S1 E16: Why Every School Needs a Certified Librarian with K.C. Boyd-2022 School Library Journal Librarian of the Year (Part I)

May 30, 2022 Olivia Wahl Season 1 Episode 16
S1 E16: Why Every School Needs a Certified Librarian with K.C. Boyd-2022 School Library Journal Librarian of the Year (Part I)
Show Notes Transcript

2022 School Library Journal Librarian of the Year and Certified School Library Media Specialist, K.C. Boyd, shares about her advocacy and activism work for school libraries and librarians.  K.C. explains how she has found tremendous success in ensuring her students in Chicago and now Washington, D.C., have the right to read and access books that reflect themselves and encourage inquiry, despite their economic circumstances.

Some of Many Awards, Honors & Published Writing Highlighting K.C.’s Work:

K.C.’s Social Media Presence:

 #JAReaders #KCSaidIt #TrojanLMCMakerspace #workWO

Get solutions from Schoolutions!
#solutionsfromschoolutions #schoolutionsinspires #schoolutionspodcast

SchoolutionsS1 E16: Why Every School Needs a Certified Librarian with K.C. Boyd-2022 School Library Journal Librarian of the Year (Part I)
[00:00:00] Olivia: Welcome to Schoolutions, where listening will leave you inspired by solutions to issues you or others you know may be struggling with in the public education system today. I am Olivia Wahl, and I am so very fortunate to introduce you to my guest, K.C. Boyd. known to her loyal fans and followers also as The Boss Librarian.

[00:00:26] Olivia: K.C. can be described as a school library activist, keynote speaker, book reviewer, and blogger, yet I feel the need to give her more of a proper introduction. K.C. Boyd is a Certified School Library Media Specialist and has been for over 20 years. She's worked both as a district librarian for Chicago Public Schools, as well as East St. Louis School Districts.

[00:00:54] Olivia: K.C.'s currently working for the Washington, D.C. Public School System. She was a former coordinator for Chicago's Mayor Richard Daley Book Club for middle school students. She was a former creator and producer of the award winning Wendell Phillips Academy High School's “Behind the Paws” Students’ News Program.

[00:01:13] Olivia: K.C. has been featured in Education Week, School Library Journal, PBS NewsHour, and American Libraries, Library Journal, and Media Magazines. K.C. represented the first library media specialist track at the Future of Education Technology Conference in 2020. She appeared on the cover of School Library Journal Magazine in 2014, and most recently has been highlighted in the article Ace Advocate: K.C. Boyd is 2022 School Librarian of the Year.

[00:01:45] Olivia: The article is written by Andrew Bauld and the honor has been well earned by K.C. Boyd. K.C., I am humbled and excited to have you as a guest. You have so much to share, and we have so much to learn from you. 

[00:02:08] K.C.: Thank you for inviting me, Olivia. Glad I'm here today, 

[00:02:11] Olivia: K.C. I love to kick off each episode by asking guests who is an inspiring educator in your life. If you could name someone that's really inspired you over the years, who would it be? 

[00:02:23] K.C.: Definitely my parents. My late father was a 37-year veteran of Chicago Public Schools, and he was a science teacher and actually worked in middle school, just like I'm working in right now.

[00:02:36] K.C.: My mother retired from Chicago Public Schools as well. She started off as a science teacher and then she ended her career working as a computer instructor teacher. And she was like one of the first teachers within the district to implement IBM computers. So that kind of tells you how far back she goes in terms of technology.

[00:02:59] Olivia: Yeah!

[00:02:59] K.C.: So, we had technology in the, in the home. We always had science that just matriculated across anything that we did as kids with my sister and brother and I. So, uh, yeah, that was my parents. My parents were just the biggest influence of education, you know, in my life. 

[00:03:19] Olivia: So K.C., I have been enamored, um, and followed you for a very long time.


[00:03:24] Olivia: And I reached out because of the article that was published yet, one of the quotes on your website really strikes a chord with me. I want to read the quote is your words: “Our students have the educational right to have access to a robust, well-stocked school library program run by a certified school librarian, regardless of zip code.”

[00:03:47] Olivia: Those words ring so very true and one of the main focuses of the podcast is to name an issue that I see as a trend all over the world and then find guests that have advocated for solutions. You've advocated for so many issues that I've seen and just to name them for guests: systemic racism, equity divides across multiple levels that limit access to information and resources, a lack of support, and overall value for the impacts of school librarians.

[00:04:18] Olivia: You fight, you advocate, you show up. I don't know where you get the energy you have. I have so much to learn from you that this will actually be a two-part interview, two episodes that I'm going to offer the first part, what I'd like to focus on is your journey that's led you to where you are today. 

