Master of Information (MI) Graduate. School Media Specialist. American Library Association (ALA) Emerging Leader. All of these titles have been earned by Beth Raff ’19, current School Media Specialist at Mt. Tabor Elementary School. We spoke to Raff recently on her current position, the importance of technology training in the Library and Information Science (LIS) field, and her passion for developing a love for all forms of literacy in students.
Why did you choose SC&I’s MI program?
The school library program at the School of Communication and Information (SC&I) is the best in the country! I already have a M.Ed. from the Graduate School of Education, and that experience was excellent. I taught fifth grade for 21 years and did the MI program in three years while working full time.
Can you tell us how our MI program prepared you for your career field?
The coursework for the MI program for school librarians is very targeted. I learned both theory and practical applications. The professors are well known in their respective fields and very accessible. I was also encouraged to develop my PLN throughout the program, and now I am active on Twitter (@Raff5K). I was a co-leader of Rutgers Association of School Librarians (RASL), and I also attended the New Jersey Association of School Librarians (NJASL) conferences as well as the American Library Association’s Annual Conferences.
What drew you to the school library media field?
I am passionate about building reading communities and helping students become lifelong learners. I taught literacy for many years in Hillsborough Township, and I wanted to be able to make an impact on even more students as a school media specialist. As a librarian, I can help students become critical consumers and innovative creators in all forms of literacy.
Can you describe your current position in the LIS field and responsibilities?
I am currently the school media specialist at Mt. Tabor Elementary School in the Parsippany-Troy Hills School District. I work with 450 students in a K-5 setting. Everyone has been very welcoming, and I am excited to collaborate with students, staff, administration and members of the community.
How is technology impacting the LIS field within the education sector?
Technology plays a big role in our lives, not just in education. My job as a librarian is to help teach students how to evaluate information, think critically and use the inquiry process. Integrating technology into my lessons and using the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) National Standards is a priority. Students need to learn digital citizenship, and who better than the school librarian to do this?
Congratulations on being selected for the American Library Association’s (ALA) Emerging Leaders Program! What does this opportunity mean to you?
I am very excited about this wonderful opportunity to meet librarians from across the country at the ALA Midwinter Conference in Seattle in January and at the ALA Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. in June. I am grateful to my sponsor, the New Jersey Association of School Librarians led by Christina Cucci. They do an outstanding job advocating for school librarians and providing opportunities for professional development. As an Emerging Leader, I am assigned to a project backed by the American Association of School Librarians called “Developing Inclusive Learners and Citizens.” As a member of a team of six librarians, we will work both in person and virtually before presenting in June.
Did you have a specific faculty member or mentor at SC&I that helped you on your career path?
Without a doubt, Assistant Teaching Professor of LIS Joyce Valenza has been a guiding force in my professional growth. Her passion for school librarianship is contagious! I am constantly amazed by her knowledge and desire to learn and grow. She has helped me to connect with my classmates as well as professionals in the field. When it came time to interview, she provided guidance and support. I know she will be there to help even after I graduate!
What advice do you have for current Rutgers students and upcoming graduates who want to launch a career in your field?
Pursue every opportunity that comes your way. Make sure you join student and professional organizations. Connect with your classmates, in-person or virtually. Build your professional network along the way. Attend conferences - you can help out as a student volunteer.
To learn more about SC&I’s Master of Information program, click here.
Caption: Beth Raff with Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress.