Ask a School Librarian!

In order to celebrate School Library Month we are reaching out to different school librarians to highlight the work they do! We will be posting our interviews with them through out the month. 


Please introduce yourself (where do you work, job title)

My name is Marla Greenwald. I am the librarian at Cypress Hills Community School, a public dual-language school in East New York. I took this year off for maternity and childcare leave, but have been at the school for 11 years and will return in the fall. I was originally a 5th grade teacher but transitioned to the library when we got our own building 6 years ago.

What programming do you offer at your library?

During the school day or after school? During the day I offer independent reading, circulation time, readers advisory, and teach classes on library and research skills. I run a service learning class called House that manages a group of middle schoolers to help manage the library. Library House does lots of events like a character parade, gourd decorating contest, book fairs, help circ and shelve books, raise funds, and bring in authors.

After school I have run a bridge club, knitting club called Loop and Listen (we do audio books), and story time for younger students who don’t visit the library during the school day due to scheduling limitations.

What does an average day look like?

I meet with House, see a variety of elementary or middle school classes, do a bit of running around answering people’s questions or requests for materials, prep materials for a lesson, grade, organize books, reflect on how a lesson went in order to improve it for the next group, check in with classroom teachers about what we’re doing in the library, make sure the book return isn’t overflowing and try to stay on time with the bells!

Tell me about a not average day.

Once a year I run an event called Write to Read Day. We spend months preparing to bring in 7-10 authors, poets, musicians, journalists, etc. to conduct workshops for the middle school. Each student has a customized schedule based on his or her interests. I wear a walkie-talkie and carry a clipboard. House kids wear staff shirts and help facilitate the day while simultaneously participating. It’s exciting and nerve-wracking and as soon as it’s over I wonder who we will get for the next year.

How do you reach out to students and teachers?

This depends for what- I reach out to teachers by email or in person to ask how my lessons can better reflect what they’re doing in the classroom. I send out links, put flyers in their mailboxes, and make announcements in meetings about library resources. I send House kids around to check in with them regarding special events or missing books.

Students come on a fixed schedule so I have an audience with each class once a week. I try to appeal to what they like to read, watch, and listen to and help them find books that will speak to their personalities and interests. I encourage students to reach out to each other and recommend books in person, on our blog, and bulletin boards. I make announcements and email students about opportunities online (like SYNC audiobooks for teens) or bring in reps from Brooklyn Public Library to present on programming after school or during the summer.

Why did you decide you wanted to be a school librarian?

Read aloud and ELA/SLA were my favorite periods of the day as a classroom teacher. I was particularly inspired by having 5th graders reenact favorite scenes from our read alouds. Hmm, maybe I should have become a drama teacher :)

What is the schooling like to become one? (ie classes, certification, etc)

It took me two years to get my MLS and get certified at Pratt. I did one year full time and took a variety of classes on information management, school media centers- but the literature classes taught by active school and public librarians were always my favorites. The observation and student teaching hours are very time consuming, but you can learn a lot by watching the right people.

What has been your favorite moment of being a school librarian?

Seeing a student “sell” a book they loved to another student, watching big kids read with little kids during buddy reading, homemade costumes of book characters, watching a child browse independently and take their time seeing if the book is what they want….too many to pick one!

Anything else we should know about?

We’ve had a lizard live in our library for the past 6 years. His name is Irwin and he’s a bearded dragon. He can be distracting during lessons, but is also a beloved feature of our library. The students swear he listens when we read out loud.