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NCHS Librarian Michelle Luhtala earns Social Media Superstar status

The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) announced last month that New Canaan High School’s Michelle Luhtala has been recognized as one of its top-seven Social Media Superstars. The prestigious award is given to those who enrich the librarian profession and inspire student learning by sharing information, expertise, ideas, encouragement, and dialog through a variety of social media outlets. Honorees are arrived at through a nomination process and public endorsements. Ms. Luhtala is being recognized in the “Curriculum Champion” superstar category for her effective use of one or more social media channels to share exemplary school library curriculum.

NCHS Library Having used outlets like Buffer, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, NCHS also has a unique page called the Annex which easily connects students to databases, instructional videos and guidelines, numerous educational apps, news sources, and other forms of media that help to enhance student learning and research.
 
“The Annex is about learning and not just with the resources, books, and websites offered by other school libraries,” explained Ms. Luhtala. “When I first got here, we taught with papers that students would leave on the desks after my lesson. It made me think about how I could make a point out of the lessons I gave, which is how the idea of the Annex came to be. I made everything I taught available online, so that even if students leave their paper on the floor, they will still have a destination for learning materials.”

Having helped to launch and improve the Annex and its many tools, Ms. Luhtala notes the way that the library’s online materials have become so integrated in our school’s curriculum.

“With the underclassmen, we can walk into any classroom that is doing research and find that most of the students are using library materials,” she said. “Whether they are using eBooks, academic journals, mainstream news media, or databases, they are connecting with library materials in the classroom. I have never seen that in my career before. Now, we work side by side with the classes. Whereas, in many other high schools, there is a disconnect. At NCHS, students and teachers don’t think twice when they see a librarian in the room.”

Not only has Ms. Luhtala fit the criteria of the AASL’s “Curriculum Champion” through the library’s connection with NCHS students, but she has also offered information to a wider audience through her professional twitter account, blogs, and monthly webinars.

“They say that the best way to learn something is to teach it, which is why I love webinars,” said Ms. Luhtala. “I do not always have the answers to everything or know best way to do things, so I usually invite guest speakers. I go and talk to other people, delve into what they are doing, and bring their ideas back to our school. The webinars give me a great incentive to learn how to do things well and how to teach things well. I’m constantly looking for the best practices out there, and doing webinars keeps me connected to a really large teaching community with a great inventory of information.”

Having been honored before for the impressive work she’s doing, like the “Library Journal Mover & Shaker” in 2015, and the “New York Times’ I Love My School Librarian” award in 2012, Ms. Luhtala hopes that the importance of school librarians continues to be recognized and respected.

“This is the coolest job. It is absolutely amazing,” she said. “People think that librarians are going away, or that we need to change the name of the job title. But I think it is important that we celebrate that this field is exactly the same. We are still providing students with the learning tools they need to succeed and the materials that teachers want to teach with. We should not change the title of the job or the name of the space. As librarians, we should continue to be mindful, innovative, and help kids become better learners.”
 
Story by Holly Santero, NCHS Senior