. Super excited to see Erica Long as a finalist. I meet her last year at our state Library conference and it was apparent that she had a much to offer our library community. Her tweets often point out the wide range of literature she is reading and exposing her student to as well.

  4. I endorse Liz because she has been a powerful voice for the often voiceless on our society. She has fostered a dynamic community of book lovers, both in the library and in the parks thanks to her bookbike initiative.

  5. I am beyond excited to see Susan Polos on this list. She is an indefatigable and powerful voice for young readers and for their critical access to books and libraries. She is positively adored by her community of young people and by the authors who write for them!! We are lucky to call her our own here in Westchester New York. Thank you to all the Social Justice Defenders for all that they do!!!

  6. Susan Polos is one of the strongest – and most reasonable – voices we have supporting our school libraries. She has learned the tricks of the trade for using social media in the best possible manner, sharing relevant information and encouraging others to speak out in support of libraries. Full disclosure, I do not work in education but in digital marketing. I have known Susan for many years and am so proud of how she has embraced this cause and done so much to champion those whose voices may not be heard. The school library community is lucky to have her – she’s totally worthy of this award!

  7. Liz has been a tireless advocate of promoting justice and equity through literature. She makes all children and families feel welcome in her library. Always. Liz also works to bring both the community to her library with local speakers, and her library to the community through the summer book-bike program. She truly deserves this award and I would support her unreservedly as both a community member and the mother of two children in whom she has fostered such a love of reading.

  8. Susan has been a tireless supporter of the importance of true literacy both for the school district in which she serves as a librarian, and her home district as well. With brilliance, compassion, and creativity she brings the message home to all who follow her. And because her interests are so broad, and her friendships so diverse, her message is spread far and wide. She educates us all, and I am so proud to call her a friend!

  9. I am so excited to see Erika Long as a finalist for this honor! She is the epitome of a social justice defender – she advocates for her students, staff, and community tirelessly and is so dedicated to ensuring that they all have access to literature and resources that are high-quality and diverse. Erika is a valued part of my professional network, and she has influenced me and so many others with her words and her advocacy efforts on social media. I especially love her thoughtful words on Twitter and her blog about young adult literature. She is considered a social media leader in her school district, her state, and far beyond, and her true passion is social justice – so this would be quite a fitting title for her!

  10. Susan Polos has been an inspiration to me for many years. I “met” her on Facebook 5 years ago and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting her in person on a few separate occasions since then. She makes her presence known through Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sources.
    She is a relentless fighter for library and literacy services for ALL children. She interacts with parents, teachers, students, politicians, administrators across the US.
    I’ll never forget the first time I met her- carrying a sign with other librarians in front of the US Dept of Education in support of public school libraries.
    I wholeheartedly endorse Susan as a recipient of this well deserved award.

  11. Susan Polos defines what it means to be an advocate for Social Justice! She has been fighting for all children and their access to certified teacher Librarians. She teaches the community about the importance of this issue, its’ importance for the individual child yet also for the community/society at large. All this, on top of being an outstanding Librarian, every single day! To take a quote from a teacher that has worked with her for years: “Susan finds the”just right” book for each student. She also started a Newberry Awards club, and students got to skype with the winning authors after they read all of the contending books. That library was a beautiful place where you could actually witness young minds in a curious, happy, and engaged state. “
    She is an active community member, standing up and being a voice for those who need support. Her energy is boundless, yet she knows how to harness it and direct it for the most impact. She is a participant, joining so many community organizations that I cannot list them all here! She spreads the word how librarians job of teaching critical thinking is essential in a true democracy. She fights for those hidden from plain sight, supporting an Arts in prison program, bringing creativity, life skills, and humanity to men and women behind prison bars.
    She is a mentor and a role model. Susan Polos is the definition of a Social Media SuperStar!

  12. Liz truly brings the community into our library and every voice is valued! Wednesday coffee might feature the mayor or a member of the city council, a local artist or community activist. She brought in many of our elected officials for a legislative breakfast to lobby for increased funding for all libraries in our state. A meeting with a lawyer from the Muslim Justice League gave us concrete ways to support our Muslim neighbors and students. The bookbike Liz pioneered lets children pick out summer books that they get to keep for their own. She does all of this while curating a collection of books that simultaneously allows our diverse student body to see themselves in books while also challenging them to experience another’s perspective. Liz shows us and our children what leadership looks like.

  13. I am the Family Liaison at the school Liz Phipps Soiero works at. One of my duties is to give tours to families interested in coming to our school. When I bring them to the library I get to explain how our librarian is the founder of our local Book Bike program, how she creates informal opportunities for civic discussion between community leaders and parents through Wednesday Coffee & Conversation meetings. Additionally I get to point out all the lovely, heartfelt, inspired, informative books she drenches our library in. She knows what Diversity really means and makes sure everyone, in every way is represented on our school library shelves. She is the heart of our school and is a huge reason incoming parents choose to send their children there.

  14. I have known Erika Long all her life. She has a zeal for knowledge and sharing that knowledge with others! She loves children and loves being a mentor in the world of books and reading! I am so proud of her! Children need more people like Erika in their corner!

  15. As a City Councillor in Cambridge, I have had opportunity to witness Liz’s force-of-nature level social justice advocacy. She has of course, been an energetic, knowledgeable, and action-oriented role-model for her students and the entire Cambridge school system. Liz is the gold standard for passion-based, hands-on learning in the classroom and throughout the school day. In addition, I have been a participant in Liz’s civics seminars, know your rights trainings, (very young) student-led legislative advocacy days, and other community-empowering events. These are a small sample of the overall set of events and opportunities that Liz pours all of her time and energy into. I’m proud to support Liz, for her social justice work and for the poise and energy that she brings to the work everyday.