[00:04:39] Olivia: The second part of the interview., I'd like you to speak much more to how you balance your various roles and cultivate the collections you have, especially with the focus on technology and the digital literacy work that you do. So, let's jump right in. If you're ready, here we go. 

[00:04:57] K.C.: Sure!  Sure thing.

[00:04:57] Olivia: I'd love for guests to learn about your story and what inspired you to go into teaching.

[00:05:03] K.C.: Well, it was my late father. When you are a teacher's kid, a TK kid, you know, the last thing you want to do is work in education because you hear the frustration that your parent brings home every day, you know, bringing it into the home. And because I am the child of two educators, sometimes those conversations drifted to the kitchen table.

[00:05:25] K.C.: And we automatically heard these conversations, my siblings and I, and it just kind of made you say, I want to do something different. And which I did when I started out in undergrad. And what made me shift was there was a stall in my career working in Corporate America. I worked for FedEx. I was a corporate recruiter and it was a little bit, little bit of a stall.

[00:05:47] K.C.: There was a change in job description. I wasn't exactly excited about it. And that's when my father swooped in and said:  You know what you need to do is you need to go into education. And I was like: I do not want to be a teacher. I said. You know, maybe fourth grade, but that's about it. And I was getting ready to really work in fourth grade.

[00:06:08] K.C.: And then my father said: I have a better idea. Why don't you talk to my librarian at my school? Uh, the librarian at my father's school, Mrs. Campbell and my father worked together for years, I think 30 plus, if anything. So as a science teacher, he was always relying on Mrs. Campbell for a lot of different things.

[00:06:27] K.C.: You know, to support teaching in classroom and of course Science Fair and I would talk to her and I talked to my dad and I was like, you know what, this would be a good fit because I love reading.

[00:06:39] Olivia: Yes.

[00:06:39] K.C.: You know, and that's what happened, you know, and I've been in the library ever since.

[00:06:43] Olivia: When you were the librarian at Wendell Phillips Academy in Chicago, in Andrew Bauld's words: You transformed the reading culture. You helped the school go from second to last ranking among schools in Illinois when you arrived in 2010, to earning an excellent standing by 2014. How'd you do that? 

[00:07:05] K.C.: Well, it was a team effort. It wasn't just me. We were part of a reconstituted system in Chicago Public Schools at that time. And the entire staff was new.

[00:07:15] K.C.: We all had a focus. The principal really was the driving force with this because he said, listen, you all are going to, you know, respect one another. And if you don't understand what the other person's role is in this education hub that we are within, then we're going to learn from one another. 

[00:07:32] K.C.: And a lot of these first-year teachers never worked with a librarian and some of the veterans never worked with a librarian. So it was an opportunity for me to really talk about how important the school library program is and to also most importantly show them. So that's what happened is that it was a two-fold effect. I had programs and initiatives, resources for the teachers.

[00:07:55] K.C.: And then I actually worked with the teachers and because we work together as a team, that's how we were able to move those scores. And we were able to take that negative connotation off of the school that had had it for over 20 years. 

[00:08:09] Olivia: Can you say more when you say you worked together as a team through what aspects? Talk more about that. 

[00:08:15] K.C.: It was instruction mainly and supportive instruction. Like we had a population of students with a lot of IEPs, 504 plans, and providing materials and resources that would be able to enhance. and to provide a more robust lesson so that the students would be a little more engaged and understand what was being presented to them.

[00:08:39] K.C.: And then the second part of it is I really push the importance of independent or leisure reading with students. I am a huge fan of Dr. Keith Curry Lance and Dr. Stephen Krashen, which they both promote this as, and they're not librarians, they talk about how important it is that kids are just leisurely reading.

[00:08:59] K.C.: You just get, let them read anything that they want to read. 

[00:09:02] Olivia: Yes. 

[00:09:02] K.C.: Now that was the toughest part working with the staff is that they felt that they should direct the kids in their reading. And I was like, no, you never do that. You just let kids read what they want. And that's how you get them to become more avid readers.

[00:09:14] K.C.: And when you put material in front of them, such as a standardized test, they have a longer and higher tolerance to sit there and read the material and to go through it. 

[00:09:23] Olivia: Yeah.

[00:09:23] K.C.: So that was where we really made the difference together. 

[00:09:27] Olivia: Can I ask too, I know that time is so short in the school day. When did you have those meetings?

[00:09:34] Olivia: Are you doing it during collab (collaboration) time? Or is it before or after school? How are you finding the time to do that? 

