Booktalk Interview with Travis Jonker – Part 2
Part 2 of an interview I conducted with Travis Jonker, an elementary school librarian in Michigan, founder and blogger of 100 Scope Notes, reviewer for School Library Journal, former judge for CYBILS Awards, and member of the 2014 Caldecott committee.
You talked before about the importance of working with students and teachers in terms of information literacy. Tell me more about that.
Travis: I was telling somebody just the other day that I think this is the craziest time in history to be a librarian. There is so much change going on with technology, especially with eBooks and with resources being available online and for free. It’s just totally changed what the library looks like and what we do.
How do these technology changes tie into information literacy and what you’re trying to teach students?
Travis: Information literacy involves skills that kids will need as they grow up and throughout their lives. So, we’ll work with students doing research projects and I’ll introduce them to some of the different databases that we have online. I also talk to them about formulating guiding questions for their research, such as what exactly is it that they want to answer. I’ll talk to them about being methodical about how they go about answering those questions and being really thorough about it. My goal is to make students self-sufficient in terms of navigating everything that is out there and finding answers to their questions.
What advice do you give other librarians to help students learn how to navigate all the information resources that are available?
Travis: The big thing for me is to just try things. I think a lot of time people are hesitant to try a new project or something with a student because they’re nervous it might not work or the outcome might not be exactly what they want. But I think it’s really important for school librarians to work with students and teachers at every opportunity they can.
Why is it important for school librarians to work with teachers in terms of teaching information literacy to students?
Travis: Collaboration is such a big part of what we do. Sometimes it’s really difficult to collaborate. Everybody has their own things going on. But making those connections would be one of the first things I would tell a new school librarian. You need to keep working with teachers and getting into the classrooms of students that you’re teaching. You can even collaborate without collaborating. Meaning, you proactively look at what teachers are working on and then you look for resources and suggestions that might help the teachers even if they don’t come to you first.
Tell me a little more about the importance of school librarians collaborating with teachers.
Travis: School librarians really are well versed in doing research. They’re well versed in what books might fit with a particular reading or with the interests kids might have. The more times that you can work with a teacher, the better the students will benefit because you’ll be able to share your expertise and what you’ve learned over the years; whether it be working on research or suggesting a great new book to read.
The students won’t learn those things if you don’t make connections with those teachers. There are a lot of times when I’ll be eating lunch in the lounge and through a normal conversation a teacher will mention something she’s going to be teaching and we’ll end up planning to work on a project together. Even though it sounds simple, if that connection hadn’t happened, the students wouldn’t have benefited as much.
I understand that one such collaboration led to a rather unique experience for you. Please share.
Travis: You never know what you might be doing during the course of a day as a school librarian. But a couple years ago when Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday was coming up, I mentioned to one of the teachers who was coordinating our school’s celebration that a couple years before I had gone as Abe Lincoln to Halloween. She picked right up on that and before you know it, on Lincoln’s 200th birthday I came riding up to the school in a horse drawn carriage and delivered the Gettysburg Address on the front steps to a bunch of students dressed up in period clothing. We even had all the local news and TV cameras there. It was just the kind of thing where one little thing led to another. And it was a lot of fun.
Read part 1 (Everything is Reading) now and watch for part 3 (eBooks and eReaders in the School Library) of this interview to show up the first part of next week.