  16. Liz’s (ad)ventures build a sense of community and innovation that spreads well beyond Cambridgeport school. Through stories and media she spreads joy and opportunity across our city for students and their parents alike. Liz’s ideas and encouragement are at the heart of inspiring our children to become active community members.

  17. Susan is all that others have written about her already in these posts, but it is the quieter things that she does that speak to her true character. She and her daughter, also a teacher, run a Book Group in the evenings in one of the Hamlets of the Town in which she lives. This particular Hamlet has a particularly high number of immigrant children, to whom Susan is very committed. She lives and breathes Social Justice. She is a leader in the Ecumenical Women of Faith meetings, a group of Presbyterian, Baptist, Catholic, Muslim and Methodist women in her community. She has been on the Mission and Outreach Committee of her church, again fighting for Social Justice for the poor, the prisoner, the immigrant, the downtrodden…all those who feel, and often are, on the outside. Susan’s passion is literature, having served on the most prestigious Award Committee for young adult books. But she is passionate about so many things. She gives that passion to so many people, so many causes.. Her passion and her energy are boundless in all areas of her life. She speaks her truth, and is a voice for those who do not have one.

  18. I met Susan Polos while organizing against the abuse and overuse of standardized testing. Susan connects the dots between the tests and the ranking and sorting of children. Her advocacy includes true literacy programs in every school, not education based on a child’s test score or reading level. In a social justice perspective, Ms. Polos realizes the inequities in literacy experiences between schools that have libraries with librarians and schools that do not. She is a tireless warrior for children and understands that every child deserves an education that is immersed in books and wonder.

  19. I have known Erika all of her life and she is most deserving of this honor. Erika is so very passionate about her life’s work and cares for and encourages her students to become lover’s of the written word.

  20. Liz has helped me to rethink what is possible in school libraries. Her work with students clearly teaches them about social justice themes and inspires them to action. Additionally, she has created a space in our school library that is welcoming to all families. That is hard to come by! Creating a space for dialogue, discussion, and a way to magnify the many voices within the school and city community has made for rich conversation and learning — for adults! What better way to model what school should be about for everyone: a place of learning, inquiry, and justice across the lifespan.

  21. So glad to see Susan Polos as one of your outstanding finalists. She is a tireless supporter of the importance of true literacy both for the school district in which she serves as a librarian. Who is not afraid of fighting for children and families in public and via social media.

  22. In additional to Liz’s work defending social justice in Massachusetts, Liz works with Libraries Without Borders to expand access to information & education for vulnerable communities in over 35 countries. She is a thoughtful advisor and powerful advocate for local communities around the world.

  23. Liz is a dynamic leader, who tirelessly utilizes her knowledge and vision of libraries -as a hub of community and information- to effect positive change and inspire activism in both her students and their grownups! From hosting weekly coffee and conversations throughout the school year, to sparking the minds of students with each book displayed and connected to a reader, to envisioning and building the Cambridge Bookbike, a program that brings both books, meals and community together during the summer months!

  24. Congratulations Susan Polos! You inspire people across the US to advocate for both libraries and librarians for our students! Sending you much love from California!!!

  25. All you have to do is be lucky enough to cross paths with Susan Polos and you have crossed path with someone whose love for what she does, coupled with her commitment to what is right , just and fair is an sinspiration …to us ALL!

  26. Susan Polos is an advocate through and through. She knows the value of school libraries and librarians, and seeks to make literacy available to all students. She is a gem and brings joy to her colleagues, students, and others.

  27. Liz has been the beloved librarian at my children’s school but she is so much more than a librarian — she is someone who is 100% committed to her role as an advocate for justice and equity. We see this in her commitment to increasing access to books through the summer book bike program and in her fierce commitment to a library collection whose characters and images represent the children who read them.

    On a more personal note, Liz took my shy and quirky daughter under her wing and built a special book club for her and a few peers as a way to foster social connection. I’ve never forgotten that act of kindness, which meant so much to all of us.

  28. Susan Polos is a tireless activist fighting to save public education. She sounds the alarm on the dangers of corporate education reform and the negative effects privatization has on student learning, particularly literacy.
    I don’t know anyone more knowledgeable about children’s literature than Susan. She knows the most effective (authentic, organic) ways to engage students in reading, and she uses literature to convey to students messages of social justice. Susan is dedicated to using high quality literature to help children strive to make the world more just, compassionate and tolerant.

  29. Yay for Susan Polos! She has been an inspiration of mine for years!

  30. Congratulations, Susan! In all the years I’ve worked with you, you have inspired me with your tireless advocacy for children’s literacy. I can’t tell you how pleased I am that you are up for yet another award! Brava!

    And I’d like to congratulate the nominees I don’t know, as well. It made me very happy this morning to read about these excellent School Librarians.

  31. I was so pleased to see Liz Phipps-Soeiro’s name as a finalist for this prestigious award. As the former Education Liaison to the Mayor in the city where Ms. Soeiro works, we worked on many innovative and exciting projects together for our young students. She truly engages each and every youth in her school and exposes them all to real world scenarios that broaden their horizons and help them understand how to advocate for themselves and for their community members. Ms. Soerio is constantly thinking of ways to better the lives of not only her students, but all of the children in Cambridge. Her coffee and conversation monthly meetings in her library with elected leaders, city officials, community activists and more are must attend events and create important community connections for all of the families at the school where she works.

