Patrons Your Library Serves:
Robin Overby Cox
What was your first library job?
I was hired at a “strawberry school” in Plant City, FL and took over mid-year as the school prepared to transition from a building established in 1926 to a new $3.1 million campus. I found books and artifacts as old as the school as I tried to weed and prepare for the move. It was extremely exciting to be part of the renovation and building project. The new library was six times the size of the old; the collection was funded for replacement copies as well as new editions. We were trained to use a new state-of-the-art television studio. We truly brought the library from one century into the next!
Why are you proud to be a librarian?
Being a librarian is the finest work I know. It allows me to bring all the best parts of who I am into a setting that enables me to help develop and empower our youngest digital natives to be lifelong learners. I am a huge fan of the “book” — whether it’s print or digital, and am a storyteller at heart. I believe the library is not only the hub of the school, but also the hub of the community, and I work hard to make each and every patron feel welcome and inspired.
How do you stay inspired?
The field of children’s publishing is so rich, it inspires me each and every day. When I see the dedication and commitment brought to bear by authors, illustrators, editors and publishers, I am eager to share their talents with all of our patrons. It never ceases to amaze me to read through School Library Journal or The Horn Book to see what new offerings are on the horizon. Is there any other career field that strives to stay as relevant as we do? That’s inspiring.
What do you do for fun? What’s one thing people wouldn’t guess about you?
I have a little group of horses I spend time with each day. They give me down time after a busy day with people. I can curry and brush my old 35-year old gelding, or sneak a peppermint into my mare’s feed, and it gives me a lot of pleasure to be in the pasture with this little herd of beauties.
Describe your best day at the library. What made it memorable?
Oh, that’s a tough one. There are so many best days. And some of our best days look like our worst days, but the lessons we learn along the way create a new impression. I guess it would have to be November 5, 2009.
I was a school librarian at Fort Hood. We’d just finished up our school day, and because it was a half-day, we had about a hundred children in our after-school child care program. I was shelving books, getting ready to start a professional development session with our teachers, when we were ordered on lock-down by the military police. I rushed out of the library into the main office, and we learned there was a shooter about a mile from the school. Our staff pulled together throughout the day. We took a pile of library books into the gym where our children were secure, and we sat and read calm, peaceful books with our children. We fed them, held them, took care of them. It was a role I never thought I’d have to fulfill in the library. Our students trusted us. Over time, we learned what the lockdown was all about but it was nearly midnight before we went home.
The next morning, our children walked past armed soldiers as they returned to school. I had several library classes scheduled that morning, and wondered what book I could share that would help our children understand what had occurred at Fort Hood. If they’d watched the news, they knew there were many casualties, and they had to be scared or scarred by what happened. Nearly all of them had a parent deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, and I just could not bear the idea that they had to endure any more difficulties.
I opened my catalog and found Donna Jo Napoli’s book, “Albert.” I shared with our students that it was a scary world, but a good world, and they would be okay if they continued to be brave. It was a horrific 24 hours, but it was one I’ll never forget.
What are your favorite Demco products? (Oldies but goodies and newbies welcome.)
I’ve always loved the book repair section of the catalog — it just feels good to get a little more life out of some oldies but goodies. I also like promotional materials … marketing our libraries is so important. I spent some time at the Demco booth at our recent TLA annual conference, and was impressed by the products that will help us as we prepare to build a new library using the “learning commons” model.
If the sky were the limit, what would you do at your library?
I need 1:1 devices for my students to access everything we have in our library. I don’t want my students to ever lack for a device in order to access books, magazines, web resources, book trailers, websites, the library catalog, etc.
How do you envision your library in 2025?
I think our libraries will still include lots of print books, but our technology will be so embedded that we can access print and nonprint seamlessly.
What’s the best piece of advice you have for your fellow librarians?
Advocacy. You must be your library’s best champion and cheerleader. You cannot hide your light under a bushel, or someone will turn off the lights and send us all home. I know this firsthand. Five years ago, my first year in this district, the decision was made to let all librarians go. Library assistants were hired instead. All of our 20 librarians were sent back to the classroom, and many either retired or pursued other options. It was a huge loss of human resources. If library advocacy had been the benchmark, I don’t think our school board would have even considered the option of eliminating librarians. I now supervise five out of our 15 elementary school libraries, and my teaching role is greatly reduced. You must advocate today for the decisions that will be made tomorrow.