POWHATAN – Powhatan High School librarian Melissa Glanden was announced last week as one of 10 winners in the nation of the I Love My Librarian Award.
The American Library Association (ALA) announced on Tuesday, Dec. 10 that Glanden was being recognized for her leadership in her school and commitment to transforming lives. She and the other nine winners were chosen from 1,974 submissions from across the country of people wanting to honor the lasting contributions of librarians working in public, school, college, community college and university libraries.
A release from the ALA pointed to Glanden as “someone who seeks to convert students and teachers alike into staunch patrons of the school library” and “draws all types of users to the library, successfully influencing reluctant readers to develop a love of reading, learning and creating.”
“Glanden’s work has transformed the Powhatan High School library. Her introduction of new technologies, a maker-space and dedicated zones within the library sparked an uptick in visits and material circulation. Now, her nominators say, reluctant readers willingly visit the library to check out books for leisure reading. Students reading below level continue to build their reading skills by having access to teen-friendly materials such as Hi-Low books, novels in verse, graphic novels and manga,” according to the release.
Glanden, who has worked as a librarian for PHS since 2017, said she learned about the award right before Thanksgiving and had to keep it a secret until last week. She admitted that until the official announcement, she almost expected to hear it was a joke because she knows there are so many great librarians out there.
But when Glanden spoke about the seven-page recommendation the school administration submitted to nominate her detailing what she has brought to PHS in the last two years, she said it hit her how much she and co-librarian Paul Smartschan have accomplished with the library.
“It is neat to see everything written down and have someone take the time to think about that and what all you have done to change things. I am always looking to see what are the needs – what are the student needs, what are the faculty needs, what are the school’s needs, how is the culture going for the library? That is always in the forefront. It is not what I want for the program, it is what we need for the school with the program,” Glanden said. “It is kind of exhausting when you read it and think, ‘Wow, we are doing a lot of stuff aren’t we?’”
Glanden and the other award winners will each receive a $5,000 cash prize, a plaque and a travel stipend to attend the I Love My Librarian Award ceremony in Philadelphia on Jan. 25, 2020, during ALA’s Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits. The event will be streamed via Facebook Live at https://www.facebook.com/AmericanLibraryAssociation/.
Glanden said her family plans to attend the conference to watch her receive the award. She and her husband plan to use the prize money to take their children to Yellowstone National Park.
Dr. Mike Massa, principal, said the recommendation was easy for the administration team to write because Glanden does such amazing things for the school.
“She does so many unique and innovative things that really meet the spirit of what we do here in the county. It was a very easy letter to write. In fact, the biggest challenge was to get as much in as we could without it being 20 pages long,” Massa said with a laugh.
In the recommendation, the administration called Glanden an “evangelibrarian” who seeks to convert students and teachers alike to be staunch patrons of the school library, and “who is committed to developing and innovating all aspects of the library program, spreading the word far and wide to reach every learner in the school community and draw them in to develop a love of reading, learning, and making!” Glanden and Smartschan made great “strides in changing the climate and culture of the library that drew teachers and students to the space in a way that we had not seen in recent years.”
PHS is comprised of 1,430 students and 103 classroom teachers. In Glanden’s first year as librarian, the library saw a 37 percent increase of before-school student visits, 40 percent increase of Indian Time visits, 32 percent increase of lunch visits, and a 15 percent increase in total visitors, according to the administration’s recommendation. The next year saw a 90 percent increase in before-school visits over her first year, a 49 percent increase in Indian Time visits, a 23 percent increase in lunch time visits, and a 51 percent increase in total visits with over 23,847 library visits, not including event, workshop, and class visit numbers. Circulations also increased 14 percent between school years 2017 and 2018. In school year 2018, there were 585 learning activities with classes that resulted in over 14,000 class visitors not included in previously mentioned numbers.
The extensive nomination also highlighted activities such as working with Powhatan County Public Library to bring a STEAM activity to local preschoolers; partnering with the school’s carpentry classes to implement free little libraries within the community; spearheading the Powhatan Community Makers project with the Diverse Hands at Work Club and the National Arts Honor Society to honor four nominees who have made a difference in the community with student-created portraits and student-led interviews; developing innovative lessons with teachers who have never really tapped into library resources or support before; initiating converting the librarian’s office over to a makerspace, and addressing the need for Hi-Low books, novels in verse, graphic novels, and a manga section to meet the needs of students reading below level.
Through a collaboration with the school’s English classes, Glanden conducted reader surveys and delivered book carts filled with materials based on students’ interests, reading styles and attitudes. The carts included books with LGBTQ+ themes and multicultural characters to ensure that all students could see themselves reflected in the materials.
“Mrs. Glanden is well-respected among her colleagues and loved by her students. Many students have found a place in the makerspace and library when they’ve previously not felt they had a connection to the school community. The makerspace and library culture is one that allows students to breathe and sometimes reset their day,” the recommendation read.
Glanden has been an educator for 19 years. She has worked as a school librarian since 2008, with previous posts at Hungary Creek Middle School, Arthur Ashe, Jr. Elementary School, and Elephant’s Fork Elementary School. She was also a classroom teacher from 1999 to 2008, working in various grades at schools in Suffolk and Accomack in Virginia and in Pennsylvania.
Glanden has previously earned various awards as an educator, including the title of Rising Star at the conclusion of her first year at PHS; the Virginia Association of School Librarians 2016 Library Program of the Year for programs at Arthur Ashe, Jr. Elementary School, and winning Teacher of the Year at two of her previous schools.
Glanden said that she sees the school library as a resource for teachers looking for more support with changing up instruction and a safe place for students of all interests and skill levels to make a connection.
“When I grew up, my grandmother was super creative and I like to bring that to the table. Get the kids thinking, get the kids making, get the kids creating something that they have chosen to create, that they have goals for, that is not just a cookie cutter assignment for everybody,” she said. “All told, coming to the library, I just want this to be their space. This is their comfortable space.”
Laura McFarland may be reached at Lmcfarland@powhatantoday.com.