“Sometimes the kids ask, “You have to go to college to check out books?” says Cathy Petersen. She is the district-wide librarian for the Perry Schools, but spends most of her time at the Perry elementary library.
“There is a lot more to be done than just checking out books,” she says. One of her many duties is taking care of the huge book collection. “We have about 16,000 books. When you add in all the library materials, the number reaches about 20,000.”
Children in the elementary school check out about 3,000 books a month.
Petersen also spends time deciding on new materials to purchase. “I read a lot of reviews and I get a lot of suggestions from students and teachers,” she says.
Also considered are the books that win such awards as the Caldecott, Newbery, and Children’s Choice awards.
Then there is the job of teaching the grade-schoolers how to find books in the library, first by subject and then by author. As they get a little older they learn how to navigate the now on-line library catalog.
Petersen first teaches the children what the various icons are for. Then she teaches them how to search for broad subjects, such as looking for books about dogs, and then looking for more specific books, such as books on Dalmatians.
It is also important for students to learn how to access all the resources that are now online. That includes encyclopedias, dictionaries, almanacs and much more.
“The hardest thing is keeping up with all the technology, it is difficult to stay on top of,” Cathy says.She has para-educators who work in other school libraries. They are Karen Sackett and Nancy Sawyer. Petersen has worked as a school librarian in the district since 1984. She graduated from Northwestern College in Orange City with a bachelor’s degree in library science and the University of Iowa with a master’s in library science.
Petersen was drawn to library science because she has always loved to read. “I’ve been reading like crazy since I can remember,” she says. “Reading is a way to go places that you could never go. You can walk in someone else’s shoes. You can be a detective, a spy. You can be anyone I want to be.”
What do you like best about the library?