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At NetGalley, we’re definitely fans of librarians and how their passion for reading and knowledge influences so many readers (young and old), so we wanted to highlight an event geared towards librarians that helps provide them with tools and resources so they can continue to evolve. The New York City School Library System is holding their 26th Annual Fall Conference on November 3rd at the famed CitiField, with the theme: Libraries for ALL Learners, which will focus on equity and all that it entails. We had the chance to sit down with Melissa Jacobs, a coordinator for NYCSLS, to talk about her interactions with librarians, their annual conference, what her department does to help libraries.

As coordinator at the New York City School Library System, can you describe some of the projects you work on? Do you have any favorite aspects to your day?

I have been working as a coordinator in the New York City School Library System for a little over 12 years. I provide support services to librarians and help develop strong library programs. What does that look like on a daily basis? No day is ever the same… yesterday, I spent eight hours weeding out a collection that has been neglected for years and mentoring a new librarian. Last week, I facilitated two professional learning community meetings for librarians in Brooklyn and Staten Island. Next week, I am traveling off to Lake Placid, NY for the New York Library Association’s Annual Conference and facilitating the School Library System Association of New York State’s Executive Board Meeting and General Membership Meetings as President.

What is your greatest achievement so far, and do you have any projects you’re looking forward to?

So many amazing things are happening in libraries throughout this country. In the last year, we have seen libraries being highlighted as sanctuaries from the world’s chaos, artificial limbs being fabricated in Makerspaces and Maker Labs, and mobile technology infiltrating society and K-12 education. Several years ago I founded the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) Best Apps for Teaching and Learning. Watching that task force grow into a nationally recognized committee and seeing the work continue on by my peers has been truly rewarding. It makes me smile knowing teachers, parents, and students now have a professionally vetted list of apps to refer to.

A major project you’ve been working on, the New York City School Library System’s 26th Annual Fall Conference, which NetGalley is proud to be a sponsor of, is happening next month – can you describe the conference and the events at the show that you’re most excited for?

The New York City School Library System hosts an annual conference for K-12 public and nonpublic school librarians.  It is an amazing day of collaboration, learning, networking, sharing and a celebration of school libraries. This year, we are so excited to welcome Jacqueline Woodson as our closing keynote and Dr. Alfred Tatum as our opening keynote. We will also be hosting an amazing panel of authors in a session moderated by Susannah Richards called The Lens of Diversity: It is Not All in What You See. This session will bring together Sophie Blackall, Daniel Jose Older, and Sean Qualls for a lively discussion on their views on diversity for young and older readers.

Do you find that the conference has changed or evolved in any particular ways over the years? Are there any trends that you’ve noticed or are there any you would like to see, on behalf of librarians, publishers, or relevant companies/services?

Absolutely! Our world changes daily and so does the needs, concerns, and issues of librarians. Five years ago, mobile technology was cutting edge and few people even had a smart phone. This year, I expect social media to play an enormous role in librarian’s access to information before, during, and after our conference. Anyone can now follow along the day’s events on Twitter using hashtag #nycsls2015 or on Facebook.

I’ve always admired librarians in general for their ability to adapt and then excel when it comes to major shifts in our culture, like the transition to ebooks and the use (and almost dependence) of phones and tablets. Have you witnessed, or personally administered, any creative ways to meet the challenge of evolving the traditional library so it’s more accessible and fun for patrons? Do you see any new challenges on the horizon that you’re preparing for?

Equity is an issue librarians struggle with and school librarians are confronting it daily. How do librarians provide the same level of practice and a strong library program in every neighbor and corner of New York City? It is something that keeps me up at night.

And for fun, if you were going on a long journey and could bring no books or devices, but you had time to commit just one book to memory, which would it be?

A secret confession… I love cookbooks and read them like novels. However, it would be impossible for me to select just one of the 400 plus I have indexed at home.

I’d like to thank Melissa for answering our questions during this very busy time of year. I’d also like to remind our librarian members to add your ALA number to your NetGalley Profile, nominate titles for LibraryReads, check out the latest monthly lists here and request the titles!

*Interviewed by Tarah Theoret

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One thought on “Interview with Melissa Jacobs, The New York City School Library System

  1. Many NYC schools don’t even have libraries any more due to budget cuts. It’s a shame. More should be done to restore them. Arts programs have also been cut.

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