[00:09:40] K.C.: It was collab time. It was before, after school, sometimes during lunch, you know, and sometimes it was just any opportunity that we had throughout the given school day to talk about something.

[00:09:50] K.C.: Sometimes it was merely a five-minute conversation in the hallway. 

[00:9:53] Olivia: Yeah. 

[00:09:54] K.C.: So I was just very grateful that I could get face-to-face time with the teacher because they're so incredibly very, very busy throughout the course of the school day. So I was very, um, appreciative of that because it made my job easier.

[00:10:08] Olivia: In other school districts I'm working with, it's critical that there's transparency with curricula.

[00:10:14] K.C.: Yeah.

[00:10:14] Olivia: In that it's public, it's out there, not just for staff members, but for families to see. And I can't imagine how significant that would be in your role to have access to what is being taught. So you don't have to have the face-to-face meetings all the time, but having it up on a platform per se, how do you share curricula options in your district currently?

[00:10:37] K.C.: I can see what my school is doing. My school sends out every week, we have a weekly bulletin that the principal sends out to the teachers as well as to the parents. And there are two separate bulletins. And in that bulletin, there is a breakdown of what is being taught in the class so that parents will know, and it's also a nice checks and balance system so that if the parents want to question their child about, okay, in math, you're being taught this, this….tell me something about what you learned this week.

[00:11:10] Olivia: Yes.

[00:11:10] K.C.: You know, so that is our transparency document that we are using currently.

[00:11:16] Olivia: That's it. That's exactly what I was wondering about. And it's, it's a lovely access point for the home-school connection as well. As you're saying that parents can know what's going on and have questions to ask. You also led the rebuilding effort of eight libraries for schools where 100% of the students live below the poverty line.

[00:11:33] Olivia: And that's when you were the lead librarian of East St. Louis school in District 189. How did you do that? 

[00:11:40] K.C.: Very carefully. It was, it was about the toughest thing professionally that I had to do because there was no culture of reading in this district. My former principal of Phillips High School became the Assistant Superintendent of the school.

[00:11:58] K.C.: And in a year in, he said, would you be willing to come down here and establish library programming? 

[00:12:03] Olivia: Wow.

[00:12:03] K.C.:  Because this is like something I've never seen before. And I said, yeah, I'll come down. I came down for two years. The first year it was just getting the books into a system, getting some order. 

[00:12:15] K.C.: And then after that, we actually had the books and we started pushing the books out to the kids like crazy and that's when it was just awfully beautiful just to see kids getting excited about reading. So we had like three hurdles. It was students, it was staff, and it was parents. And just getting them to understand how important independent leisure reading is and how it impacts the student as a whole, not just academically, but on a social and emotional level as well.

[00:12:46] Olivia: Absolutely. Absolutely. I want to pick your brain. In our household, books pour out of the walls. They're everywhere. Hard copy, soft copy books. What are your thoughts on digital books?

[00:12:59] K.C.: I think digital books have a place because there's an ease of convenience, and then also it meets the needs of a variety of different types of learning styles.

[00:13:10] K.C.: I think that it can be very helpful. In my case, my school is one-to-one. And because my school is one-to-one, sometimes there'll be 10 minutes left in the class period and the classes has completed all the work they've done their exit ticket and the teacher will say, okay, open up Sora, which is a reading app and it's aligned with Destiny Discover. Open the Sora app and I want you to do 10 minutes of power reading. 

[00:13:35] Olivia: And we know John Guthrie's research speaks to kids need to read 67 minutes a day. That is the magical number and it's not all at once. It can be across the day, various content areas. And when you say one-to-one, just to clarify for listeners, every child has their own computer.

[00:13:51] Olivia: I'm guessing it's a Chromebook. 

[00:13:53] K.C.: Yes, I'm sorry. I didn't, I didn't explain that. The school was a recipient of a grant and we were able to purchase Acer tablets for the students. So the students walk from class to class to class using these tablets. We are not what you would say 100% paperless environment, but we teach using Nearpod, which is a paperless tool to teach lessons in class to keep kids engaged.

[00:14:20] K.C.: So there's a lot of digital work as you, the materials that are used in the building. And so e-reading fits in just perfectly in our setting.

[00:14:28] Olivia: And I just think it will have a tremendous ripple effect on the savviness of students moving forth into the world to know how to navigate all of these resources at their fingertips.It's fabulous. 

[00:14:40] K.C.: Yes, but I will say this. Even though we are a big digital school, I still have a large percentage of students, more than half of the student body that still prefers a print book. 

