Metro Nashville Public Schools
MLIS, Trevecca Nazarene University, PA, 2009; Educational Specialist (EDS) in Educational Leadership, Tennessee Tech University, 2011
Photo Krista Lee Photography 2014
Stephanie Ham was first introduced to the groundbreaking Limitless Libraries—a partnership between the Nashville Public Library and local public schools—as a high school librarian in Whites Creek, TN.
Her students used Limitless Libraries to order books and other resources for easy pickup at the school library, while Ham collaborated with the program’s collection development librarians to acquire additional materials for the school at the public library’s discounted rate.
“I couldn’t believe how amazing the program was,” says Ham. “I was literally obsessed.” When the position of program coordinator became available, Ham couldn’t believe her luck.
Under Ham’s leadership, the program exploded from 16 to 128 schools and enrolled 25,000 elementary, middle, and high school students in two years. Book circulation through Limitless Libraries increased by 100 percent in her first year, 2011, and another 50 percent the year after that. She had to rethink everything from staffing to data input to keep up with the increased demand.
“We have to take the barriers away for teens to use the library,” says Ham. “Of course, in a perfect world, we want them in the library, but all of them may not have the ability to get there. Instead of insisting teens come to us, we take the library to the teens.”
In addition to checking out materials, this includes library programs like Teen Read Week and Food for Fines. During last year’s School Library Month, Ham enticed students to complete Limitless Library “challenges” by offering up the prize of an iPad Mini.
“The ease of [implementing] the project is a testament to her former job as a school librarian,” says Misti Jenkins, the librarian at John Overton High School in Nashville, who says Ham has been so effective, in part, because she has risen through the ranks, from middle school teacher to librarian to administrator.
In July, Ham made her way back to the public school system. As lead librarian for the Metro Nashville area, Ham says she is now more focused on the professional development of school librarians than on building collections. She is also the perfect liaison for Limitless Libraries, however, and says she stays in constant communication with the new project coordinator about future programs they can implement together.
“Since we have established wonderful relationships and trust, sharing more services seems natural,” says Ham.