Elizabeth (Beth) Andersen of Portland, Maine was a high school and middle school teacher for nine years. During her teaching years she spent so much time in the library that other teachers would consult with her on library matters. Story time at Beth's public library was always a highlight of her week while she stayed home to raise her young son. It provided an opportunity to meet other parents, as well as fill her bags with books, with which she and her son could read for hours each day. As her son got older he would explore the children's collection on his own or sit and play with the puzzles, while Beth browsed on her own.
It was on one of those browsing expeditions that she came across copies of Booklist and School Library Journal, both available for checkout. She then began to devour these periodicals and soon was creating booklists for her son, friends and self. Friends would ask for book advice regularly, and only needed to reach into her book bag for a preprinted list with recommended titles.
When a position opened up on her local Library Board, Beth pounced on the opportunity to learn more about the inner workings of a library. While serving on the board for two years she developed programming for young adult patrons and adults as well as stand in front of the town's Selectmen to defend the library's budget. These actions soon made her well known in the Maine library community, which opened a new door as a substitute in various Maine public libraries.
Eventually, a job opened up for a Library Clerk at Beth's alma mater, Westbrook High School, just as her son started Kindergarten. Two years later she remembered an advertisement that a friend had sent her much earlier for Mansfield University's SL&IT program. After talking it with her husband, she decided it was time to start graduate school. In one class, an instructor recommended Beth review books for Library Media Connection, which she did at the end of the class. For Beth, reviewing books was an amazing opportunity, especially since it provided her students with free materials.
Looking back, Beth believes the SL&IT program, with its emphasis on current practice, was a perfect fit. In her own words, "every class has provided me with models and information that I can use immediately in my library...It has been a long journey, as so many of us know, raising a family, working, and taking classes, but it is absolutely the best journey." That journey brought Beth from Library Clerk, to Library Assistant, to Head Librarian.
As for the future, Beth's library faces a huge budget challenge, but her Central Office praises her budget proposal as an ideal way of "doing more with less." To meet the challenges she is working closely with the local library to share resources and provide joint programming, as well as encouraging and teaching students to take advantage of her state's virtual library. These measures will not only save tax payers money, but will help students develop a relationship with their public library and its resources that will last beyond graduation. As Beth reports, "my previous classroom experience aided me in developing the program and curriculum ideas, but my Mansfield classes gave me the vocabulary and expertise to develop the proposal and the budget. So now I get paid to read professional magazine like SLJ and to create booklists for my colleagues and students. I love my job!
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