I have been mulling over how to expand my interviews, which I so enjoy doing, and have decided that while I want to continue with a focus on illustrators, I want to also incorporate chats with other members of the children’s publishing industry. What better way to try out these new waters than with someone known and loved in our community, Matthew Winner.
[JM] Professional title?
[MW] Library media specialist
[JM] Where are you from/have you lived and how has that influenced your work if at all?
[MW] I was born in Williamsport, PA. We moved to Westminster, MD when I was in high school. I went to school at Towson University and interned in Howard County, where I met my future wife. I was hired as a 4th grade teacher at Waverly Elementary in Ellicott City, MD and ending up working with the most kind, wonderful, and passionate library media specialist. She is directly responsible for me starting my grad work in School Library Media from McDaniel College. My wife and I now live in Ellicott City and I’ve spent 10 years in education, 8 of which as a library media specialist.
[JM] Tell us a little of your beginnings and journey as a librarian.
[MW] Oops. Kinda jumped the gun on that last question, didn’t I? I began work as a library media specialist at Longfellow Elementary in Columbia, MD and spent 6 years there building a program focused on supporting global citizenship and 21st century learners. I was named a Mover & Shaker in 2013 by Library Journal and was invited to the White House to talk about video games as part of their Champions of Change program that June. That fall I helped open Ducketts Lane Elementary School, our county’s newest school. We’re finishing our second year at DLES and our library team is exceptional.
[JM] What does your school library look like?
[MW] Beautiful windows. Natural light kissing nearly every surface. It’s a space in which I lose myself whenever things are still and quiet.
[JM] Do you have a favorite form of social media and if so, why?
[MW] Twitter is my favorite. It’s sort of the thread that connects me to everyone and connects everyone to our library. I use it for just about everything from coordinating author skypes to sharing resources with my PLN to collaborating with some of my favorite people. It’s a powerful tool in the hands of educators and it brings a smile to my face daily.
[JM] First job ever?
[MW] Sandwich artist at Subway. Can you believe that was actually my job title? I was 15 and I would have been more humiliated if I didn’t get so much free food. I always packed myself an extra sub to bring to school for lunch the next school day.
[JM] Cats or dogs?
[MW] Dogs. We had a Bernese Mountain Dog that we raised since a pup. His name was Avi, named for one of my favorite authors. When my son was a few months old we determined that he had significant pet allergies. Avi’s kisses, well… his saliva, would cause our son to break out in hives. Re-homing was one of the hardest experiences of my life. Avi was the best dog ever.
[JM] I have met the wonderful author, Avi. Matthew, before moving to the US, I had to rehome my two cats, I fully understand the trauma for you and your wife in needing to rehome your sweet, Avi. This is an adorable photo!
What are you currently reading?
[MW] At this exact moment I’m reading an advanced copy of Sunny Side Up, the new graphic novel from Jenni Holm and Matthew Holm. It’s outstanding and addresses a pretty challenging topic that I think is going to get people talking about the book a lot. I can’t wait to share Sunny Side Up with my readers!
[JM] How did you celebrate National Library week?
[MW] We celebrated by opening the school polls on the Black-Eyed Susan Book Award, our student-selected state book. I’m the founder and chair of our BES Graphic Novel award and this was our second year of voting in this category. The students also voted for favorites in the picture book and chapter book grades 4-6 categories. This year our state winners were The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt (picture book), Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein (chapter books, grades 4-6), and Astronaut Academy: Zery Gravity by Dave Roman (graphic novels).
[JM] I am sure you are a big fan of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign. What have you or your library purchased recently to support this?
[MW] We have a brand new library collection and I hand selected most of the items in the collection. I worked diligently to select titles represent diverse cultures and experiences and we continue to build our collection to reflect diversity. We also welcomed Cece Bell to our school this year. Cece was recently awarded a Newbery Honor for El Deafo, her graphic novel memoir. Now THAT is an exceptional read!
[JM] Please give us a highlight moment so far in your library career?
[MW] I try to keep an open mind and an enthusiastic attitude. I find a ton of joy in connections we make with authors, new projects we try with students, and new opportunities to inspire or to be inspired in the company of my peers. But one moment that I would consider a career highlight was being awarded the Technology Innovation Award from the International Society of Technology in Education (ISTE) for a TEDtalk-inspired collaboration project I did with Sherry Gick, my collaborative partner and a teacher librarian in Rossville, IN. Each of us worked with a 3rd grade class in our respective buildings to answer the question, “If you could change one thing about our school to help the Earth, what would you do?” My students focused on energy conservation and Sherry’s looked at recycling. We connected our classes frequently to offer research support, knowledge of experience, and encouragement and in the end each group of 3rd graders presented their findings to one another, their peers, and school staff and administration. (Learn more about our projects here: http://www.busylibrarian.com/2013/05/earth-pals-tedxelementary-project-part-2.html) It was a testament to the ability, ingenuity, and genius of young learners and was an accomplishment I was really proud of. We were recognized at the opening of the 2013 ISTE conference and received our award in front of a crowd of over 10,000 educators, technology specialists, administrators, and school librarians.
[JM] Something you’d like to say to children’s authors and illustrators.
[MW] Thank you. For how much I know and value about the mutual admiration society that is the relationship between librarians and authors/illustrators, and for how deeply I embrace the way we, both librarians and authors/illustrators, need one another, I want to thank you all for writing and creating the beautiful stories you share with all of us. I am positive that there are students of mine who love me solely for the books I share with them, and that wouldn’t be possible if there weren’t such brilliant people behind those books. I wish I could speak to each and every one of you to tell you personally how much it means to me that you create these 32-page works of art. Or that I am quite positive you are writing the books that these readers will carry with them their entire lives. I hope you’re able to find the faces celebrating your books, loving your books, and championing your books, and in doing so know that you are having a tremendous impact on the lives of our children. Thanks.
[JM] For those who don’t know about it yet, please tell us a little about your podcast.
[MW] I host a weekly kidlit podcast called Let’s Get Busy (http://lgbpodcast.blogspot.com/) wherein I talk to authors, illustrators, kidlit notables, and everyone in between. We talk about the books they’re writing. We talk about the sometimes-winding path that brought them to creating books for children. And sometimes the conversation settles on a particular interest of the guest, such as fountain pens, playing the banjo, an admiration of Fred Rogers, or maybe collecting old washers. It’s a 30-ish minute conversation that you might share with your favorite kidlit pal at a bar at a library conference, intimate, sincere, and captured on recording to be shared with the world. With nearly 2 years and over 150 episodes behind me, it moves me to hear how the podcast is connecting people, resonating with listeners, and being used as a primary source document in classrooms. But I mostly like doing it because I get to be a fanboy to all of the amazing people I meet.
[JM] Favorite annual conference?
[MW] I enjoy different conferences for different reasons, but my favorite is the American Association of School Librarians (AASL)’s semi-annual conference. It’s not often that all of us connected educators actually get to meet up face-to-face and my library friends are some of my absolute best friends. Our next conference will be this November and I’m looking forward to all of the unpredictable and sure-to-be-amazing things I’ll take away from this conference.
Social Media Links:
Busy Librarian blog – http://www.busylibrarian.com
Let’s Get Busy podcast – http://lgbpodcast.blogspot.com
Twitter (@MatthewWinner) – https://twitter.com/MatthewWinner
Busy Librarian on Pinterest – https://www.pinterest.com/busylibrarian/
Busy Librarian on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/BusyLibrarian
As one librarian to another, I applaud your wonderful work and advocacy and wish you continued success in this and your own writing.