    Ms. Soerio would be an excellent candidate for this award on her accomplishments in her actual school librarian position, but she has done so much more for our community for which we are proud and grateful. Recognizing that summer learning loss was affecting a large percentage of her students each Fall, Ms. Soeiro became determined to do something about it. Together with the City’s literacy initiative she created the Cambridge Book Bike, which delivers free books to 5 parks in the city for 8 weeks every summer. The locations were carefully chosen to coincide with our summer meals program which had a small participation rate. By partnering closely with our Human Services Department, this simple, yet effective literacy vehicle caused our summer food participation rate to go from, in some case 5 meals per day to over 100 meals per day given out. “Full bellies and full minds” is her steadfast motto. Watching the BookBike come into the park, and librarians helping to choose carefully curated brand new books for the children to take home is a heartwarming sight, no matter how may times one experiences it. For many of these children, who own no books of their own, this is a chance to take a book home, write their name in it and read it multiple times. The transformative power of owning books cannot be overstated, and it simply would not be happening here if it weren’t for her vision and leadership.

    Ms. Soerio’s intersectional book list and her constant striving to ensure that the books in her library are reflective of the students who sit in it are a local treasure in our community and one that should quite frankly be used as a model for all school libraries across the country. Her constant and total commitment to social justice is inspirational.

    As the representative to the State library association and a member of libraries without borders, she goes well above and beyond her librarian duties.

    I cannot recommend Ms. Soerio more highly for this award.

  32. I have worked with Liz for five years, and she has continually impressed me with her dedication to social justice and her creativity in solving problems. Her inspiring programs from the book bike that brings free books to kids at parks all summer to her family breakfasts that inspire civic engagement are truly phenomenal. She raises the next generation of activists by teaching her students how to advocate for change they feel passionately about and how to use channels of local government to bring to life programs they imagine – such as the little free library in the park and playground renovations. Liz brings energy and fun to everything she touches. Her students, colleagues and families adore her.

  33. Susan Polos lives and breathes school libraries. I know no one more dedicated to books for children than she is – her passion is infectious.

  34. The Little Free Library project with Liz was absolutely a formative moment for my son – in terms of civic engagement, understanding community needs, working with peers, persuasive writing – Liz Phipps Soeiro is a superhero and we are incredibly lucky to have her in our community.

  35. As a Cambridge Public Schools parent I am grateful for the awesome work Liz Soeiro does in our city! The Book Bike is more than a distribution pipeline, more than a pro-reading campaign, it is a civic practice that we need in these times, to empower kids and families i. our community.

  36. Susan Polos is the kind of person who you can call at the drop of a hat to show up at a social justice action. She informs herself about the best books to share with her students to provide diverse perspectives. She speaks out for social justice and lives her life in a way that demonstrates that social justice is at the core of her belief system. Susan is a role model who walks the walk.

  37. Susan Polos has done an outstanding job of explaining the role of school librarian and supporting all of us who do this work. I cannot think of another candidate so deserving as Susan Polos. She shows the same dedication to her activism for our cause as she has shown to her career as a school librarian.

  38. Liz Phipps Soeiro works tirelessly to make sure that every student in our school:

    -has a voice
    -feels welcomed and empowered
    -sees themselves reflected in the books on her shelves
    -knows their rights

    Liz has transformed the school library into a gathering space for the community. I have met local and state politicians, community stakeholders, new friends, former students, and world-class authors and illustrators among the stacks. Her passion for social justice has enriched not just our school, but the entire city of Cambridge. She has an idea, and she makes it happen. I wish every student and family could have an advocate like Liz in their lives. We all continue to learn so much from her.

  39. All of these nominees are clearly wonderful! I will speak here of my experience with Liz Phipps Soeiro. As a Boston-area author who was invited to attend one of her Coffee and Conversation mornings, I can testify to her dynamic ability to create community and foster crucial civic dialogue. (I had never met Liz before, though I have followed her work since.)

    At the Coffee and Conversation event, Liz had gathered several legislators and many local librarians, students and parents to share the ongoing diverse, impactful programs supported by our libraries, and to bring home to the legislators the importance of funding them in upcoming budget measures.

    The moving testimonials of all who spoke included not only persuasive facts and figures about the often-invisible work of libraries and librarians, bringing a new understanding and appreciation to all attendees…they also included spontaneous expressions of respect and gratitude for the work of Liz in particular. I should emphasize that it was clear Liz had not expected or “set up” any of this unsolicited admiration. It was all quite real, and beautiful.

    I left that day with the deepest, most positive impression of Liz’s work (and that of her fantastic colleagues). She clearly empowers and enlightens not only within the library, but in the wider community. It gives me hope for the future.

  40. Go Erica! Had a great time working with her at CHS before Bearden stole her away. Great advocate for students and promoter of literacy!

  41. Liz is amazing and deserving of this award

  42. As a parent in the Cambridgeport School community, I know firsthand the power of Liz’s vision and advocacy for children. Social justice is not an inert value or abstraction in her library–it is a matter of dynamic daily practice, integrated into all that she does through the library for our community. Her passion for bringing diverse voices to her library–both in print and in person–has enriched and strengthened relationships across our school and community. There are few community spaces like Liz’s–warm, beautiful, inviting, replete with incredible books chosen with care and discernment–that make everyone feel welcome, but that is the magic of what she brings to Cambridge.

    What does all of the above look like in practice? It means that on mornings when I drop my son off in his classroom, I can wander up to the library on the top floor of the school and find all kinds of friends–kids seeking books or coming in for a hug or a high-five from Liz before the morning’s classes begin, parents chatting and commiserating over coffee, teachers coming by to grab a book or bounce a curricular idea off Liz, and community artists, innovators, and leaders putting together a circle of chairs for a presentation or conversation. The room is bright with sunlight, the faces alight with connection and good feeling; original paintings created by another Cambridgeport parent hang around the room in homage to a variety of authors and beloved books. It is a productive, joyous place full of possibilities and plans, and a space dedicated to the well-being, growth, and support of ALL children and families.

