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Alumna Susan Elofson reflects on lessons learned

Posted June 23, 2018
Photo: Susan Elofson (third from the right) with a group of ECHS teachers and 2018 graduates. 

Susan Elofson (formerly Altman), MLIS 2017, is the school librarian at Eau Claire High School in Richland One

What do you do in your current job?
As the sole librarian at my school, I serve as a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to librarianship: I am the director, head of reference and instruction, cataloger, career counselor, as well as teen services manager! There is always a lot of variety in my job, and I am always interacting with the students, faculty and staff at my school in some capacity. (I have an office, but I have become somewhat infamous for letting students take it over, as I never get the opportunity to use it myself.)

A typical day for me could involve teaching a research lesson in a science class, helping a student create their very first resume, recommending diverse and engaging young adult books for a teacher's classroom library, and setting up a Breakout EDU activity for a French classroom.

What’s the most interesting or significant thing you’ve done since graduating?
I only graduated a little over a year ago, but it has been one extremely eventful year! I survived my first year as a certified librarian, bought a blue house surrounded by trees near the Harbison State Forest, visited Vancouver — which is now one of my favorite cities — and lastly, got married. It has been a whirlwind!

What are you passionate about in your work?
I am passionate about being an active, consistent and caring part of my students' lives. I consider every single student at Eau Claire High to be a part of my large "classroom." (Which extends past the four physical walls that are designated as the library in the school, by the way. I am always going throughout the building, helping where I am most needed.)

I want to make sure that my students can navigate the internet without being swayed by pseudoscience or manipulative advertising. I have them create their own professional portfolio online in order to give them a digital edge in this increasingly competitive world. If a student is having a stressful day and simply needs a nurturing and calm place to be, I do my best to provide them with that personal space. I also connect my students with the resources out there that can support their own interests and needs — through the books offered in the library itself, of course, but also through the numerous resources offered through their local public library, Richland Library, for example. A school library program needs to be a part of a much larger picture.

In the long run, though, I suppose I strive to be my students' biggest cheerleader — which is shocking for me to say, as I was so quiet and bashful during my own high school years! I support them in their endeavors however I can, such as attending their plays or basketball games, displaying their art in the library, and crying with them as they graduate and go on to the next stage of life.

What did you learn while in school at the CIC that still resonates today?
There were loads of lessons learned — far more than I can count — while I was working on my MLIS, but the largest lessons took place during my two internships. I student taught under Jessica Kohout-Tailor at Meadow Glen Middle School and Adina Wilson at White Knoll High School, both of Lexington One. The practical experiences gained at both of those schools were critical to my success today, as they showed me the importance of being a librarian outside of the library. Outreach, flexibility and being willing to teach anywhere are all vital! Jessica also taught me how important reflecting on every single lesson is in the education field. Because of this, I do not fret or get depressed every single time a lesson does not go as well as I would have hoped. Instead, I learn something from every single encounter and adapt it for next time.

Do you have a favorite professor or a favorite memory from your time at the CIC?
Once again, I have lots of fond memories of many professors and classes! I loved Dr. Karen Gavigan's Young Adult Literature class. Prior to taking that, I had not read much young adult works since I was a teenager myself, and I had never had the opportunity to analyze them. That class exposed me to so many authors that I now happily share with my students today. I also appreciated the professors that so highly recommended the South Carolina Association of School Librarians (SCASL), as that organization is a source of so many of my mentors and friends today.

Another fond memory of mine involves meeting Sarah Funk, another MLIS alumni, and now web manager for USC Libraries. We met during our orientation back in 2013, and she has since become one of my very best friends. Her friendship has helped me get through these past few years as I made tough professional decisions and dealt with some troubling personal issues. I am grateful that SLIS brought us together, as such a strong later-in-life friendship can be hard to find.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.