April 25, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

A Chat with John Schumacher, Scholastic Ambassador of School Libraries

With 55,000 Twitter followers, John Schumacher—aka “Mr. Schu”—is a force to be reckoned with in the school librarian world. He started his blog—the title of which, “Mr. Schu Reads,” is a vast understatement—while an elementary teacher-librarian in Illinois. He’s now a “traveling librarian” who visits schools across the country and, since 2015, Ambassador of School Libraries for Scholastic Book Fairs. We caught up with Schumacher to find out what he’s been up to lately.

SLJ: You’ve been the Ambassador of School Libraries for Scholastic Book Fairs for two years. What’s one thing you’ve learned since you started—and how do you plan to use that knowledge in the months and years ahead?
JS: It has been an incredibly rewarding and magical experience traveling from state to state, from school to school, from conference to conference, connecting with students, teacher-librarians, classroom teachers, administrators, and library advocates. I’ve met thousands of inspiring librarians and students.

If you sat next to me on a plane, you would see that the first thing I do is take out my notebook and record all my thoughts, feelings, and observations about that day’s or week’s experiences. Joy is the word you would find recorded the most in my notebooks. This is what I’ve learned over the past two years: We all want and need to experience more joy in our libraries and personal lives. Sometimes we need help finding and experiencing it again. In the months and years ahead, I want to spread more joy and kindness.

What’s been the biggest surprise of those two years?
The biggest (and saddest) surprise is the number of teachers and teacher-librarians who tell me they are not allowed to read aloud to their students. The administration sees it as a waste of time. This breaks my heart. The best way to connect with our students and colleagues is by reading books aloud together.

Nominations are open for SLJ‘s 2018 School Librarian of the Year Award. What is the most important thing a school librarian must remember in 2018?
That students are always our number one priority. Our job is to support them, to advocate for them, and to show them how to use their voices to advocate for themselves and to become ambassadors for what they believe in. I’m honored to serve as a judge.

Why are school libraries more important than ever?
School libraries and school librarians show us how to make this world a brighter place for everyone. Every child deserves to attend a school with a library and a full-time librarian.

How many books have you read so far this year? Which upcoming titles have caught your eye?
I have read 142 books during 2018 so far. I’m excited for teacher-librarians to read and booktalk these titles…

Middle-Grade Novels

Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed

Resistance by Jennifer A. Nielsen

The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani

Picture Books

A Big Mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin

What If…by Samantha Berger; illustrated by Mike Curato

Imagine by Juan Felipe Herrera; illustrated by Lauren Castillo


Otis and Will Discover the Deep: The Record-Setting Dive of the Bathysphere by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Katherine Roy

A Seed is the Start by Melissa Stewart

D-Day: The World War II Invasion that Changed History by Deborah Hopkinson

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  1. Mr. Schu,
    Please keep up the love and positive attitude. All Children and adults need connecting and support. I enjoy following you on Instagram. @Staufferlibrary

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