Early Learning Leader
Early Learning Supervising Librarian
Pierce County Library System, Tacoma
MLIS, University of Washington, Seattle, 1998
Ready for Reading
Photo by RON WURZER/GETTY IMAGES FOR LIBRARY JOURNAL
In the mid-1990s, Tacoma newcomer Susan Anderson-Newham spent a lot of time in Pierce County libraries. An actor and writer who had lived in New York City for a decade and had degrees in both developmental psychology and theater, Anderson-Newham is a voracious reader. So is her husband, and their then four-year-old daughter was a story time regular. “We practically lived at our local library branch,” she recalls.
It was at a story time that the proverbial lightbulb went off. “I was watching the wonderful children’s librarian put on this little show for the children and families and I thought, ‘Oh! She’s working with children, putting on a show, surrounded by books, information, and people—this could be the perfect job for me!’ It was almost as though all my endeavors up to that point suddenly meshed into a possible career. After the story time, I quizzed the librarian, Lorianne Callison, who truly became my mentor into, and through, graduate school—and gave me my first job after I got my MLIS.”
Fast forward to 2012, and Anderson-Newham’s switch to librarianship—she started out as a storyteller in 1998 and has been an early learning supervising librarian since 2006—seems to have been particularly well timed. In recent years, Washington State installed new guidelines and curricula for early childhood education, and Anderson-Newham has spearheaded initiatives that make the Pierce County Library System (PCLS) a key player, says Neel Parikh, the library’s executive director. Since her initial efforts, Anderson-Newham has been central to expanding the library system’s three core early education programs into 30 different training sessions to support early education. In 2011, nearly 1,700 parents and caregivers attended. She’s also developed a peer-to-peer coaching program for librarians and storytellers, incorporating early learning practices, to improve their skills.
Anderson-Newham’s library foundation– supported B.L.O.C.K.S. (Blocks Let Our Children Know Science) program, which teaches hands-on ways to help develop the literacy, math, and cognitive skills of infants, toddlers, and preschoolers, recently earned for PCLS an Urban Libraries Council Innovation Award.
“Our world can be so dark and serious, and I’m always looking for ways to bring more joy, silliness, and laughter to children and the people who care for them,” Anderson-Newham says.