[00:14:51] Olivia: Well, that's me. I still prefer a print. 

[00:14:54] K.C.: Mm-hmm.  Me too.

[00:14:54 ] Olivia: I think there's something to be said and to hold it in my hands and reread and own it.


[00:15:01] K.C.: Exactly. Mm-hmm.

[00:15:01] Olivia: There's something really beautiful about having that book and, and just lingering with it. So I’m with it too.

[00:15:07] K.C.: Exactly.

[00:15:09] Olivia: Your commitment to advocacy and activism is something I've never experienced before with an educator I've known. I'd love to know about the librarianship, how it drives your work. And if you could speak to your Chi school librarians, what did that work entail?

[00:15:26] K.C.: It was advocacy, but if anything out of that experience, I learned a lot about how politics and education overlap and how sometimes it can be a very, uh, sticky situation. 

[00:15:38] Olivia: Yeah. Yeah.

[00:15:38] K.C.: That's the best way to put it. We didn't have a lot of wins in with Chi School Librarians. We didn't, but I think all of us walked away with some very strong skills that have helped us in other areas of librarianship.

[00:15:55] K.C.: And many of us that were on that committee are doing, some of us, some of us are still in school libraries. Some of us are in administration and some of us are working for one is working for a national organization, but it's dealing with libraries. But at the end of the day, we did raise the awareness within the Chicago Public Schools area that the district wasn't investing in school libraries and it's still an ongoing argument.

[00:16:19] K.C.: So we raised the awareness and that was the biggest plus about that entire situation. We didn't win, but we raised the awareness and I think that was really important. 

[00:16:29] Olivia: I agree. And I think that if you always go into everything expecting to win, it's almost defeatist. 

[00:16:36] K.C.: Yes.

[00:16:36] Olivia: It's, it's looking at, you know, what's our end game ultimately here. And how can we move the, what is it? The, the arrow or just baby steps…

[00:16:45] K.C.: …the needle.

[00:16:45] Olivia: …the needle. Thank you. How can we move the needle and really get people's ear? K.C., what I find so many people are not aware of these issues and education outside of the educational sector, families that are invested, yes, but others may have no idea.

[00:17:01] Olivia: So move that needle. 

[00:17:03] K.C.: Mm-hmm, definitely. 

[00:17:03] Olivia: You're incredible with rallying librarians across the DC district and getting support of allies like Washington Teachers Union, Every Library. How do you do that work? How do you continue to have the energy to advocate?

[00:17:18] K.C.: Well, first of all, what really pushes me energy-wise is that it goes back to something very simple, which is where I was raised in suburban Chicago, I had a beautiful and thriving school and public library program.

[00:17:32] K.C.: There were no barriers. There were no hindrances, nothing. And it was really funded very well. But what bothers me is working for Chicago Public Schools and now D.C. Public Schools is that there's a lot of barriers put in place and it goes down to zip code, essentially black and brown kids.

[00:17:53] K.C.: So that's what gives me the drive and the energy to push forward because I look at it this way. If I had those experiences, I want these kids, even though they're not my own personal child, I want them to have those experiences too. 

[00:18:10] Olivia: And it's about access. It's all about access and access is a huge barrier.

[00:18:15] Olivia: You also are tremendous with social. You use social media to your advantage in a way that's brilliant. With Twitter campaigns, can you speak to the read-in that you organized with other DCPS librarians? 

[00:18:30] K.C.: Yeah, sure. The read-in came about is that we wanted to do something that was of a protest nature because, you know, this is Washington D.C. the home of protests, for crying out loud. But we also wanted to heighten and bring more attention to the lack of library programs in certain areas of the district. So taking a nod from some students, and this is a lot of, this is something that a lot of people don't realize. And they, they think that the read-in was really a great success.

[00:19:01] K.C.: And I came up with this, this idea. No, I didn't. I actually got this idea from some students in Chicago. Years ago, my friend, Sara Sayed was the librarian at DuSable High School in Chicago, and they were threatening to close her library and her position mid-year. The kids caught wind of it, got angry and they decided to do a sit-in. Now, remember these are high schoolers and they're reading about the sit-ins from the sixties.

[00:19:30] Olivia: Yeah.

[00:19:30] K.C.: So they said, we're not going to call this a sit-in. We're going to call this a read-in. So second period, they just came into her library. She's working off a class and she seems like 40 some kids in the beginning came in, grabbed the books, went out in the hallway and sat down on the floor and began to read and refused to leave until the district officers actually came from downtown and talked to them because the kids were on Twitter and they were tweeting pictures of them sitting in the hallway. 