    I speak for so many when I voice my gratitude and admiration for Liz. We are so fortunate to have her nurturing our children and fostering positive connections within our community.

  43. I have known Susan Polos for many years and have been amazed and impressed at the passion and energy she pours into school libraries. She is an incredible advocate and an unbelievably wonderful librarian. She has harnessed the power of social media magnificently in her advocacy work. I can’t endorse her more highly.

  44. I had the pleasure of working with Susan Polos for several years at her school. As the ESL teacher, I always knew that Susan had my students’ backs and their best interests at heart. Not only was she always available to advise a struggling reader on a series that would capture his or her imagination, she worked to make sure the students had access to after school soccer programs, summer programs, and high quality literature of all kinds. She encouraged them to be digitally literate even before we really knew what that meant. She truly cared for them as individuals, and it mattered to them. I am not surprised at all that she has been nominated for this honor, and I’m pleased and proud to endorse her; she must continue her advocacy work on a national level. Gifts like hers cannot be selfishly held but must be shared.

  45. Whenever I spend time with Susan Polos at library conferences or just chatting online, I feel inspired to do more for my students and my community. She has helped me become a better librarian and a better leader within my school district. Her passion for the library and her delight at her students’ accomplishments is evident and contagious. She motivates the people around her to advocate for library programs by showing them how important and life-changing an encounter with a wonderful librarian can be. I happily endorse her for this honor. It is well-deserved .

  46. We have been so fortunate to get to know Liz through her work at our elementary school. She is a fantastic teacher, community builder, and social justice advocate, but beyond the specific (and countless) projects she takes on with students and others, what stands out to me is the way she gets people involved and comfortable who might otherwise stay on the sidelines.

  47. My admiration for Liz has grown more and more throughout the years that I’ve known her. I have always felt so much pride when sharing with teachers in other districts her amazing ideas and how she actually turns them into reality. Liz has a gift for bringing ALL members of the community together. She is a strong advocate for groups that often feel silenced. Her library is the place where EVERYONE feels heard. Her vision of what libraries should look like, sound like and feel like gave me the courage to speak up at my daughter’s school when culturally insensitive work and projects were being sent home. Liz is the librarian ALL librarians should aspire to be.

  48. I suspect all these nominees are worthy, but I only can speak for Sue Polos. I’ve seen Sue’s face in Albany, Washington D.C., Chicago, and all over the web encouraging people to speak to their representatives; their administration; their administrators; the peers and more. Susan has even shown up at district BOE meetings to advocate for programs in the district where she lives–even though she has no kids in school. Great nomination here in Sue Polos.

  49. I listened to Liz Phipps Soeiro at one of our past summer’s library conference. I was inspired by her community outreach with her bookbike program. She is a school librarian who goes above and beyond the school day, the school community, and the school year. She has my vote for Docial Justice Defender!

  50. My kids attend the school where Liz Phipps Soeiro is the librarian. She has a pile of awards and has really jazzed up the library itself, but to me the most impressive thing is how she treats the kids there. I volunteered for the book fair with her and got to spend a morning shadowing her. She knew the reading habits of every single kid and recommended books to many of them. Some kids couldn’t afford books, but Liz made sure every kid got at least one book. She set up a fund to pay for the books and when that ran out, the cost came out of the library’s profits. Liz loves her library, but she loves kids even more.

  51. Liz makes courageous decisions everyday and she challenges those around her to do the same. Countless students, families and community members continue to be inspired by her insights, words and call to action.

    Liz embodies authenticity, wisdom and commitment to a deeper shared humanity. She reminds children (and the rest of us) to be ourselves, to be brave, and to boldly dive into what makes us unique. She does this in many ways—by the resources she provides, by the gatherings she organizes, by the courses she teaches. And most importantly, in the small ways she interacts with those around her.

    She is a rare, remarkable, educator and human being.

  52. Liz Soeiro not only teaches transformative resistance and civic engagement but lives it. I have the pleasure of teaching with her six times a week and learn from her every day. Liz is the most civically engaged person I have ever met (without being a representative) and she instills a love of social justice and action in her students. From engaging students in conversations around their own concerns and needs in their community, to enlightening students to the lives of others around the world, every student feels important, empowered, and connected to the world beyond their everyday. Liz frequently brings students to City Hall so that they may advocate for change where they see need and brings representatives from all the voices in our community to our school for Coffee and Conversation. She is the person that people turn to to solve issues from students without coats or shoes, to providing food for families in need, Liz is always willing to find (or provide) help. She is unquestionably deserving of the high honor of Social Justice Defender.

  53. Liz is such a star. Her boundless energy funnels directly into the students she serves from Cambridge Book Bike to Cambridge Public Schools. I met + fell in love with her at ALA and was so thrilled to be invited to share my book with her students and witness her in action. The students (and their parents) adore her, and she is constantly connecting with amazing authors and bringing them in to connect with her students.

  54. All of these women are wonderful and inspiring! The one I know personally is Liz (though I’d like to meet them all!). I know Liz as the wonderful school librarian at my son’s elementary school who has made the library THE most welcoming place for all families and community members, not just to socialize — although that is a wonderful and important component of Coffee and Conversation — but also to engage with our civic leaders, our community organizers, artists, authors (Junot Díaz agreed to reschedule his talk for parents *three times* due to snow… because Liz asked!), etc. I know Liz as the mother of two amazing children in our school, as a grassroots community organizer, an artist (see her “Read Write Resist” t-shirt campaign — you can still buy one!), a Massachusetts Library Association officer. And a contributor to The Horn Book, where I work. Here are the titles of her articles; if these don’t say “social justice defender”…!: “Loud in the Library: Creating Social Activists at School,” “Squeaky Little Wheels,” “Jacqueline Woodson, why are you so poet?”

