Thursday, May 1, 2014

Interview With Librarian Extraodinare Jon Schu: Part One of Two

If you don't know Mr. Schu, you should.  He is a fantastic librarian/teacher/book advocate.  He recently took some time to answer some questions about his work.  I asked him about three main areas: Librarianship, being a member of the Newberry Committee, and being and advocate for literacy in the wider world.  Part One of this interview will be on the first two.


1.  Can you describe your path to where you are now as a librarian?

First of all, thanks for inviting me on GROG. From a very young age, I knew that I wanted to be a teacher OR a librarian. I never imagined that I would become a teacher-librarian. It wasn’t until I was almost done with my first master’s degree that I decided that I really needed to go to library school. The idea was always in the back of my head, but I kept coming up with excuses not to enroll in Dominican University’s MLIS program. Can you imagine if I had not taken that leap of faith? The thought of not working in a library or involved in library science/children’s literature makes me feel sick.

I am the librarian I am today because I surround myself with positive friends who feel as passionately about libraries as I do. I engage in conversations with dedicated professionals who believe in the power of libraries, the power of words, and the power of belonging to a community of learners.

2. How do you see your role in your building?

Isn’t it an exciting time to be a teacher-librarian? My role in the building is to create a dynamic library program and an inviting environment that gets everyone excited about reading, writing, research, and technology. The school library is the heart of the building.

3. What is your favorite/least favorite part of being a school librarian?

The best thing about being a school librarian is hosting authors. My students are more enthusiastic readers and form deeper bonds with books thanks to face-to-face conversations with National Ambassador Kate DiCamillo, Sharon Creech, Richard Peck, Jennifer L. Holm, Kevin Henkes, Loren Long,  and Jarrett J. Krosoczka.  When we invite authors into our school libraries, it connects everyone in the building.

The thing I like the least??? Hmmm...running overdue notices.

4. What is your greatest challenge as a Library Media Specialist?

I come up with at least 50 new ideas every week. Ideas are always bouncing around inside my head. The biggest challenge is not implementing all of them. I have to remind myself that I cannot do it all. Right?

5.  How do you keep up with the thousands of new books that come out each year?

Oh, keeping up with the thousands of new books that come out each year is the BEST, BEST, BEST thing about being a teacher-librarian and an advocate for children’s books and their creators. I keep up with new books by surrounding myself with people who are enthusiastic about children’s books and library services. Twitter is by far the most powerful and effective tool for keeping up with new books and technology.

Twenty  People to Follow on Twitter

1. @DonalynBooks -4th-grade teacher and author
2. @ColbySharp - 4th-grade teacher
3. @LoveofXena - school librarian
4. @Alybee930 - administrator
5. @AkGal68 - teacher-librarian
6. @ProfessorNana - library science professor
7. @PWKidsBookshelf - Publishers Weekly on children’s and YA books
8. @NikiOhsBarnes - 2nd-grade teacher
9. @AmeDyckman - author
10. @utalaniz - teacher-librarian
11. @librarygrl2 - teacher-librarian
12. @Katsok - 5th-grade teacher
13. @SLJournal - School Library Journal
14. @CBCBook - Children’s Book Council
15. @RandomHouseKids - Random House  
16. @100scopenotes - teacher-librarian
17. @PaulOZelinsky - author-illustrator
18. @LindaUrbanBooks - author
19. @kishizuka - executive editor, School Library Journal
20. @KateMessner - author

Hashtags: #tlchat , #nerdybookclub , #SharpSchu, #bookaday, #HoldShelf

Note: It was hard to narrow it down to 20 people.

6.  Can you describe the various ways you share books with your students?  How has that changed in the last few years?

Colby Sharp, an enthusiastic third-grade teacher, calls me the Book Trailer Jedi.  I’m wild about book trailers. Truly. I think book trailers are an effective way to connect young readers with books. I include book trailers in almost every booktalking session. If I booktalk ten books, I usually share two or three trailers.  I know a book trailer has done its job when:
  • 1. My students applaud at the end of the trailer.
  • 2. Students run to the catalog to place a hold on the book.
  • 3. At least two kids ask if we can watch it again.
By the time my students are in fifth grade, they have viewed hundreds of book trailers. They recognize a top-notch trailer and can separate the good from the bad. And let me tell you right now,Todd, there are a lot of fantastic trailers–but for every good trailer, there are five or six bad ones.
Ten Stellar Book Trailers

