Meet The School Librarian: Arcadia High School’s Shawn Huffman

Name: Shawn Huffman

School I work at: Arcadia High School

Years as a librarian: Three

Arcadia High School librarian Shawn Huffman. (Submitted Photo)

Why did you decide to become a librarian? I was an English teacher for 17 years and I love helping students find books they want to read, not have to read. I also get to work with technology and I still get to teach students on a daily basis. It is the best of all worlds.

What is the most rewarding part of working with Children? Finding a student that does not like to read and introducing them to a book that fits their interests. I feel like everyone is a reader, they just haven’t found the right book, yet.

What’s one thing someone may not know about being a school librarian? The school librarian is almost a counselor position. Everyone, teachers, students, administrators all come down and air their grievances. You have to be a better listener than speaker to make people feel welcome in this job.

You also have to have a fairly thick skin. People will always hate books you recommend, technology you teach or advice you give. You have to take it all in stride as part of the job.

What makes a school librarian successful to you? Someone who engages the school community, makes them feel welcome and helps them achieve their goals. Their goals can vary, but making all information accessible and accurate helps everyone along their way. A successful library/librarian also fosters a culture of reading and helps promote the love of it.

Describe the moment when you decided being an educator/librarian was what you wanted to do for a living? I am not sure I even considered it until our previous librarian, who was a genius by the way, decided to retire. I was probably staring at a stack of approximately 200 essays about a classic novel even I wasn’t all that interested in and I thought, “I could get students to read some excellent stories for their own enjoyment and not for a grade.” It was an epiphany for me. I am honored I was selected from such a qualified pool of candidates to replace a legend!

To you, how do school libraries empower students? The library is a safe, welcoming place. As a species, humankind are storytellers. That makes the library a natural gathering place. I hope all libraries offer students the ability to explore all worlds, whether imaginary or real. Libraries empower students by making them the captain of their own ship! They lead their own adventure in this building.

If a student were to come in right now asking for a book recommendation, what would you recommend? Why? That is a tricky question. I always lead with “what was the last book you liked and why?” This gets me to a good spot where I can pick a book they might like and relate to. If it comes down to what book would I give to almost everyone, it would be “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card. It is an amazing epic tale. It is a bildungsroman, or coming of age novel, and it explores morality from a student’s perspective. Please don’t judge it on the movie. If you have not read it, it is well worth you time. Harry Potter would be right there, as well. We are now entering a generation that has only seen the movies and they are missing out.

What book can you read over and over again and it’s enjoyable each time you read it? Why? “Ender’s Game” because it truly fulfills the characteristics of an epic (i.e. long, poetic verse, hero’s journey, etc.) It certainly has some holes, but I first read it in 1986 and Ender has been my hero ever since. I find myself applying lessons from the book to my every day life more with that book than with any other, so it draws me back again and again. I also read it to my junior English classes every year I taught. It never got old there, even reading it three to five times per day on Fridays.

What was the first book you read and it really gripped you? I really loved the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy but I think cutting my teeth on “Encyclopedia Brown” was very important. I loved trying to solve the crimes right alongside Leroy “Encyclopedia” Brown. I wanted to be the type of person others would come to for help with their problems. I think seeing him use his brain instead of brawn was important for me. As a very physical lad, learning my mind was more valuable is a lesson that cannot be overstated.

Why was it so enthralling? Back when I was growing up, there were not books about young kids doing the important stuff of young kids. In those days, kids could only solve kid problems,  but the “Encyclopedia Brown” series treated the kid problems as seriously as the kids took them. I never felt like they talked down to me. Sobol treated the crimes as if they were Earth-shatteringly important. That validation was key for me.

That is also why “Ender’s Game” became so important to me. Ender was solving grown up problems the grown-ups could not solve. Card showed us value can come from the ability, not just age. He made it ok for young kids to feel like they could save the world and they did not have to grow up first. This is something we see all over the world today.

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