The “Interview with a Christian School Librarian” is a series that features Christian school librarians and school library staff (both active and retired) from all over the country. The goal of this series is create a sense of community among Christian school librarians and to share our professional wisdom.
Kristen Kramer is the Volunteer Librarian at First Christian School in Napa, California. Her “official job” is the pre-school teacher there, and she’s also held several different volunteer positions at the school.
How long have you worked in libraries and how did you get your start?
I have been the librarian for the school for a just over a year now. I set up our library two summers ago from scratch. Our school started the accreditation process and the library was the one area that I could really help to get ready, so I volunteered. My two children attend the school and I really wanted this for them, too. Several years back I had helped set up a lending library in our past church and before that I was the manager of a Christian bookstore in Northern California.
What is the most enjoyable part of your job?
By far the most enjoyable part of the job is watching the students get excited about the books available to them in the library. There are a couple of avid readers in the middle grades that practically beg me to let them help out in the library just to be around the books. I love be able to provide good literature to our students.
What is the biggest challenge?
Can I list two? Number one- which might be a common one- is the budget. There is no room in our school budget right now to be moved into a paid librarian position and a very small budget for new books and supplies.
My second biggest challenge is the idea of using discernment in book selection for a Christian school library. I really try to have books that go along with our school’s statement of faith and are compatible with a Christian world view. For this reason I have created a detailed book selection policy for everyone to refer to. The process of filtering through donations becomes hard when popular young reader literature is so focused on the paranormal and in our community this genre has infiltrated into the school, too. These books aren’t appropriate for our library so I look for good alternatives for our students to read both in the Christian and secular book genres.
What piece of advice would you give to someone just starting off?
Since I’m just starting out, I don’t have a lot of advice to give. One thing I have done, that has been helpful, is to find librarian blogs to follow (like this one) and I joined an email group of Christian school librarians. I have learned so much from reading about other people’s experiences and listening to the answers of other librarians’ questions. I also find that Pinterest is helpful for me as I’m just starting off. I have found dozens of ideas for setting up our library, choosing/cataloging books, and creating library lessons.
Brag a bit! Tell me about the best thing you’ve done at your library. Did you implement a program, a policy, or create something you’re proud of?
I have to say that I am most proud of the library itself. It started as an empty room with a few shelving units, boxes of donated books and an order from Scholastic and now is a small, functional library with separate areas for the little kids, middle grades, and middle school students. The students enjoy sitting on all the beanbags and the tutors use the cafe tables with their students. We even have a reading loft that I built that the kids love to sit in and read. It’s a cozy yet fun space that promotes reading and exploring. This year we will have a computer system set up and I’m really looking forward to that!
What are some of the issues you deal with that you feel are unique to Christian school librarians?
I think I might have covered this in the question about the challenges- limited funding and a conservative book selection policy. I know we are not the only source of books for the kids and, frankly, I don’t want to be. We can just be the best we can with what we have. There is a wealth of great books that families can find at the local public library, the local bookstore, or online.
My thanks to Kristen for taking the time to answer my questions! If you’d like to be interviewed for this series, click here to let me know about your interest!