Amanda Jones and Diane Mokuau Named 2021 School Librarians of the Year

Jones and Mokuau, librarians in Denham Springs, LA, and Molokai, HI, are exemplars of the profession, overcoming challenges of a uniquely difficult year to serve their students and communities.

 

 

Amanda Jones, teacher-librarian at Live Oak Middle School in Watson, LA, and Diana Mokuau, librarian at Molokai (HI) High School, are the 2021 School Librarians of the Year.

This is the first time that two educators received the award, which is presented by School Library Journal (SLJ) and sponsored by Scholastic Book Fairs. It recognizes K–12 library professionals for “outstanding achievement and the exemplary use of 21st-century tools and services to engage children and teens toward fostering multiple literacies.”

In this year of pandemic disruption and previously unimaginable educational challenges, Jones and Mokuau have continued to be tireless and innovative in response to the needs of their students and school communities.

“Exemplars of the profession, the 2021 School Librarians of the Year are particularly inspiring for their innovative work supporting student learning in such a challenging year,” says Kathy Ishizuka, SLJ editor-in-chief. “SLJ is pleased to share the good work of our honorees and highlight the important role of librarians in fostering multiple literacies and critical thinking skills in our nation’s schools.”

For Jones, remote learning led to an innovative program of virtual field trips dubbed “Journeys with Jones,” as she tried to help her fifth and sixth graders escape from their stressful realities for a short time. She adjusted or paused other programs that weren’t quite working virtually and started a new reading program that encourages students to read books about media literacy, ethics, sociology, and history.

“School librarians have one of the most rewarding jobs in the world, with the ability to reach every child in the school,” she said. “We help our students discover the perfect books, provide a safe space, and ignite creativity. Thank you to the countless school librarians who have helped me learn and grow over the course of my career.”

[READ: Past School Librarians of the Year]

Mokuau is known for showing the students the opportunities that exist on the mainland, incorporating issues important to the island’s community into her library programs, and bringing together a professional network of Hawaiian librarians to help each other when needed.

“I am deeply humbled and greatly honored to receive this prestigious award,” said Mokuau. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think this would happen.”

The two honorees were chosen by a panel of judges, including: SLJ editors; John Schumacher, Scholastic Ambassador of School Libraries; 2020 School Librarian of the Year Cicely Lewis; and Glenn Robbins, superintendent of Brigantine (NJ) Community School district.

As School Librarians of the Year, Jones and Mokuau are featured on the cover of the April 2021 issue of SLJ. Each will received $2,500 plus $2,500 in-kind digital and/or print products for their library. In addition, each of their libraries will receive a visit from Schumacher when it is possible, and a Scholastic Book Fairs “Mr. Schu’s Picks” collection of books.

Both Jones and Mokuau plan to use this national honor to spread the word about the need for school librarians in every school across the country.

“Receiving this honorable award is beyond anything I ever expected and I aim to use this platform to spread awareness at the district, state, and national level on the importance of having a certified school librarian in each school,” said Jones.

Said Mokuau, “This highlights the wonderful things that are happening in our schools and our communities and especially spotlights our tight-knit community on Molokai. I plan to share our challenges and successes and the need for every student to have certified librarians in their schools.”

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Kara Yorio

Kara Yorio (kyorio@mediasourceinc.com, @karayorio) is news editor at School Library Journal.

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