If your email signature includes Just Read, Now Reading
and Reading Next
, then chances are good that you’re a librarian! For Upper School Head Librarian Elizabeth Kerr, admittedly “old school” in her love of reading books the “old-fashioned way,” flipping the pages, feeling the weight of the book in her hands, the act of reading is an experience.
“Books have a way of coming in and out of your life at different times,” said Ms. Kerr, “and finding the perfect book at the perfect time can have a great impact on your life.”
A native of Long Island, New York, Ms. Kerr graduated from the University of Richmond with a BA in English, minor in History, followed by a Masters in Teaching. She taught at English at J.R. Tucker High School for two years and soon realized that her love of history, science, math and working with students one-on-one made her an ideal candidate for work as a librarian.
“Working as a librarian offered me everything I loved about teaching,” said Ms. Kerr, “but also the opportunity to help individuals and work on projects and research collaboratively across all disciplines.”
In 2005, Ms. Kerr graduated from the University of South Carolina with a Masters of Library and Information Science with a Concentration in School Library Media, and worked four years for the Henrico County Public Schools at John Rolfe Middle School as a Library Media Specialist.
Prior to joining the faculty at Collegiate School, she worked at Saint Bridget School as the Elementary and Middle School Librarian. Her children Jason (2nd Grade) and James (4th Grade), joined her in becoming a Cougar and are students in Collegiate’s Lower School.
Ms. Kerr recalls her first time on Collegiate’s campus, 20 years ago, when she was a Junior at UR and toured the campus for her education classes. “Collegiate reminded me of where I grew up in New York,” she said, “everyone was so friendly, a close-knit community, and I fell in love.”
Don’t even think about asking a librarian to pick a favorite book. According to Ms. Kerr, asking a librarian to pick a favorite book is like asking a parent to pick a favorite child—it’s not possible! Ms. Kerr enjoys historical fiction, biography and history and always has several books going at one time.
“Reading how different people, history and fate—small and big events in lives—can shape history is fascinating,” she said. “It’s what drew me to the library in the first place.”
One thing is for sure, every day is different in the library. While she might not know the answer to every question, Ms. Kerr enjoys the detective work.
With a library full of books at her disposal, Ms. Kerr makes a point of taking home five to six books a week. While she admits that she doesn’t always have time to read them all, the very act of finding interesting titles and subjects is rewarding. She particularly enjoys getting to know the reading preferences of students and faculty, who might be working on a specific project and could use her support in suggesting materials.
“Being the Head Upper School Librarian is my dream job for so many reasons,” she said.
Whether it’s supporting the Sustainable Foods Senior Capstone—they read Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser— or assisting with research for history or biology classes, there’s always something new and interesting that comes across her desk daily.
With a talent for organizing, Ms. Kerr enjoys managing the School’s online subscription database. While “old-school” in her love of books, Ms. Kerr embraces “tech with a purpose.”
“I love to help students get organized,” she said, “teaching them how to plan out their research on paper, writing down what they know and what they want to know, before clicking on the first article.”
The Kerr family listens to books in the car. Currently playing is How To Eat Friend Worms by Thomas Rockwell and Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson.
Ms. Kerr is currently reading China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan and Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You by Sam Gosling.
A day in the life of the Collegiate Head Upper School Librarian is exciting. “Every day is different,” said Ms. Kerr, “there’s always something going on and it’s a lot of fun.”
- Aynsley Fisher