[00:20:00] Olivia: Yep. 

[00:20:01] K.C.: Effective, right?

[00:20:01] Olivia: Effective indeed.

[00:20:01] K.C.: So my thing is I look at the, it's a biblical verse for out of the mouth of babes, I just said, hey, we can do the same thing. But I did not want us to show up in front of the Mayor's Office where she works with cowbells and drums and tamarins making a lot of noise and we could have been arrested…

[00:20:24] Olivia: Yeah.

[00:20:24] K.C.: I'm just going to keep it real. So we wanted to do something that was quiet and dignified. And we said, we're going to put the books up on display on the steps of the mayor's office. 

[00:20:33] Olivia: It’s beautiful.

[00:20:33] K.C.: And we're going to sit down and we're going to read silently. And they may not come out here, but guess what? The news reporters caught every single image of us sitting out there, um, reading quietly.

[00:20:44] Olivia: I've seen pictures. It's so beautiful. It's moving and it made me take pause and the thought that went into how to protest to get a message across. I think that's something we're also trying to teach our youth. 

[00:20:58] K.C.: Right.

[00:20:58] Olivia: You know, there are ways to protest to be heard, and silent protest is a big way to be heard, ironically.

[00:21:05] K.C.: Mm-hmm.Exactly. 

[00:21:06] Olivia: I want to end this episode highlighting the work that two years of your advocacy paid off this past summer with the D.C. Council. Can you speak to the unanimously approved 3.25 million amendment to the D.C. public school budget that went through? 

[00:21:24] K.C.: And this is another backstory too.

[00:21:26] Olivia: Please!

[00:21:26] K.C.: The backstory is that we decided as a collective group of librarians that we really needed to get the word out even further.

[00:21:34] K.C.: By this time, we have been protesting and advocating for ourselves for a little over a year and people are getting tired of hearing librarians talking. So we said, okay, we need to get our parents and community members more vocal. 

[00:21:47] Olivia: Yes.

[00:22:48] K.C.:  We scheduled meetings with each of the council members. And on those Zoom calls, because it was in the middle of the pandemic, we included a parent, a community member, and a child.

[00:22:03] K.C.: And they spoke from their perspective of either my school has a librarian. If you were to take this librarian out of our school, this is what we would be missing. Or from the perspective of, we don't have a librarian. We're looking at all of the programs going on across the city. This is what we want at our school, but we don't have it because we don't have a librarian.

[00:22:30] K.C.: And we were very clear in our messaging. It's not just a body to fill the position, which many districts will do. They will call themselves saving money and they'll just put a tech person or a paraprofessional in those positions. We said full-time certified librarian.

[00:22:46] Olivia: Yes. Yeah, that was huge. 

[00:22:49] K.C.: And that's what really moved the, the, the needle, you know, in this situation was that, wait a minute, why is it that certain areas of the city get this type of heightened service and others don't. And this district has more than enough money to pay salaries of that employee that will bring those resources into the community. 

[00:23:09] Olivia: Yes! It's brilliant. And this, this restored full-time librarian positions in 36 schools and many underserved communities. 

[00:23:18] K.C.: Yes.

[00:23:18] Olivia: It was huge. And then for that leadership work, you were recognized withALA's Ethnic and Multicultural Information Exchange Round Table, Distinguished Librarian Award in 2021.

[00:23:28] Olivia: So, kudos to you. 

[00:23:29] K.C.: Yeah, that was a really, it was a beautiful honor to receive that, but it makes no sense. And it's just, at the end of the day, it's an inequity in service to kids that need it the most. 

[00:23:41] Olivia: Yeah.

[00:23:41] K.C.: And that's what we were calling the district on at that time. And the council members saw it. Especially those council members that were in areas of the city that were being impacted.

[00:23:52] K.C.: They said, this isn't fair, you know, and even the council members that had the librarians in their area, they were saying, it's not fair either to the kids as a whole. 

[00:24:01] Olivia: Yeah. Absolutely. 

[00:24:02] K.C.: So people saw our point of view. 

[00:24:03] Olivia: So I want to wrap this episode, just thanking you for your tireless dedication to access to equity for our children, but it's not just the children.

[00:24:16] Olivia: It's their caregivers. It's their grownups

[00:24:19] K.C.: Right!

[00:24:19] Olivia: That are seeing what it takes to get things done. So thank you for having me back for a second part too. So listeners stay tuned.

[00:24:51] K.C.: Looking forward to it.

[00:24:19] Olivia: Thank you.