  55. Erika is a professional in every aspect of her job! She truly helps every kind of patron she encounters and is a great mentor to other librarians in the district. I am so glad to see her being recognized for just 1 small piece of the important work she does!

  56. I first met Liz when she gave an Ed Talk at the Massachusetts Teachers’ Association Summer Conference. I was amazed by the way that she thoughtfully teaches young children about the lives of current advocates and advocates from the past and then engaged those students in local advocacy that related to their experiences as young children and members of families. I am inspired by the way she invites local leaders, community members, and families into her school and library often. If I remember correctly, I believe that she even orchestrated a meeting with her students and the Mayor of Cambridge.

    I was so inspired by Liz, that when colleagues and I received a generous grant from the Gates Foundation to host an “Elevating and Educating Effective Teaching and Teachers” (ECET2) convening in Boston, we invited her to speak. She inspired the audience of 100+ educators. I continue to follow Liz via social media and am continually impressed by the wonderful books she shares with all members of her PLN, her advocacy, and most of all her caring work with students, colleagues, and families. I am proud to know and learn from Liz.

  57. I am privileged to work with Erika every day as her co-librarian. She cares deeply and has an incredible knowledge of our students. She identifies which sectors of our student population are underrepresented in our collection and works tirelessly to remedy these problems. Her expert use of social media to promote our library to both our student population and larger community has been invaluable. Our students, our library and our school are lucky to have her!

  58. Liz is a phenomenal presence in our school. Not only does she create a library with a magnetic pull that consistently inspires students to read, Liz creates a climate of critical thought, of empathy, and of activism. The library reflects our students diverse experiences and needs, and she builds learning experiences for students that tap into a multiplicity of strengths and interests.

    Liz doesn’t just teach our students, though; she affects teachers and families. She offers a wide variety of thoughtful resources for staff, collaborating with consistency and flexibility. Through ongoing engagement and outreach, Liz fosters connection through “Coffee and Conversation”- connecting families, and connecting the broader community.

  59. Erika Long isn’t just a lone superstar; she shares the wealth. She’s been giving her time and energy to step up and help others learn to use Twitter as a platform to empower their own professional learning and advocacy since before she even worked as a librarian in our district! When she sees a need, she steps up and finds a way to meet it, regardless of whether it’s “her job”, because it’s the right thing to do.

  60. Susan Polos is a superhero child advocate in every aspect of her life. I had the honor of serving with her on the 2013 Newbery Award committee, and I am eternally grateful that our service together brought her into my life. I’m consistently amazed by her tireless work on social media on behalf of the children in her community. She isn’t just a school librarian – she lives and breathes education, and she never seems to stop working to promote the positive effects that school libraries can have for children. Susan truly puts kids first, and she has been a fierce ally across platforms for those who most need it. I can’t think of a better nominee for this award.

  61. As a colleague of Erika Long’s, she constantly inspires me to want to do better. She is passionate about her job and her students and strives to offer them nothing but the best she has to give.

  62. Erika is such an inspiration to me! She is so passionate about her profession. I am always struck by the fact that she is continually striving for ways to improve her library for her students. Her campaign to promote diverse books is powerfully motivation to me, as a reader and fellow librarian, and I can only imagine how encouraging it must be for students to see a champion for diversity everyday at school. This recognition is well-deserved!

  63. Erika Long makes me a better librarian. Her tweets, blog posts, and chats over dinner continue to broaden my knowledge of what it means to serve all students and teachers and I’m so thankful to work with her. Her school is so lucky to have such a passionate librarian who never seems to stop working!

  64. I have been a member of the Erika Long Fan Club since before I even met her in person. Now that I know her, I know my adoration was not misplaced. She is a phenomenal human and a terrific colleague. She uses her prowess every day to create lasting change in her students. She knows what is right, and she works hard to make sure others know it, too. I feel honored to know her, and I can think of no one more qualified for this honor.

  65. Erika inspires me with her enthusiasm for access equity, professional involvement with local and state library associations (the Tennessee Library Association in addition to our Tennessee Association of School Librarians), and dedication to her staff and students. I look to her twitter posts to see who I should be following and what is happening in the world of libraries. She urges people to not only read March on her blog, but watch the movie Selma too. She teaches information literacy and allows her students to connect globally. Vote for Erika for Super Social Defender!

  66. I first met Erika Long at a professional development conference in Tennessee. She is a passionate leader to learn from and is most deserving of this award!

  67. Erika Long is a wonderful asset to our profession as a whole. Knox County librarians and students are very fortunate she is one of us. Thanks for your advocacy to include all and exclude none!

  68. Erika is a mover and a shaker. With all she does it might surprise people to know that this is only her second year as a practicing school librarian. She spent her time in graduate school working as a library assistant in another high school so when she finished her program getting hired in our district was a foregone conclusion.

    Her placement was no accident either. Bearden High School is one forward-moving library with the first in-district Makerspace, an in-library coffee shop and her new gig as the head of that library’s Writing Center. How fortunate she is already writing this blog to show students you don’t have to jump into being a published author to write effectively.

    All of this would be impressive but she’s also really cool! Students are seeing the library and all it’s extensions as the place to be “social” at Bearden.

  69. Susan Polos is a passionate advocate for children across all platforms. She tirelessly advocates for them in her work and in the community. I served with her on the 2013 Newbery Award committee and currently serve on another ALA Committee with her and she cares and advocates for children more than any person I’ve ever met . She is an amazing school librarian no matter what age she’s serving.

