Welcome to Library Lions interviews. Raising a Roar for Libraries

Welcome to Library Lions interviews. Raising a Roar for Libraries

Saturday, March 29, 2014


Welcome to Library Lions interviews Raising a Roar for libraries and the outstanding librarians serving youth in schools and public libraries across the U.S. Please Roar today’s guest, Librarian Rebecca Moore.

Photo of Rebecca taken by house where LM Montgomery lived
I am one of three librarians at The Overlake School in Redmond, Washington. We are a 5th-12th grade coed independent school and all 520 students share the library, which has 20,000 print volumes, 1,300 eBooks, 40 databases, 17 camcorders and still cameras, 75 print magazines, and 56 computers.

 We use LibGuides software to organize the Library website. The library is heavily used all day long; we average 472 student visits a day, and frequently we have upwards of 100 students using our space at one time!

Battle of the Books photo

I focus mainly on the middle school and have a 6th grade homeroom. Except for an eight-session orientation class for the 5th grade, academic classes are flexibly scheduled. We work closely with teachers and students on research assignments, putting together collections of print and electronic resources for projects and teaching research skills. We are also particularly proud of introducing NoodleTools citation software across all grades. In addition, we run a vibrant extracurricular middle school program, with a large fiction section, booktalks, contests, clubs, and a literary magazine.

6th Graders after booktalk

The Skinny
I love working with the students, whether it be helping them find resources for a project, helping them choose a great book to read, or laughing at their entry in the annual Bad Writing Contest. I love surrounding them with an atmosphere of learning and literature, where it’s not only okay to enjoy research, reading, and writing, but it’s also fun! And of course, I get to read the books as well.

Photos of 7th grade Fantasy Book Dioramas

I also enjoy going to conferences with other school librarians and learning what they do in their libraries, and talking about all the new developments, technologies, programs, books, issues, etc. that affect all our libraries. The community of independent school librarians is an energetic and collaborative one; you can always find someone to help you with any issue, whether it’s figuring out what book a student is looking for (“It was blue, and had a girl in Paris with a magic elevator or something…”), or getting opinions on the latest method for delivering eBooks to students and faculty. We call our AISL (Association of Independent School Librarians) and ISS (Independent Schools Section of the American Library Association) listservs our “collective brain,” and often consult them.

Being part of the Overlake School community is also a huge benefit of my job. I am so fortunate to work in a beautiful, tree-filled setting, with intelligent and thoughtful students and faculty. I love walking around campus and recognizing everyone I meet, attending school concerts and plays, and participating in programs like field trips, grade-level retreats, and Project Week.

In my project, which I co-teach with the 8th grade English teacher, students write and illustrate a picture book in a week.


I love the opportunities to get to know students and staff outside the library, and to feel fully integrated into the community.

A Mighty Roar!
School libraries are a vital and underappreciated link in a student’s education. As the universe of information continues to grow exponentially, the need for the ability to find, comprehend, and credit high-quality, relevant information will also grow. Librarians and library programs exist to help students and teachers master these skills, and learn how to adapt and apply them even when schooldays lie far behind them. School libraries also strive to imbue students with a love of books and reading, which studies have shown not only aid in academic achievement, but offer lifelong benefits as well. Libraries celebrate information and stories in whatever form they occur, and offer the navigation tools necessary to take full advantage of them.

A Lion’s Pride of Programs 
We have so many middle school contests and activities it’s hard to choose! We do a Bad Writing contest, a literary character smackdown,

MS boys' Smackdown poster

Six-Word Memoirs, Book Title Hangman, Battle of the Books, The Hoot literary magazine,

The Photo Finish contest

The Bookfair with books supplied by the University Bookstore, the Book Stacking contest,

Story in a Tweet, Food Haiku, Book Spine Poetry, the Green/Gold Readathon, Author Visits and more. Something special for 2012-14 is my chairing the Top Shelf Fiction for Middle School committee for VOYA library magazine, with which Overlake students help out by reading and commenting on books nominated for the list. Several of their comments will make the final list published in the magazine.

One thing of which we are particularly proud is that we use the credit we earn from books sold at the Bookfair to purchase books for our sister schools in Cambodia and Uruguay.

Student groups from Overlake travel to these schools every year, alternating between the countries, and take the books to build libraries in the schools. It’s a real point of pride for the Library that we can do something to support the school’s efforts to make the world a better place for the students in Cambodia and Uruguay.

Readers Roar

“The Overlake library Is a great place to read or do homework and if you don't have any homework it provides a fun place to hang out with friends.” –Michael, 6th grade

“The library in my opinion is the best place at Overlake. I mean, it’s got hundreds of books in all subjects, from fantasy to science-fiction, and its store of non-fiction books is amazing. Besides that, it has tons of computers that you can play games on and do homework, and is home to the school counselors who are probably the nicest people on campus, and the learning recourses office, home to Fernando the guinea pig, who is quite sweet. Altogether, the library is a great place for homework and relaxing.” –Anna, 6th grade

“Reading is like blending into another world, breathing in adventure, danger, romance galore!! It's an amazing expedition across the universe, sitting in your own hands.” –Elizabeth, 6th grade

“In the library you can get homework help, socialize with friends, read from an grandiose selection of books, and play computer games. The library is filled with amazing books, but what makes the library great is the three magnificent librarians that can help you find anything from Ancient Egypt to modern day mathematics.” –Alan, 5th grade

“I thought there was no escape from reality—books proved me wrong.” –Nina, 8th

Library Laughs
So many funny things happen here it’s hard to choose! There was the time we looked up at our clerestory windows (at least 15 feet up), and saw a ninja stealing along the roofline—we later learned that students were making a video. Then there was the time I heard guitar playing outside and went out to find a student playing the guitar—also on the roof! Another student smuggled an amp into a study room under the mistaken impression that the room was soundproof. It wasn’t. Then there was the girl who had come up with an elaborate scheme to invite a boy to Tolo, which involved the librarians playing along.

