Ginnie Graham: TPS librarian honored as she helps make library daily part of kids' lives
BY GINNIE GRAHAM World Staff Writer
Saturday, November 17, 2012
11/17/12 at 4:20 AM
Oklahoma's "Queen of Books" doesn't shelve or check out materials.
Kristi Merchant, librarian at Patrick Henry Elementary, sponsors the school's newspaper and student council, handles the mandated site improvement plan, offers a summer reading program, gives students one-on-one help and serves as a sounding board of ideas for teachers.
She is also the best in her field, receiving the Polly Clarke Award from the Oklahoma Library Association.
"I'm teaching students life skills on how to get information and have the knowledge to know whether it is good or bad information," she said.
"Basically, I'm showing students how to evaluate and use what they find."
Stepping up to the challenge: School librarians are doing more than ever.
Public education is struggling from slashes to budgets, leading to fewer staff, bigger classrooms and a continued scrutiny based on test scores.
The librarians have stepped up.
Out of the past nine years, librarians at Tulsa Public Schools have nabbed the top state honor eight times.
Unlike the education department's Teacher of the Year contest - which comes with more than $50,000 in cash and prizes and a year of sabbatical to be an "ambassador of teaching" - this comes with a title only.
No gift certificates, no time off.
But, the Patrick Henry teachers bought Merchant a tiara and sash for a congratulations assembly.
"I love this job because I can work with all students and teachers and am not isolated. I feel I am playing a bigger role with kids. I get to see their progress and successes as they get older."
Merchant said TPS librarians are a tight bunch - meeting monthly, visiting each other's schools and sharing ideas through an intranet site.
"We have so many good librarians in the district. Schools have a personality. So maybe something that is a hit at one school won't mesh at another school. Sometimes, it's those little gems that work making a big impact."
Part of routine: Merchant taught math for seven years and then became intrigued by the role of school libraries while earning a master's degree.
"I didn't fully appreciate my librarians because I didn't know all they were doing."
Merchant's philosophy and goal is to make the library part of a child's routine.
This led to two creations at her school, which she joined about nine years ago - the Book Buddy Bag and a flexible library schedule.
For Book Buddy Bag, pre-K through first-grade students decorate a reusable bag and check out a new book each day.
"It's paid off because when they are older, they are in the habit of coming into the library."
The schedule change allows students to visit the library at any point in the day instead of having set times.
"Students should use the library when they need it and not be on a fixed schedule. A fixed schedule is not how learning happens."
Merchant is often the glue between staff, such as suggesting the gym and music teachers use terms like "half" or "quarter" to reinforce lessons from the math class.
"I know our curriculum inside and out, and lot of times I'll see the connections between teachers. Our goal is to help teachers teach better and help students learn better."
Original Print Headline: Librarian honored for work with kids
Oklahoma School Librarians of the Year
2012: Kristi Merchant, Patrick Henry Elementary
During the past nine years:
- Criss Smith
- Tina Ham
- Mona Edwards
- Barbara McBride-Smith
- Barbara McCrary
- Stephanie Brucks
- Betsy Richert
Librarian Kristi Merchant (center) works with fourth-grader Ubaldo Flores (left) at Patrick Henry Elementary School on Nov. 2 as Jack Hendrix works nearby. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World