  70. What impressive finalists–and what inspiring bios! I wish I knew all three finalists, but I only know Susan Polos; we are serving on the USBBY board and are co-chairs of the ALA-CBC (Children’s Book Council) Joint Committee. Hearing Susan speak in a handful of meetings, I have become more sensitive and aware of the language I use. I am more careful now not to forget/exclude school librarians with phrases like “schools OR libraries.” I also speak more thoughtfully when addressing topics that might accidentally diminish the value of school libraries (when promoting classroom libraries, for instance). Thank you, Susan, for raising my awareness and reaffirming my appreciation of school librarians!

  71. Erika loves to share books not only with her students and staff, but her colleagues across the district and state. She is always on the lookout for a great book to share on twitter or what she is excited about reading next.

  72. Congratulations, Erika! I’m pleased to see the wider world is recognizing your commitment and passion for getting information out to many publics in as many ways as there are learners! Not only does Erika speak to diverse audiences through her well-maintained social media outlets, but she has also taken the time to give back to the professional community by providing training and encouragement for others, so that they can do the same. She demonstrates her commitment to social justice in everything she does and her natural affinity for social media makes her messages that much more far-reaching. I have seen her deeply felt concern for students of all environments and abilities, and think her school is richer for her being there.

  73. Thank you for sponsoring such an amazing award. I am sure all three are wonderful candidates but I can only speak about Susan Polos whom I have only known through social media. Surprisingly, this has brought us together as colleagues who are 3000 miles apart and yet support each other in our passion, drive, and determination to save school (and all) libraries as well as the health and safety of our children in public education. While fighting for our students, we have also had to broaden the fight to all of public education as the efforts to privatize it are never-ending. Here in my end of the country, we have seen charters take over our schools and quickly dismiss the credentialed and dedicated school librarian, if there is one, and close the library doors. Certainly the new charters never include libraries as part of what they offer students. Susan Polos is a staunch fighter for maintaining equal access for all our students to quality schools with fully-funded and excellently staffed libraries. She is somehow able to be a top notch librarian in her job and her community, while at the same time supporting the fight to keep our education public and our schools serving ALL our students.

  74. I am personally grateful to each of these leaders who are speaking up for others when they need the support to move forward and have a voice at the table.

    Susan Polos has amazed me for years in this category….mostly because every time I speak to her I find out what else and who else she is involved with. She’s humble to a fault and lives and breathes to make the world a better place for others, especially the underserved, misrepresented, and the children.

    I don’t think a moment goes by in Susan’s life when she isn’t considering or doing something to improve the communities, worlds, and lives of an individual, a group, or an organization. She inspires me beyond words and I am so grateful to call her colleague by chance and friend by choice.

    Susan personifies social justice. Thank you!

  75. I had the pleasure of working in the library with Erika Long at Central High School. Central is one of the most diverse schools in the state with an African American population of 20%, an Hispanic population of 12%, a white population of 63%, and 5% of other ethnicity groups. Many students do not speak English as a first language and the library houses a variety of books in other languages.

    Erika has a soft spot for students in need and had a bag of goodies in her office for students to snack on if they were hungry. I have seen her weep out of love when her students faced tragedies. They would often come by the circulation desk just to feel loved.

    Erika is fierce and strong, but the tough exterior can not hide her love for students and her soft heart.

    Sarah Ramsey

  76. Susan Polos not only advocates for libraries, for students and for librarians, but, through her social media presence and her active role in her professional associations, she motivates other librarians to become advocates as well! She is a true leader, and her enthusiasm and professionalism are an inspiration to librarians nationwide!

  77. I have had the incredible pleasure of knowing Liz as a friend, colleague, and inspiration since I joined the teaching staff at the Cambridgeport School. Throughout that time I have witnessed her unwavering passion for justice, civic engagement and community partnership. Liz has a genuine desire to advocate for change and she leads by example as she uses her position, her voice, and her many platforms to speak for others who may be unable, and to connect members of our school community to a variety of city resources.

    Liz has partnered with teachers to help ensure that all students are reflected in our school library, and to use her connections with community partners to model for and teach even the youngest of our students how to use the power of their words to affect change. Liz also hosts a weekly Coffee and Conversation during which she invites members of the community to speak to parents about issues of importance to them. I was fortunate enough to attend one that featured a State Representative who spoke about her work to help pass a law protecting the rights of LGBTQ citizens and to listen to concerns of her constituents.

    These are just a few examples not only of the work Liz does, but of the incredible woman she is. She truly lives her word, and deserves to be recognized as Social Justice Defender.

  78. Susan Polos is fierce and fights–for students, literacy and justice. I am so proud of her for being a finalist in this category! Go, Susan, Go!

  79. I admire Susan Polos so very much. She is such an eloquent advocate for libraries and librarians! As a valued member of my PLN, she provides a voice and a reminder that is important to me and helpful for my work. Susan shares her passion for libraries so well — both on social media and in person! I congratulate her on this finalist honor of which she is VERY deserving! Lead on, Susan!

  80. Liz is the true embodiment of a social justice defender. As the ESL teacher at Cambridgeport, I truly appreciate the fact that Liz ensures that there are books and materials that reflect my students. Representation is paramount. Liz makes every effort to offer books that represent the culture, ethnicity, and (native) language of my English language learners. Liz makes it possible for my ELLs to get the opportunity to see parts of themselves in books.

  81. We need more Susan Polos in our nation. Those who are not afraid to articulate concerns to those empowered to make decisions. Just last night her students congregated at that BOE to advocate for restoration of elem librarians. Dare we say they learned by a good role model?! Thank you Sue.

