We want you to meet some of our talented Nebraska school librarians. In today’s librarian spotlight, you will meet Sara Friest, librarian at Southwest High School in Lincoln, Nebraska.
NSLA: Hi Sara, can you tell us a little about yourself and your journey to becoming a librarian?
Sara: I teach at Lincoln Southeast High School. I have been a librarian for nine years but I've only been teaching for five. I realize that may seem backwards but I earned my MLIS before going back to school to get a teaching certificate. I earned my MLIS from the University of Missouri, my K-12 Special Education Certificate through Doane University, and the remainder of my endorsements at UNO.
I LOVE my job ... it's my dream! In addition to my duties as a librarian, I serve on my school improvement committee, steering committee, and enhancement committee. I also serve as an instructional coach within my building and in my spare time, I review multicultural books for LPS's MOSAIC collection!
NSLA: What do you like most about being a librarian?
Sara: So many things!
1) I get to learn and grow every day! I'm always so inspired by the students and staff I get to work with.
2) I love that every day is different! Sometimes I'm teaching students how to avoid plagiarism or how to find information in the databases, sometimes I'm hosting events to create spaces where people can connect with each other and with the books, sometimes I'm learning or teaching new technology, sometimes I'm making 3-D hot air balloons for a display!
3) I love being the heart of the school and the first place people go to when they need help!
4) My students and coworkers make me smile every day!
NSLA: What is one of your favorite lessons to teach?
Sara: I love teaching anything involving research. I realize that most students dread it, but I like to think of it as a scavenger hunt followed by a puzzle. First, we have to find all the best pieces and then we have to put them together in the way that makes our ideas clear to a reader.
My students especially love learning how to use keywords properly. They are so used to typing a whole question into Google, they often do it in the databases too. To teach this keyword concept, I have them play a modified game of Heads Up! where one person has to guess a word based on clues his/her team gives. I split the room in half and it ends up being quite competitive. When it's over, we talk about what strategies worked to get the guesser to know the word quickly. The students talk about their use of synonyms, descriptive words, and related terms (all helpful when doing keyword searching). We then apply this information to some database searches. They quickly realize that sometimes the words that we use are not the same words that academics use in professional literature.
NSLA: Tell us about one of your favorite library programs?
Sara: When possible, I love to bring different subject areas together. Last year (pre-COVID), we had a monthly activity in the library combining English classes and Life Skills classes. I worked with several teachers to create a theme each month with activities that would most help our students. On the day of the event, one class of English students would set up different stations all around the library. The next class would wait outside the library to welcome the Life Skills students. They would pair up and take their buddy from station to station. There were so many very magical moments that happened each time and it was always the highlight of each month!
I'm also working on organizing an eSports team for my high school.
NSLA: What is your favorite book, author, series, or genre?
Sara: How can I choose just one?! I probably have a favorite book in every genre. I love Marie Lu's Warcross series (or ANY of her series). I love the imagery of The Night Circus (Morgenstern). I enjoy a good nonfiction book. Boys in the Boat and The 57 Bus are both so powerful! The Giver of Stars (Moyes) and The Nightingale (Hannah) are both excellent and if I had to choose, historical fiction is probably my favorite genre.
NSLA: What are some ways you promote literacy in your school?
Sara: This year especially, I've been doing a lot to help the students be more independent as they search for books. My staff has helped me create topic tiles within Destiny as well as Destiny Collections. We've put transparent colored stickers across the spines of the fiction books so that our students can know at a glance what genre each book is. We've placed shelf talkers with QR codes to book trailers.
NSLA: How has NSLA helped you grow professionally?
Sara: I love NSLA because it offers a sense of community. I am able to connect and get ideas from others across the state! I also take advantage of webinars and conferences and always walk away with ideas that I can take and use in my own library.
You can find Sara on Instagram @contagious.curiosity. If you do, please send her a direct message so she can follow you back!
Featuring the school libraries of Nebraska and their high-quality School Librarians