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Q&A: McDaniel College graduate professor wins national award from librarians group

Mona Kerby, a McDaniel College graduate professor and coordinator, was selected as the winner of the 2020 American Association of School Librarians’ Distinguished Service Award.
Mona Kerby, a McDaniel College graduate professor and coordinator, was selected as the winner of the 2020 American Association of School Librarians’ Distinguished Service Award. (Courtesy Photo)

A McDaniel College graduate professor and coordinator was selected as the winner of the 2020 American Association of School Librarians’ Distinguished Service Award.

The award recognizes an individual member of the library profession who has, over a significant period of time, made an outstanding national contribution to school librarianship and school library development, according to the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) website.

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Mona Kerby, the L. Stanley Bowlsbey endowed chair at McDaniel, has been at the college for more than two decades, starting as an assistant professor in 1994. Kerby also serves as coordinator of McDaniel’s Writing for Children and Young Adults and Learning Technologies Specialist graduate certificate programs.

According to a McDaniel news release, Kerby holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and Spanish from Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth, Texas, and obtained a master’s in counseling education from Texas Christian University, also in Fort Worth. Kerby continued her education at Texas Woman’s University in Denton, Texas, obtaining a master’s of library science degree and a Ph.D in library science.

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Kerby grew up in Fort Worth and currently lives in Westminster with her husband and two rescue dogs.

The Times interviewed her after she was announced as the award winner. Her responses were edited for length and clarity.

Q: What led you to the librarian profession?

A: A kindergarten student in Arlington, Texas, led me down this career path. As a kindergarten teacher, I taught Chris, who read on a third-grade reading level and he was the only child in my class allowed to go to the library to check out books. When the district decided to hire elementary librarians for the first time, I interviewed for one of the positions. I voiced my concern over only giving some children access to the library. I got the job.

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Q: What was your initial reaction to getting the Distinguished Service Award?

A: Happiness, of course, and then my thoughts turned to my wonderful colleagues in the American Association of School Librarians. They help me learn and grow.

Q: What qualities in your work do you think made you the right recipient of the Distinguished Service Award?

A: Tenacity. Collaboration. Humor. Plain-speaking. Writing. I have written 15 books, 25 articles, and three videos. My 2019 book, titled “An Introduction to Collection Development for School Librarians,” is used by school librarians all over the country.

Q: What has been the most rewarding part of your profession?

A: The most rewarding part of my job has been seeing my students succeed and knowing that they are readers and lifelong learners. My former Little Elementary School students are now teachers, professors, professional writers and school superintendents. My former McDaniel graduate students are now school librarians all over the state. For example, Kathleen Brunnett, Carroll County Public Schools supervisor of media and instructional technology, and Kim Johnson, Westminster High School librarian and 2017 Maryland School Librarian of the Year, are just two of my beloved students. Johnson also was recently named the recipient of the 2020 Joseph R. Bailer Award from McDaniel College.

Q: What have you learned in your position since 1994?

A: During this time, the internet and access to information entered our lives. I learned that reading and learning — the things I cherish — now encompass a digital landscape. In the last few years, propaganda is rampant in this digital environment. Students can’t tell the truth from lies. Quiet librarians must lead us — protecting our freedom to read and nurturing our skills to think critically and compassionately.

Q: What has been your favorite part at McDaniel College?

A: My favorite part has been learning with others. That’s our mission up on “the hill.”

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