Scholastic and School Library Journal (SLJ) are honored to announce the 2023 School Librarian of the Year winner and finalists. Every year, the School Librarian of the Year Award recognizes the outstanding work of K–12 library professionals. Those who receive this recognition have demonstrated an exemplary use of technology and print materials to not only successfully engage students in learning and fostering literacy, but to also spark new ideas within their school and community.
Congratulations to our winner and finalists:
- Julie Stivers, Mount Vernon Middle School, Raleigh, NC
- Melissa Corey, Robidoux Middle School, St. Joseph, MO
- Karina Quilantan-Garza, Jaime Escalante Middle School, Pharr, TX
As the world adjusted to a new normal in the wake of COVID-19, these educators worked tirelessly to supply their students with access to literature and library resources both virtually and in-person over the past few years. Julie, Melissa, and Karina have made it their personal mission to provide students with a diverse range of books and resources that can help them work through a tumultuous learning environment. Their impressive efforts towards literacy have helped build a strong sense of community at their respective schools both in and out of the library.
This year’s submissions were judged by K.C. Boyd, the 2022 School Librarian of the Year; Lizette Serrano,
Scholastic; Marcie D. Rice Ed.D., Principal, Meadowbrook High School, North Chesterfield, VA; and SLJ editors.
“It is our privilege at SLJ to honor these outstanding educators with the 2023 School Librarian of the Year Award, which highlights the critical role of school librarians in supporting young learners. Julie Stivers, Melissa Corey, and Karina Quilantan-Garza present an inspiring example for us all, proving how dedicated individuals can make a difference for our next generation.”
To learn more about Julie, Melissa, and Karina, keep reading!
Winner: Julie Stivers at Mount Vernon Middle School in Raleigh, NC
As the school librarian at Mount Vernon Middle School, Julie works hard to foster an inclusive, nurturing literary environment for readers of all levels.
During her tenure as librarian, she has transformed the school library’s space, available books, and even reading culture through a combination of grants, advocacy, and personal dedication. From working to secure additional funding to revamp the library’s initial collection to showcase her students’ identities and interests to creating a permanent circle set-up to facilitate a sense of community and learning, Julie saw a 150% increase in book circulation in her first year on the job.
Now in her ninth year as librarian, Julie’s passion lies in making the library a key role in her students’ academic journeys. Through many initiatives such as collaborations with teachers across subjects on literacy units, a virtual manga/anime club and book talks, Julie has gone above and beyond to make sure Mount Vernon Middle’s library is diverse, supportive, and welcoming to all students.
Her students often comment on the inclusivity of Julie’s book collection, and state that they can see themselves and their lived experiences in the stories which in turn leads them to love reading again and again. One of the counselors at Mount Vernon Middle School notes that when she gives tours, she has watched countless students light up when they see the library and hear about the clubs Julie offers.
As one of Julie’s passion projects, she helps curate collections for two #TrueBookFAIRs throughout the school year. At these fairs, students and their families have the opportunity to pick out at least two books to keep free of charge. Since Mount Vernon Middle School is an alternative, academic-recovery school, Julie knows the value of providing support and literature to students.. Each year, she carefully curates a book collection for readers of all ages for the fair, taking great care to reflect her students interests in the titles.
Additionally, Julie is co-chair of the Equity Team, and Grants Coordinator at the school – a title she earned by writing many grants over time to secure funds to supply students with reading material throughout the year. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Julie forged a digital community through remote manga/anime clubs she started in March 2020 to connect students during remote instruction.
Driven to make a difference for her students, Julie believes her job to be threefold: to nurture students’ reading lives, nurture their interests, and nurture their whole, full selves through a library program that sparks a sense of joy and belonging for all.
Carrie West, School Counselor, Mount Vernon Middle School, shares: “Julie has made the library a place where kids truly want to be, a place where they belong, and a place that many call home. This welcoming environment, coupled with the ability to see themselves in the materials, has allowed students to open up to Julie in a way they may not otherwise.”
Check out what Julie and her students are up to on the Mount Vernon Middle School Library Instagram: @mvlibraryreads
Finalist: Melissa Corey, Robidoux Middle School, St. Joseph MO
As the Library Media Specialist at Robidoux Middle, a Title I school in St. Joseph, Missouri, Melissa Corey serves about 400 students in grades 6-8. Melissa is the library’s only staff member, which means she spends each day hustling to help students, staff, and community members with their literary needs—a true testament to her passion.
Melissa has made it her mission to build equity into the library’s collection and programs. Over time, she’s made room for new diverse books that represent a wide range of voices, applied and received a GLSEN Rainbow Library collection for LGBTQ+ affirming literature, and even designed a “Libraries Welcome Everyone” t-shirt to fundraise for the Missouri Association of School Librarians.
Colleagues of Melissa note how creative she is in thinking up new ways to serve Missouri states and librarians. Active on Twitter, Melissa uses her social channels to share book lists she creates in the form of 30 second videos. These visual book list videos went viral among the library world and led to Melissa to sharing free templates for other librarians across the country to use.
Melissa is passionate about fostering equity both in and out of her school, and also serves as President of the Missouri Association of School Librarians, where she works to ensure students from all backgrounds are represented in their libraries. Through her savvy budgeting skills and strong work ethic, she also worked to set up Novel Nation Book Fairs at Robidoux Middle School, which are 100 percent free fairs for students.
Marta Sansone, Social Studies Department Chair, Robidoux Middle School, shares: “Melissa began the process of offering free book fairs by researching vendors for low-cost, high-quality books. Melissa truly believes that growing readers starts with equity – no fines, no charges, no financial barriers to access. Just books, for free, as often as possible.”
Follow Melissa on Twitter: @melissacorey.
Finalist: Karina Quilantan-Garza, Jaime Escalante Middle School, Pharr, TX
With almost eight years of experience as the Library Media/Instructional Systems Design & Technology Specialist at Jaime Escalante Middle School, Karina Quilantan-Garza has worked hard to expand her library programming beyond the classroom and find creative ways to keep her students and staff engaged in learning.
Her passion for providing students with easy access to technology and resources that boost their education is clear by the sheer amount of recognition she’s received through the years from various organizations. Karina has turned Jaime Escalante Middle School’s library into an award-winning site for digital presence, social media, library programming, and technology integration. additionally, over the years, Karina has earned a wide range of digital certifications and awards, including the Texas Library Association Media Virtual Presence Award, a TCEA Library Media Specialist Finalist in 2021 and the 2022 Texas Library Association Librarian of the Year. Karina uses these recognitions and platforms to share tech practices with other school communities across the country by serving as a presenter at various conferences in the industry.
Isaac Leal, Assistant Principal/Campus Teaching Coordinator, Jamie Escalante Middle School, shares: “Karina is our go-to person when it comes to training our staff members in instructional technology and literacy. She has worked diligently to provide the best learning environment for her students year after year. Because of her work ethic and foresight, her pupils thrive in both standardized tests as well as the social-emotional component of being a student.”
Karina is also an active social media maven, and maintains several channels under the username @cuethelibrarian which she uses to share reading lists, technology tips, and more.
Follow Karina on Twitter: @cuethelibrarian, and on Instagram: @cuethelibrarian.
Congratulations to Julie, Melissa, and Karina!