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

The Genius Files by Dan Gutman

Little Chicken’s Big Day by Katie Davis and Jerry Davis

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Ollie and Moon: Fuhgeddaboudit!  by Diane Kredensor

Open This Little Book by Jesse Klausmeier; illustrated by Suzy Lee

Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle

Shark vs. Train by Chris Barton; illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld


1. What is one thing you learned from the experience that surprised you in a good way?

What an amazing experience! I’m still pinching myself that I served on the 2014 Newbery Committee. I think the thing that surprised me the most was that I actually kept up with an intense reading schedule. I wasn’t sure if I could actually read the piles and piles and piles of books that were stacked all over my house. There were times I thought my eyes would bleed or stop working. To say that I know children’s books published in 2013 very well is an understatement. :)

2.  What was your favorite part of being on the committee?

The moment right after we picked Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures as our winner. It felt as though I was floating above the room. I could not wait to call Kate DiCamillo very early Monday morning to share this life-changing news with her.

I interviewed Kate a few days after she won.

Mr. Schu: Everyone loves hearing about THE CALL. What ran through your head when the phone rang? What were you thinking about when the Newbery committee was laughing and clapping?  What did you do after you hung up the phone?

Kate DiCamillo: I was deeply asleep when the phone rang.  

I was crying while the Newbery committee was laughing and clapping.

After I hung up the phone I cried some more.  
And then I wondered if I had dreamed the whole thing.

Did I say “thank you” to you guys?
Gosh, I hope so.
Thank you thank you thank you.

Mr. Schu: Yes, you thanked us multiple times. :)

Mr. Schu: What does the Newbery mean to you?

Kate DiCamillo: Newbery means eight year old me standing in the Cooper Memorial Public Library in the children’s section staring at the spin rack, which was full of paperback Newbery winners.

For the adult me, it means that my story will stay in print.

It means that some kid years and years from now, will get to look at the cover of my book and think: hmmm, maybe this one, the one with the squirrel and the medal on it.

Mr. Schu: Please finish this sentence starter:

Reading is the whole wide world to me.

Mr. Schu: Thank you, Kate!

(I interviewed the Honor winners, too)



  1. Great post. Love the book trailers. Now, when I have my first book, I'll think about a trailer. These really pulled me in.

  2. Great post. Love the book trailers. Now, when I have my first book, I'll think about a trailer. These really pulled me in.

  3. The interviews with the Newbery winners are wonderful! In Mr Schu's blog post with Kevin Henkes' responses, it also has a clip of the committees making their calls. So worth the time to watch it -- I'll be smiling all day! :)

  4. Awesome interview, Todd and Mr. Schu! I love watching book trailers also. Thanks for all the great info. Mr. Schu, are you in Iowa? Somewhere, I think I read your were. (I grew up there)

  5. Mr. Schu = SUCH an inspiration -- to children, colleagues, parents, authors . . . so full of enthusiasm and information and so willing to share all he knows.

  6. I really enjoyed this interview with Mr. Schu. Thanks for helping us get to know him a bit better.

  7. Thanks for the kind comments! Tina, I live in Illinois.

  8. Thank you, Sharon! You're an inspiration!

  9. John, it was a pleasure to interview you. I am looking forward to sharing part two with everyone soon. Thank you for your time, energy and inspiration!

  10. Awesome! I got a copy of Flora and Ulysses at my library the other day. I've been looking for it ever since I heard about it, and the fact that you were in the committee who nominated it... Whoa! AWESOME! :D

  11. Amazing! Again and again, over and over, I continue to say that I grow and learn everyday. More knowledge, have I, after reading this post. Librarians wear so many hats. I appreciate all that librarians do. Thank you for the list of suggested people to follow on Twitter, Mr. Schu. Oh, by the way, I too, live in the Land of Lincoln. Another outstanding post, Todd. Thank you. ~Suzy Leopold

  12. O. My.
    This should also be in The Horn Book.
    Or SLJ.
    Love these ideas, resources, "listening in" to John S. & Kate D.C.
    Too wonderful. Too much to call out. But I will say that I'm looking up some of these twitter folks. And thanks for the # hashtag topics to check into.
    G-R-E-A-T post Todd.
    (Maybe it takes one top librarian to interview another top one so well....)
    Bravo! to you both.
    And thank you.