Sheikla Blount has worked in education for 33 years, all of which have been with the Shelby County School System. She spent the first 19 years teaching kindergarten, and for the past 14 years, she has served as a school library media specialist. She currently works in this capacity at Columbiana Middle School. She grew up in Andalusia and earned multiple degrees from the University of Montevallo.

What is the I Love My Librarian Award you won this year, and what does it mean to you?

The I Love My Librarian Award is a collaborative program of Carnegie Corporation of New York, the New York Public Library, The New York Times, and the American Library Association. The award encourages library users to recognize the accomplishments of exceptional public, school, college, community or university librarians. Each librarian nominated for the award must hold a master’s degree from a program accredited by the American Library Association in library and information studies or a master’s degree with a specialty in school library media from an educational unit accredited by the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education.

Being a recipient of the I Love My Librarian Award is a highlight of my career. I am extremely honored and blessed to be among the recipients. When I learned that I was one of the recipients, I began trying to process the magnitude of the award and asked myself, “Who would do such an amazing thing as to nominate me?” I will forever be grateful to my nominator, Jason Mayfield, the gifted teacher at Columbiana Middle School. It is rewarding to have someone observe and recognize what I do daily to meet the needs of students, teachers, the curriculum and colleagues. This award confirms that what I do daily is making a difference in the lives of students as well as the adults I work with.

What changes have you incorporated at the Columbiana Middle School library?

Each year, I purposely focus on making at least one change or implementing a new program that gives students something new and fresh to look forward to. This year, I have collaborated with the 6th, 7th and gifted English Language Arts teachers and reading coaches to challenge the students to set a reading goal and read multiple genres. Students enjoy time to explore and create outside of the regular classroom assignments; therefore, I have also implemented a “Make It @ the Library” program which gives students opportunities to work with circuits, quilt, make jewelry, create origami, as well as other activities.

What are several things a school’s library media specialist does?

One of the most important things a school library media specialist does is to be knowledgeable of library standards and skills and determine how to best incorporate them in lessons and activities in order to help students use ideas and information effectively. A school library media specialist also needs to have a good grasp of the library resources both print and non-print as well as various technologies in order to assist students and teachers with assignments and pleasure reading. In addition, it is important to know and understand the learning needs of all students as well as their reading choices. One of the joys of my job is connecting students to the perfect book and creating lifelong readers.

Moving forward, what are your plans for the CMS library?

My plan for the CMS library is to continue creating an environment that is a safe haven where students can think, create, share, grow and read. This includes building the collection in order for students to have what they want to read as well as those resources needed for completing assignments. This year there has been a focus on student data in Shelby County Schools. As I make plans for the library, I will be incorporating programs, lessons and activities that will support the CMS student data and have a positive impact on student achievement.

In your opinion, what five words should describe a school’s library?

A school library is essential and can be described with numerous words. Five that represent the CMS library include: inviting, equitable access, information center, collaborative and diverse.

What is one of your favorite books from your childhood?

It is quite difficult for me to name a favorite book because that list is extensive. I’m usually reading a couple of books at a time. Growing up as a child, I visited my school library as often as I possibly could. At home, we did not have any children’s books. However, there were a few of my parents’ old school books which I read often. I grew up watching “The Little House on the Prairie;” therefore, “The Little House on the Prairie” books are special to me.