  82. I am a writer and author and I am finding it hard to put into words, the right words, to express just how special Susan Polos is, not only to me, all the children whose lives she touches, to librarians and to libraries, to her community, and to our national community. To this world.

    I met Susan when she showed up– on her day off — to hear me speak at a local bookstore about children of incarcerated parents. Oh, no wait..I had met her before that, at a fund raiser for RTA (Rehabilitation Through the Arts), an organization which brings arts into the prison. Or no, maybe it was before that, at a brain storming meeting to save the jobs of her fellow local librarians (while her job itself, was not in jeopardy). I could go on and on.

    And so, I imagine, could the numerous authors who have visited her school, the numerous teachers and educators who have read her intelligent, heartfelt posts about the importance of reading and libraries. But most of all, I imagine, could the children who don’t give a hoot about politics but have been “saved” by the one book that Susan Polos knew to put into their hands. She is a gift to the world of literacy and advocacy.

  83. Susan Polos is a tireless advocate for social justice, libraries, learning and simple human decency. She is so deserving of this recognition. One needs only to follow her on Twitter to know where her heart lies.

  84. I strongly support Liz, Talk about the whole package! Liz is so loved and respected not only by the Cambridgeport School Community, but by the community at large. Her warm and kind smile make it easy for young and old to approach her. She is well versed and always has suggestions and ideas to help us better understand the different challenges that we as a community face on a regular basis. I am proud to be her Colleague but more importantly her friend. She is so deserving of this recognition, truly an amazing and strong woman.

  85. Liz is an amazing librarian and her library is a warm, welcoming, and wonderful space! She has collected a rich, beautiful, and diverse collection of books that reflects the communities at C’port and others, is a wealth of information about the books in the library, and knows all the kids well enough to recommend books they will like. My class loves library time. In addition, she runs a myriad of events and activities (e.g. electives, coffees), invites and hosts fantastic guest speakers and writers, and organizes these as well as she runs her library. I’m lucky to be working at a school with a librarian like this!

  86. This is just ONE example of how Susan Polos personifies SOCIAL JUSTICE….even when her world came crumbling down, she continued to speak up, speak out, write, speak, work within the system, challenge the system, educate, question, and be the VOICE for what matters for kids and communities.

    Colleagues by chance, Friends by Choice….lucky to call her both.

  87. Erika truly demonstrates all the qualities that most librarians spend their careers trying to achieve. She cares deeply, teaches enthusiastically, and works hard to create a space that not only welcomes but fully embraces all students. Earlier this semester, I was able to spend time in her library where I saw a world of cultural relevance and a sincere desire to make her place a common ground for conducive education. I am continually impressed by basically everything Erika does and I find myself wondering how she even has time to do it all.

    I feel privileged to work with Erika and I hope to ‘grow up’ to be just like her one day!

  88. Susan Polos is Social Justice. She advocates for others to make the world a fair and just place – particularly for school librarians. I am privleged to call Susan my friend, mentor and colleague. She is a role model to us all to us all in how to advocate for what we believe and how do this effectively. I am proud to endorse her!

  89. I echo so many of the thoughts already posted about Susan Polos. Her role as advocate is inspiring, and she is a great role model for librarians to fight the good fight everywhere.

  90. I know of no finer defender of school libraries and school librarians than Susan Polos. She is outspoken in quest to get elementary school librarians back Into each school in her community. Her words and actions speak to all of us who share an interest in the reading guidance of all students and the important role that school librarians play in the lives of the entire school community.

  91. It is easy to get angry, bitter, and want things to self implode when libraries are cut, but Susan Polos knows that she has a voice. Rather than giving in to the negativity, she presses forward by advocating for students, families, and communities. What she is doing isn’t easy, and she deserves endless kudos for the countless ways she is speaking up for libraries, librarians, and ultimately readers, creators, and changemakers.

  92. Erika Long cares so much about anyone and everyone that passes through her library–it’s infectious! She makes me a better reader, learner, and teacher every day. She encourages me to find new books to read and share with my students. She is always making sure that the books in the library are presenting a wealth of diverse books for everyone to read. She constantly encourages students to read out of their comfort zone and advocates for all.

  93. I am happy to give a shout out to Susan Polos. She always has a smile on her face and is passionate about helping the stakeholders in her community. Susan cares deeply for the students in her district and makes her voice be heard. It doesn’t take much for fellow New York State School Librarians to support Susan and I am proud to be her friend.

  94. I met Erika Long a year or two ago at a TN Lib. Association conference and I have been very impressed by her! I could tell she was a mover and shaker right off the bat. She has stepped up to the plate in several leadership positions. I also enjoy following her on social media because I am always inspired by the amazing things she has going on in her library. I can tell that she has a true love for students and reading… and it shows in the amazing programs and initiatives she implements every day.

  95. Susan Polos, whom I’ve known for many years through our church and community, is a tireless advocate for social justice in general and, in particular, for the rights and welfare of children. She is passionate in person and very active on social media in her advocacy for school libraries and access to literature for underserved children. Susan is no less than their champion! It’s my privilege to be able to honor this remarkable woman.

  96. I can think of no other person more deserving of this nomination. Susan Polos is a hero! She works tirelessly for our children; giving them a voice, protecting their rights and encouraging them to go above and beyond. Congratulations Susan!

  97. If there is anyone that embodies the heartbeat of the school library, it is Susan Polos. She endlessly advocates for the right of every child to have access to a qualified, credentialed school librarian and an exemplary library program. She recognizes the incredible value of diversity in literature, instruction and life in general. She works each day to spread these messages and lives into the actions she hopes others will take, leading by example. Her live for her students is a bright light. Every time I see her, she is tirelessly reading, sharing, posting, and advocating for us, for our children, and for a better world.

