This is Janell Stoeger’s first school year as the Todd County Middle School librarian. Since the school district has not had a librarian for a while, she has been building up the collection and improving the space.
What is Book Smack?
I’ve started a class called Book Smack, which is a quarter-length class, with 6th, 7th and 8th grade sections. We’ve watched YouTube videos about how books are made. We’re talking about fiction and nonfiction genres, the Dewey Decimal System, focusing on some of those basic skill sets. We’ve also done some Readers Theatre performances for kids in Valentine, Neb. In May, I’m planning to take a group of 7th and 8th graders to the Journey Museum in Rapid City, as well as the teen makerspace in the Rapid City Public Library.
Some of your students are helping younger readers, too, is that right?
Yes. This quarter’s group of 6th graders has been going over to a 1st grade classroom at our elementary school and reading with a partner every Thursday. We recently took some poetry books over: Shel Silverstein, some Dr. Seuss. The students partner up, and the 6th graders read to the 1st graders. The 1st graders have also read to the older students, so it’s oral reading practice for everyone. We’re planning to get them all together for lunch sometime, too. And we’re also planning for the 6th graders to have recess with their readers, so that should be fun.
What is it like to build a completely new library program?
I feel very blessed to have a superintendent, assistant principal and principal who want to see this library be successful. They want it to be the heart of the school, a place where kids enjoy being. I’ve had a lot of support. My administrators have made updating the library a priority. In addition to updating the collection, we replaced the carpeting. New furniture is a possibility for next year as well.
How are you developing the collection?
I’m using LibraryWorld® to set up a card catalog. After weeding the old collection, I started making and finding lists of books to purchase. I want the collection to cover the needs of low-level to high-level readers. I also want books to appeal to a wide variety of middle school student interests: sports, science, romance, suspense and really, everything in between.
I ordered five copies of each of the YARP (Young Adult Reading Program) books, so students could participate and vote in that program. I’m hoping to build some more excitement around that next year as well.
What books have been popular?
We have several of Rick Riordan’s series. He writes the Percy Jackson books. Lisa Schroeder’s “The Bridge From Me to You” has been very popular. I have quite a few fiction-in-verse fans. Sonya Sones has written several of those: “One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies,” “What My Mother Doesn’t Know,” “What My Girlfriend Doesn’t Know.”
I wish there were more fiction books featuring middle school Native American students as the main character, so my students could see themselves in the pages of a book. That has been a definite challenge. I have had some success with reading aloud some Native American short stories. “Moccasin Thunder” is a collection of short stories that kids have enjoyed hearing.
How do you network with other librarians?
Alissa Adams, the State Library’s school library technology coordinator has been fabulous. She’s visited the school and has offered great support via email. State librarian Daria Bossman has directed me to some grant opportunities and other information. And I attended the South Dakota Library Association conference last fall. I’m on the YARP Committee for next year, too, so that will also help me build some relationships with other librarians.