Tuesday, April 20, 2010


The Texas Sweethearts had the pleasure of meeting the enthusiastic, energetic, experienced, and FUN Sara Kelly Johns at TLA in San Antonio. She’s incredibly generous, and she’s campaigning for ALA President. For more information about her campaign, check out her site.

The vote ends at midnight on Friday, April 23rd.


TXS: What inspired you to become a librarian, and what (or who) keeps you inspired?

SKJ: My wise mother, a first-grade teacher, worked as a school librarian for two summer schools and told me, "This is your career, Sara. You love working with people, enjoy kids and love learning." I didn't always listen to my mother up to this point in my life, but I was a junior in college, an English major looking at grad school, spent some time in the Campus School library with the incredible librarian, Nilah Hausdorf, and was hooked. I have the best job in the school and love the connections to all libraries that are part of the profession. What keeps me inspired are the kids and teachers when the "light" goes on from the student selecting the right book and telling me how much it matters and students and teachers really appreciating just the right app or just the right resource to answer questions.

TXS: What led you to become a candidate for ALA president, and what do you hope to accomplish?

SKJ: I decided to run for ALA President because I experienced how effective ALA could be when the staff and volunteer members worked together. ALA can make a difference for libraries, librarians, library workers and the people who use libraries. While I was AASL President in 2007-08, I lead the involvement of AASL and ALA with the amazing "Spokane Moms" (http://www.fundourfuturewashington.org/) to get new legislation passed in Washington State to fund school libraries. That fit with my long-time involvement in advocacy and library issues but it worked better than I had ever experienced because ALA was involved with citizen coalitions to make a difference for libraries. The decision was hard but the tipping point was one of my Mansfield University online students who, when we were examining the ALA Code of Ethics, wrote a passionate forum post describing her reaction: "I get it now. I know what it means to be part of the profession of librarianship. And now I can explain to others who ask, "Why on earth would you want to be a librarian?" Whew!

TXS: Have there been any surprises as a candidate?

SKJ: Many. I was always one of the people that said, "Tear the silos in ALA (divisions and committees working independently of each other) down." I know more can be accomplished when working together instead of separately. But, as I made the 32 speeches in 4 days at the Midwinter ALA conference in Boston, I saw the passion and expertise that people have for "their" part of ALA and now I am more, "Let's have some flexible walls for those silos and/or doors that make it easier to work together." I want to encourage the synergy of the divisions and committees working cooperatively but, in the reorganization that is being discussed, I don't want to lose the passion of the people who volunteer to make a difference for their part of the profession. I also was again surprised by the universality of the problems of different library types along with the unique issues and concerns of each type. And, I loved meeting authors as I traveled around who are ready to be a core of advocates for libraries. That is such a good idea that needs to happen.

TXS: Could you share some of your most rewarding experiences?

SKJ: As a librarian, I have had many rewards but notable is the chance I've had to steer kids to read books that make a difference for them, especially teens struggling with sexual identity or dysfunctional families. And hearing a kid say, "Thanks for telling me about that book. It's the first one I have read all the way through. What should I read next?" As an activist librarian, I mentioned working with the Spokane Moms but it's also the experience of working on statewide commissions and boards, seeing legislators, decision-makers and the public understand the impact libraries have on life.

TXS: What is your dream for libraries and books in the future?

SKJ: Libraries have become community centers for literacy and a "third space" for people to use resources and to learn. This is true for all library types--public, school and academic. Since I read in all formats from the printed books to MP3 files, my dream for libraries is to have flexible, functional facilities available for all people and equitable, generous funding to provide whatever type of reading someone wants, delivered every possible way. More, more, more! My favorite quote during National Library Week was from author Neil Gaiman, "It's still National Library Week. You should be especially nice to a librarian today, or tomorrow. Sometime this week, anyway. Probably the librarians would like tea. Or chocolates. Or a reliable source of funding."

Libraries do so much with so little that adequate facilities and funding everywhere would matter so incredibly! Sitting in a park, accessing the library on the ubiquitous wi-fi public network, finishing a book on my e-reader, searching the library's catalog for another book, listening or viewing the recommendations from others who have read it, listening to an author's podcast about a book, chatting with the librarian about the varied choices, downloading one and settling in with a smile on my face to continue the adventure. That happens already for a few; in my dream it happens for everyone.

TXS: Thank you, Sara! We were so honored to feature you!