One of the most entertaining events occurs on the Roman holiday of Lupercalia, when Latin students wrap themselves in (sometimes flowered) sheet togas, and run through the buildings whacking people with leather belts to encourage fertility. Nothing brings a middle schooler out of his shell like free license to whap (lightly) an upper schooler with a belt while shouting at the top of his lungs in the library!

However, I have to say that the funniest occurrence was the time the seniors decided to create the world’s tiniest flash dance club in our 10’ x 12’ group study room. The strobe light, music, blacked-out windows, packed bodies gyrating . . .  librarians arrived on the run just as the smoke machine activated the fire alarms, sending the whole school scrambling into an emergency fire drill in the pouring rain.

Book Brag: What three books are hot this year? Why?
House of Hades by Rick Riordan. Riordan is, hands down, the most popular writer for middle schoolers these days. His books have an irresistible combination of action, adventure, fantasy, humor, suspense, mystery, and a large cast of characters who each have their own unique personality and issues, so that readers really care about what happens to them. The books also have roots in worlds already familiar to students—the modern world, and classic mythology—which also helps readers connect with the books. Few authors have Riordan’s ability to combine humor and seriousness with the right balance: J.K. Rowling, Jonathan Stroud, Brandon Mull, Angie Sage, and John Stephens are some others who get it right. As to why this particular book is popular, it’s the most recent entry in Riordan’s series about Percy Jackson and his friends, and the most recent book is always in demand!

Allegiant by Veronica Roth. Our bookfair took place on the same day that Allegiant was released, and I had girls panting at the door before school started, waiting to get their hands on the third volume of this astronomically popular YA-level dystopia. The series started with Divergent, about to be released as a movie, and continued with Insurgent. Dystopias, while having peaked last year, are still immensely popular with teens. The Divergent series combines sympathetic characters with action, adventure, danger, and of course, teens having to survive their world.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio. This award-winning story of Auggie, born with severe facial deformities and attending school for the first time in fifth grade, has been gaining popularity year by year as it strikes a chord with students, parents, and teachers alike. While few students have Auggie’s particular difficulties, almost all have experienced the unkindness of others at school, the betrayal of friends, and the need for family support. Parents and faculty love the book for how it illustrates the need to look beyond the visual and the need for kindness, and Auggie’s story often finds a place in classroom curricula and bedtime reading. From the number of students who have let me know how much they loved the book and how much they learned from it, I know it’s been a great addition to middle school fiction.

Author! Author!  Describe the perfect author visit from a librarian’s point of view.

This year we invited Janet Lee Carey and Kenneth Oppel to our school. We will have Neal Shusterman visit next spring.

I think the key to a great author visit is choosing the right author for the visit. You need someone who is both a great writer for middle schoolers—humor, fantasy, science fiction, mystery, and action adventure are the most popular genres—and a great presenter both in small classes and large auditoriums.

Good communication, attention to detail, and punctuality is also key on both ends. We want to make sure we know beforehand what technology the author needs, to have the schedule set, and to have the myriad other details well in hand to avoid that last minute panic!

Our greatest success has been with authors who can hold students’ attention, particularly when speaking to the whole middle school. It takes lots of energy and humor, and a polished presentation that also feels natural. Students love to be included in the presentation in some way, whether as volunteers for something or just having their questions answered. Most of our successful presentations have also included the author telling about themselves as middle schoolers (with embarrassing photos), and how that younger self connects to their current self as a writer. It’s also important to talk about the books, to get students excited about them, particularly as we always have books available for purchase and signing.

Overall, it’s important to have an author who enjoys presenting to and interacting with students, respects them as readers and people, and answers their questions seriously. We have been extremely lucky to have had wonderful author visits, and anticipate many more in the future!

One aspect of the Library program that particularly excites us is how teachers and students currently utilize our databases and eBooks.  Some teachers, especially in the history and science departments, are moving away from traditional text books and now use the databases and eBooks to fill in.  Our roar is that the Library had those resources in place so that when the teachers and students needed them, we had the sources readily available. As an example, our ABC-Clio Ancient World History database racked up 19,850 searches this fall; an increase from 7,717 last fall.  It thrills us to see teachers and students adopting and utilizing our resources. 

An anticipatory roar is that the Library is moving closer to becoming a true Learning Commons, with more flexible spaces for students and teachers to spread out and work on projects, and an ever-increasing collection of resources. As the school moves towards BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), we hope that losing our banks of student computers will add to our flexible space.

Let’s Link

Overlake Library Blog

Overlake Library Website

Thank you, Rebecca for your terrific interview!

Love Libraries? Give a Roar in “Comments” below.

Note to Librarians: If you’re a Youth Librarian working in a school or public library we’d love to hear about you and your library. Contact Janet at jlcarey@hotmail.com for an interview slot. 


  1. I want to live at this library. So cool. Rebecca sounds like an amazing librarian who loves her job. Thanks for sharing her with us, Janet.

  2. I agree, Judy. I loved my author visit to Overlake. What a dynamic program! And it was fun to see the Dioramas. Janet