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From classmates to coworkers

Posted December 5, 2018
Photo: (l to r) Marti Brown and Kathy Carroll


When they’re not working together as library media specialists at Westwood High School, Marti Brown (MLIS, 2011, Librarianship Specialist, 2012) and Kathy Carroll (MLIS, 2009) are serving together as two of the newest members of the CIC’s Alumni Council. Read more about how these two are using their degrees and staying connected to the place where it all began.

What do you do in your current job?

Marti: As a school librarian, I wear a lot of hats.  I do the traditional library duties such as ordering and processing books and other materials and checking them out to teachers and students. However, I also troubleshoot technology issues, collaborate with teachers and administrators on curricular issues, apply for grants, create and teach lessons in the classroom, and provide professional development for others in the school and district, as well as manage our library staff, graduate student interns and student aides.

Kathy: I am the lead librarian at Westwood High School, and we serve over 1,300 students. One of the best parts of my job is that there is no typical day, and I am also able to interact with everyone in the building. I am responsible for ordering new materials and other administrative duties. Yet I also collaborate with our teachers on subject curriculum to authentically include information literacy into their lessons. I teach classes, provide professional development sessions for our staff, create reading promotions, and mentor National Board candidates. I supervise our library staff, graduate school interns and student aides. I also enjoy hosting our faculty book club — I highly recommend the novel "A Man called Ove." Librarians are often compared to ducks; we seem to be serenely floating along yet are furiously paddling beneath the surface. Yet I believe that librarians have one of the best jobs in education.

Was there a particular experience or person who inspired you to pursue a career in librarianship?

Marti: There wasn’t a particular person or experience that inspired me to become a librarian but my first memory of the library as a magical, wonderful place was thanks to my best friend’s mother, an art teacher, who first took me to our local library when I was seven. My parents had always read to me but it wasn’t until visiting the library during their summer reading program — and earning those shiny star stickers  that I was really hooked!

Kathy: I taught high school English for many years and always loved introducing new authors and novels to my students. Eventually, I realized that I wanted to interact more with faculty and students to support research and literacy throughout the school. My desire to become a librarian was solidified when I spent a summer conducting archival research on Winston Churchill at Churchill College, Cambridge through the National Endowment for the Humanities. 

What’s the most interesting or significant thing you’ve done since graduating?

Marti: I’ve always loved to travel and I love sharing new experiences with my students so I decided to combine the two and plan an educational tour to Peru! There are 13 of us  students, parents, teachers and librarians – heading there in June on this fantastic journey. In addition to seeing amazing sights and practicing their Spanish, my students can also earn high school or college credit on this trip, so it will be beneficial to them in many ways.

Kathy: I became involved in my national organization (American Library Association/American Association of School Librarians) while still in school. I have continued my work and have served in several capacities. Among other things, I was the region IV director for AASL and am now an ALA councilor at large. I am now on the ballot for the American Association of School Librarians president-elect. I am extremely excited and deeply honored to be considered for this position.

I was selected to work on the revision of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Library Media Standards. Although I have National Board Certification, it was rewarding to work on the standards in such a meaningful way with such accomplished librarians. I learned so much from the process  traveling back and forth to NBPTS headquarters, remotely working collaboratively and independently with my peers and coming to a consensus on contested issues. This experience has strengthened my commitment to my profession and has made me a better librarian.

Traveling to South Africa with fellow educators and touring various school libraries has also given me a greater appreciation for the support and resources available to many U.S. librarians.

What are you passionate about in your work?

Marti: I love connecting students with books that resonate with them, that reflect their experiences and that prepare them for the future. Because this is such a passion of mine, I have served for several years on the South Carolina Association for School Librarians’ Young Adult Book Award committee, which gives me the opportunity to read and select the best YA books to present to South Carolina students each year.

Kathy: I am a passionate advocate for student literacy. I also believe that school librarians transform learning by serving as teachers, collaborators, innovators, leaders, technologists and information professionals. Basically, I am passionate about all aspects of my profession! 

What did you learn while in school at the CIC that still resonates today?

Marti: One of the most difficult lessons that I had to learn during my time in school to become a librarian was that in order to do your job, you sometimes have to let go  of books!  Specifically, you have to be able to weed old or outdated materials in order to give your patrons the best, most current information. That may sound simple but to a bibliophile, learning to get rid of books is not an easy task. 

Kathy: I learned the importance of perseverance. I worked full time and had family obligations while going to school, but I had great instructors and fellow students who provided encouragement when needed. I also learned that librarians are a fun group of people!

Do you have a favorite professor or a favorite memory from your time at the CIC?

Marti: Dr. Nancy Zimmerman was my first School of Library and Information Science professor and I enjoyed her teaching so much that I took as many classes with her as I could. As a military spouse, she had worked at so many different types of libraries in so many different states and she had an anecdote or explanation for any problem or scenario you could think of. I really appreciated her honesty and her practicality.

Kathy: One of my favorite memories is meeting Marti Brown who is now my co-worker and partner in crime! 

You both recently joined the CIC's Alumni Council. What advice do you have for others who are interested in getting involved and giving back to SLIS and the college?

Marti: I would say that joining the Alumni Council has been a great way to keep our finger on the pulse of what’s happening at USC. We have had opportunities to mentor current graduate students, connect with professionals from other areas of the college and participate in events that we otherwise would not have been able to, which has helped with our own personal and professional growth. 

Kathy: I would tell anyone that this has been a rewarding experience. It has been wonderful being involved in the behind-the-scenes work on projects and also recognizing our alumni. Everyone is busy, but the CIC Alumni Council is a way to support our alma mater while meeting new people and participating in great events.