  98. Erika is extremely passionate about her work as a librarian. She is committed to exploring life with her students through literature. With the diverse world we live in, it is important that we are all understanding of and show respect for various cultures, religions, life choices, etc. With this is mind, Erika makes sure literary selections are accessible to her students to ensure they are learning about and becoming more accepting of our diverse world. Erika continues to learn and grow in the world of education. She is committed to sharing her knowledge and experiences with others to ensure we are all making a difference in the lives of the youth we help to mold. Her passion and drive encourage me to be a better educator.

  99. Susan Polos is a passionate advocate for children in her district, but on a larger scale for children throughout the state and national level. She is a tireless champion for public schools and solid educational policies. She uses Twitter as her microphone to share her work and also valuable resources! She is an amazing person.

  100. Ask any librarian who know Erika what they could learn or have learned from her, and they will say it’s the way she promotes reading and learning in so many innovative ways. She was a pioneer in our school district who first embraced social media and made the most of its wide reach. As a teacher, what I personally love about her social media presence is her insight into new books, especially ones with unique, gripping characters and untold stories. Every type of person is represented in her recommendations, and that’s where her social justice advocacy shines through. I want my students to see themselves in books and also understand those who are different. I love that Erika is promoting the same values, and she is just excellent at it!

  101. I have known Susan for, OMG, nearly 40 years. She has always been a passionate advocate of books and literacy. Yes, she was so even before social media existed! She has devoted her life to noble causes, and in this challenging time we need minds and voices like hers more than ever. Susan is and always will be a tireless defender of public schools and libraries as well as literature and the arts. Go Susan!

  102. Susan Polos is my hero. She not only deserves this award but all other awards. She should be School Librarian of the Year, Person of the Year, and whatever else is out there. She fought and fought and fought and never gave up to save the elementary school librarian positions in her district. And although the Board of Education, despite her perseverance, talent, concerns, still voted to cut the positions, she moved to another building and made the best of her situation. Whereas others may have given up or broken down (maybe me?) she never did. AND this was all while being the president of our state school library association (NYLA SSL) AND teaching AND going into work every day AND being their for her students AND being on an award committee with ALSC AND…fill in the blanks because you know she was advocating for something and doing something positive. SHE is amazing and deserves every award and recognition out there. I am honored to know her and call her my colleague.

  103. Susan Polos is an amazing advocate for students and for school libraries. She is a devoted professional who truly practices what she preaches. She is involved in numerous committees both in school and in the community – making sure everyone is knowledgeable about the importance of student access to school libraries and librarians. She attends meetings, rallies, town halls and conferences to get her message out and she will never give up until every school in her district has a full time librarian once again.

  104. Ever since I have known Susan Polos she has always been an advocate for the most marginalized and underserved. Her love for books and people allowed me to open my eyes and world to the possibilities in each book I read. Her tireless support of and for those society deem worthless is what makes her the ideal candidate for this recognition and award.

  105. Liz Phipps Soeiro is the ideal candidate for the AASL Social Media Superstars: Social Justice Defender award. Liz strongly believes that equity of access to libraries, information, diverse materials, and other resources is a civil right, and the amazing work she does not only in her own school library, but also locally and globally, truly embodies this belief. Liz promotes social justice every day in her school library. Liz teaches her students to not only use their voices to fight injustice and advocate for positive social change, but also teaches students the necessary skills to empower them to enact those changes through authentic learning experiences such as lobbying Cambridge City Hall for funding to improve issues at their school’s playground or for funding to install a “free little library” in a neighborhood park. Through these types of projects, Liz’s students learn the important lesson that they have the power to advocate for positive changes in their city and beyond. Liz’s efforts to empower members of her school community extend beyond just her students. Liz wanted to create opportunities for families in her school community to feel they also had a voice in school district and local political decisions. To that end, Liz created “Coffee and Conversation”, a weekly gathering where families meet in the school library after dropping their children off for school. Once a month, a featured guest such as a member of the school district administration, government officials, local nonprofit employees or others joins the “Coffee and Conversation” group, giving attendees an opportunity to interact with these decision makers and ask questions about issues that directly affect their families and community. Liz’s strong belief in and commitment to social justice has led to her active participation in other local and global programs as well. She is actively involved with the Cambridge Weekend Backpack Program, a wonderful program where schools send backpacks of food home with students in need of those services. Liz was the founder of the Cambridge Book Bike, a summer program where Liz visits parks around the city (on her book bike) to read stories and give free books to kids. The Book Bike also partners with city agencies that provide a free lunch to children during Book Bike events. Liz is also actively involved with Libraries Without Borders, a global non-profit organization that seeks to bring innovative libraries to the underserved around the world in order to “broaden their horizons, transform their lives and build social capital.” As co-chair of the Massachusetts School Library Association Legislation Committee, Liz leads library advocacy and lobbying efforts at the state and national level. She recently hosted a Library Legislative Breakfast in her school library where state and local elected officials, representatives from all types of libraries, and many community members attended to celebrate the importance of libraries and advocate for funding library budgets. Liz attends Library Legislative Day at the Massachusetts State House to meet directly with legislators to advocate for statewide library funding. Liz uses Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms to draw attention to social justice issues. Liz’s work in the area of social justice led to her being named a 2017 Library Journal Mover and Shaker. Liz Phipps Soeiro champions social justice every day through her words, work, and actions; she would be a very deserving recipient of this award.

  106. Susan Polos is an inspiration to not only her fellow librarians and teachers but to all who are fortunate enough to know her. She is passionate about literacy and the importance of libraries for all children – young and old. She is dedicated to her school and her community. It is an honor to know Susan and to share her passions.