Sara Kelly Johns has been the school library media specialist for grades 6-12 at Lake Placid (NY) Middle/High School since 1999, supervising the Lake Placid elementary school library for the first two years. Previous to that, she was the school librarian for middle/senior high level at Beekmantown Middle/Senior High School in Plattsburgh, NY.

From 1990-2006, she was an adjunct professor for the mandated 1-credit undergraduate Library Research Methods through Technology course at SUNY Plattsburgh’s Feinberg Library and won the “Excellence in Teaching” Award for Adjuncts in 1999 as well as the sixth annual “Award for Excellence in Library Service” from the North Country Reference and Research Resources (3’R’s) Council in 1996. Currently, she is teaching as an adjunct for the NCATE accredited School Library & Information Technology (SL&IT) program at Mansfield University for their Access and Legal Issues (censorship, intellectual freedom, copyright) course.

She was the 2007-08 American Association of School Librarians (AASL) Past President, is the Associate Editor for AASL Community for Knowledge Quest, and is the AASL Coordinator in New York State for implementation of the AASL Standards for 21st Century Learner. Her new term as an ALA Councilor at Large began at Midwinter in Boston; her first term was 2004-06. She was a member of ALA President’s Jim Rettig’s advocacy initiative advisory committee, the ALA Advocacy Committee and is currently a member of ALA President Camila Alire’s REACT committee for her advocacy initiative for frontline library workers. She is also a candidate for ALA president and knows what “running” for president really means.

Sara has presented extensively at state, regional and national school library conferences on advocacy, leadership, plagiarism prevention and AASL. She has written professional articles for LMC, School Library Journal, Knowledge Quest and Teacher Librarian and will lead her first webinar on Collection Development for Linworth in October. At the recent ALA Annual Conference in Chicago, she was the school library panelist for the Reference Books Bulletin’s “Defending the Reference Collection” program. Upcoming presentations will be Oct. 3 at the School Library Journal Summit on Librarians as Leaders of 21st Century Learning
and a panel October 6, “High School to College: The Information Literacy Gap.”

She was a member and president of the Saranac Lake Free Library Board of Trustees and served on the Plattsburgh (NY) Public Library Board of Trustees before moving to Saranac Lake in 1991. She served on the Regents Commission on Library Service for the 21st Century and is currently a member of the Regents Advisory Council on Libraries, the New York Library Association (NYLA) Legislative Committee, the Intellectual Freedom roundtables for NYLA and ALA and the AASL Legislative Committee. She is an active member of and served two biennial terms as president of the local chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma international society of women educators.

In her spare time, she loves to garden, take digital snapshots, read crime novels and dances whenever she can, especially to her husband’s rock band, Double Axel. She has a son and four stepchildren, the cutest 5 and 7-year-old step-grandchildren there could be and almost 16,000 pictures on her personal Flickr account.


Please email us your nominations for featured sweethearts.


  1. When I was 16-17 my dreams of a career were either of being a Librarian or English Teacher. However, most of my friends and teachers told me that my personality was very "theatrical" (the polite way in England to say LOUD) and would be better used in the classroom. Although I don't regret my choice at all, I sometimes wonder what it would have been like to have taken the other path.

    This was as always Ladies a very insightful post and one which I thoroughly enjoyed for personal reasons....


  2. Thanks, Ann Marie, for commenting! I love the thought of being a librarian. It seems such a peaceful job choice. I used to want to be the gal who shelves books in the college library. Now I'm the mom who shelves books in the elementary library every Thursday afternoon :)

  3. I didn't think of being a library when I was younger. Now I wish I had. Sometimes I wonder what I was thinking when I picked my career. I love books and kids. Now I'd love to be a librarian or a teacher. That's great you get to volunteer there P.J. I loved my daughter's elementary school library. Great interview.

  4. Thanks, Natalie! What did you pick for a career? If I hadn't been an engineer, I would have been an archaeologist :)

  5. Thank you, Jessica, PJ and Jo! We did have a great time on the Riverfront in San Antonio, for sure. For those thinking about becoming a librarian, there are online degrees as well as traditional ones. It's a GREAT jobz!


  6. Thanks for your comments, Natalie and Ann Marie! I'd thought about becoming a librarian too and even got accepted into a program though I ended up heading in a different direction. Thank YOU, Sara! It was so much fun talking to you in San Antonio!

  7. Sara, thanks so much for sharing your time and thoughts with us! I love your switch from "tearing down the silos" to "adding doors".