I recently had the opportunity to talk to Sheikla Blount, library media specialist at Columbiana Middle School in Columbiana, Alabama. Ms. Blount was recently named one of the recipients of the I Love My Librarian Award.  The award is a collaborative program of Carnegie Corporation of New York, the New York Public Library, The New York Times and the American Library Association.  A graduate of Alabama State University in Montgomery, Alabama, Sheikla clearly has a passion for libraries and children. She’s involved in the middle school, even outside the library, and the sponsor for the Junior United Nations Assembly and yearbook club.

Reading, of course, is one of her favorite hobbies, so much so that she didn’t pick a favorite book. And there is never a guilty pleasure when it comes to reading. “Reading is an absolute joy for me,” she told me. The 6th and 7th graders in her school are completing a reading challenge that asked them to read 20 books during the school year, and that’s helped Ms. Blount read things outside her normal comfort zone as she reads along with her students. It’s important to try and participate as much as possible in the challenges you set forth to your own students or patrons, and compare notes with them as you go along. The students will figure out which genres they like or dislike, and it sounds like that’s exactly what’s going on in Columbiana. The 20 Book Reading Challenge quickly became one of her favorite programs this past year and involved English and Language Arts teachers and the district reading coaches partnering for some truly important community outreach. Students read in different genres and add stickers to the reading goal chart in the library to indicate their progress. However, she also hosts making programs, including “Make It @ The Library.” With STEM such a hot button issue today, the library has some making initiatives that are ongoing. Low tech and high tech are included at the Columbiana Middle School Library, from quilting to circuit building to jewelry. According to Sheikla, “helping the students learn something outside of their normal classroom requirements has given me opportunities to see students shine in other areas and interests.”

In the library, she hosts plenty of other programs as well. Before school, the library is open to students so that they can work on assignments and meet with the librarian. Student aides also help her in the library, introducing them to library work and giving them mentorship opportunities with Sheikla.

Outside of work, Sheikla is just as busy. She is heavily involved in Alpha Delta Kappa (ΑΔΚ), an international honorary organization for women educators. They volunteer for such causes as Children’s of Alabama Hospital, and globally for St. Jude’s. Another organization she works with at the local level is ASLA, the School Library Association. They provide candidate support to library media specialists all over the state. She also quilts personally, and has even joined a quilting guild. I wonder how she has time for all those books for her 20 Book challenge! With all her work for libraries and youth in Alabama and globally, congratulations to Sheikla Blount for a well-deserved win for an I Love My Librarian Award.

By Stacey Shapiro, Teen/Emerging Technology Librarian at Tenafly Public Library, NJ

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