November 26, 2018

Kathleen Rauth continues to raise the bar for school librarians.

In October, Rauth was selected to receive the 2018 Indiana Library Federation (ILF) Outstanding School Librarian Award. The award honors and recognizes excellence and innovative leadership in the development of school library service and remarkable service to the profession, according to the ILF press release.

Rauth is media specialist at Center for Inquiry School 27 and Center for Inquiry School 2, served as the 2018 IPS Teacher of the Year, and was named a 2018 Top Ten educator for the State of Indiana. 

Kathleen Rauth

“I applied for the (librarian award) at the suggestion of one of my colleagues,” said Rauth. “We are facing a challenging time as media specialists in our state, and across the country. I wanted to try and keep a spotlight on the transformational work being done by media specialists/school librarians in our district.”

For Rauth, this award is a reminder that she needs to continue to advocate for the role of the school librarian for students in Indiana. “It is a catalyst for me to keep working to share the importance of culturally relevant books and media in the lives of our students and teachers.”

With more than 30 years of teaching experience in Illinois, California and Indiana, Rauth graduated from Ball State University with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and from Northwestern University with a master’s degree in theater. She continued her education with more than 30 hours of post-graduate course work in library media, theater and education.

She has provided in-service training and workshops in the areas of multicultural literature, selecting culturally relevant literature as well as co-creating a presentation for administrators titled, “Media Specialists: 21st Century Educators, Partners in Achievement and Collection Curators.”

Rauth has led teacher book groups as well as parent/child book groups; served on state curriculum and assessment committees; chaired state professional organizations; and has had her work highlighted in professional publications.

She is currently serving on the Intermediate Grade Young Hoosier Book Award Committee for the Indiana Library Federation and served on the Monarch Book Award Committee in Illinois. She also serves as a Lead Teacher for the Media Department of Indianapolis Public Schools.

During a recent conversation about the School Librarian Award, Rauth offered her thoughts on the role of school media specialists/librarians:

Q: Is school librarian the correct term or is it media specialist?

A: The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) surveyed all of its members about the myriad ways our jobs and roles are defined. This consensus, after a lot of discussion, was school librarian.

The very idea of a school librarian has changed over the years. Can you explain what a school librarian’s role is in the 21st century?

A: There is a lot of talk about the changing role of the school librarian, but I would venture to say that our fundamental role has not changed. To be sure, the digital age has brought another level of complexity to our work. The amount and immediacy of information available to our students compels our profession to ensure that our students are prepared to navigate this information highway. They need to learn how to become actively engaged users of this information. For me, however, all of this lays on the foundation of learning to love and be excited about reading, and that has not changed!

What is your ultimate goal as a school librarian?

A: My ultimate goal is to help make readers of all of my students, to help them find themselves and others in their reading world, to engage with new thoughts and new ideas through reading — whether it be digitally or through books. I want to help my students find ways to voice their own thoughts and ideas and feel empowered to speak up and out about what enrages or excites them.

What does it feel like to have back-to-back recognitions – 2018 IPS Teacher of the Year and now Outstanding School Librarian?

A: I continue to feel that I am only doing the work that our profession asks us to do. I stand on the shoulders of so many teachers and colleagues and see my recognition as belonging to all of them. It is very sobering to be acknowledged in these ways, and I am going to try and be worthy of the trust and respect I have been blessed to receive. It does make me realize that my voice may need to be raised, to share what 32 years of experience has shown me. I also want to raise up the younger educators whose work will shape our future generations and support them as they move forward, while also listening to their perspectives and voices to inform my own work.

In this new title, what do you hope to get across to the general public and the school communities about school librarians and the services they provide?

A: The Indiana Library Federation just completed a survey of school libraries across the state. The data was sobering on many levels. Only 25 percent of elementary students in our state have access to a certified school librarian, and only 50 percent in Grades K-12. This severe decline in the number of certified professionals is a grave concern for me. 

I am especially concerned that our students have access to the very specialists that can keep the library a place of enrichment, engagement and exploration. To that end, I have joined the board of AISLE, the school library branch of the ILF. I hope that I can continue to help support our school libraries, raise up the importance of certified librarians and the work they do, and promote the importance of diversity in our profession and in the books selected for the Young Hoosier Book Award lists each year.

The data about the importance of access to diverse books and media for students in public school is undeniable. The challenge comes in how we continue to maintain resources and school library positions in increasingly challenging financial constraints. I hope that I can be a voice to ensure that our libraries, librarians and their students are not forgotten.