Robin Ludmer, teacher-librarian at Wildwood Elementary
School libraries are essential to student’s academic development – study after study has shown that students in schools with well-funded libraries staffed by professional, certified librarians score significantly higher on everything from early reading achievement to the ACTs. While only 9% of California’s public schools have a credentialed school librarian, here in the PUSD, because of the support of our community, every school has a well-resourced library staffed by a credentialed librarian. Below, Ludmer tells us more about her work, and how libraries impact the lives of Piedmont’s students.
PEF: What was your path to becoming a teacher-librarian?
Ludmer: I was born wanting to be a teacher. I was a Special Education teacher, then after I stayed home with my kids for ten years, I was ready to reincarnate myself. I had fallen in love with the library at my children’s school, so I went back to graduate school for a second master’s degree in library science, got my library credential, and started in Piedmont in 1997.
PEF: What does the job of teacher-librarian here in the PUSD encompass?
Ludmer: We develop library lessons to address standards, and create units of study together with classroom teachers and specialist colleagues, all incorporating Common Core and Model School Library Standards. We develop the library collection to meet the curricular needs of our specific school and the interests and learning styles of all the students, keeping an eye out for books that integrate diversity and the arts. We differentiate to match the right books to the right students, sponsor author/illustrator visits, and support our site book fairs.
We work to make our libraries open and welcoming, to provide a community space for students and families to explore. We want students to become 21st-century learners who can access information, use digital tools, do research, and have ways to pursue what they’re interested in and passionate about as readers of both print and digital sources.
PEF: What brings you the most joy about what you do?
Ludmer: I have the best job in the whole school! What could be more fun than getting kids excited about reading? When I can connect the right book to the right kid, and I get to see that spark that goes off for them, it’s just amazing.
PEF: How do our libraries impact students?
Ludmer: We know that school libraries improve student performance. The facts that PUSD supports school libraries, and we have such high student achievement levels here are not unrelated. And the fact that we can differentiate in the library program means that every student has access to materials that they can explore. The library is also a safe space. During many a recess, students come in and read, and we have mini maker centers, with origami materials, collage materials, building materials, circuitry, etc. At Wildwood we have an amazing loom that the students are in the second year of using to create a wall hanging for the library.
PEF: How do our resources here in the PUSD compare to other public school districts?
Ludmer: We’re so lucky here – every school in the PUSD has a library and a credentialed librarian and a qualified library assistant. Most California public school districts don’t. Thanks to the Giving Campaign, the parents clubs and the District, our libraries have been maintained and staffed. We are very fortunate to have that support.
PEF: How does your work connect with the work of our other educators?
Ludmer: One of the joys of my job is working with the teachers and other specialists. The art teacher and I have worked together recently to create library lessons to help kids think differently about their roles as artists. Last week, a teacher emailed me, and she wanted a collection of books for her 5th grade social studies for a unit about immigration. I suggested we have the kids come in and collaborate to pull together a collection for themselves. The students came in, and we worked together to create this collection, ranging from the history of Ellis Island to a book about refugees from Somalia; the students built a classroom collection of fiction and nonfiction. The class then went on to use an electronic book from the library collection as a mentor text for their study.
PEF: How does our community support your work?
Ludmer: Both the school district and the parent community of Piedmont understand the importance of school libraries and their connection to student achievement. Even with challenging budgets, PUSD, with the support of the Giving Campaign and the Parents Clubs, has managed to sustain our school library programs and staff.
PEF: What else is important for people to know about the work that you and your fellow educators do?
Ludmer: The fundraising is so key. I know how much work goes into the Giving Campaign, and the parcel tax efforts. And all the educators in the PUSD have an incredible level of commitment and devotion to our jobs; no one goes home at 3:00. Everyone works evenings and weekends. I worry about teacher attrition because it’s so expensive to live in the Bay Area. We need to pay teachers a living wage to maintain the quality of our schools here in Piedmont.
PEF: What keeps you coming to work each day?
Ludmer: My job allows me to be creative each day; I get to connect kids with books and help teachers do their jobs. I love my work – I can’t imagine not doing it. Being a teacher-librarian makes me very fulfilled and amazingly happy…and exhausted!