A Look Back

From Guardian to Guide By Francine Eppelsheimer

When I started at University School in 1990, the Middle School library was all about books. The internet was not commonly used, and we still had the old card catalog. Things changed rapidly from that time forward. I remember in 1993 when Kip Jacobs ’74, who was an 8th-grade science teacher at the time, wanted his students to have an internet experience. But the library was the only room in the Middle School with access to a modem. To solve the problem, we strung up a phone line over the ceiling and across the hall to a computer in his classroom. How times have changed in the 29 years since I came to USM; our days are now filled with Wi-Fi, various devices, and a powerful internet. 

Throughout my time as a school librarian, I have seen a true information explosion. In my early years, my job was largely to serve as a reader’s advisor and teach students how to retrieve information using print resources. I remember telling students that the most important part of a non-fiction book is the index. Times have definitely changed—as has my job title. I prefer my current title, teacher librarian, because it encompasses my traditional expertise in research tools—whether it be print, e-books, databases, how to search the internet correctly, and how to evaluate sources for accuracy. No matter the job title, my mission is still to find the best resources for the students and faculty, only now, those types of resources have changed.

One of the best aspects of my job is working in a more collaborative role, co-teaching with faculty, especially for project-based learning. Students need guidance in digging through all the information at their fingertips and I see my role as teaching them how to navigate and filter all of that information. But in many important ways my role has not changed since 1990. I still serve predominantly as a reader’s advisor, I still read stacks of book reviews, I still select and order books, and I still prepare books for check out—all the same tasks I did 30 years ago. I vividly remember my first job interview for this role—held in the beautiful Middle School library—and how ecstatic I was when I was offered the job. I still love coming to work every day and I count my blessings to have found University School. Every aspect of my job has been a true gift.

In this information age, I am no longer the guardian of knowledge, but the guide. The information is at our fingertips, I just need to make sure that our users have access to the best material available and have the ability to filter out the rest.

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