Policy Advisor, Lead for Digital Engagement, Open Education, and Libraries, U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology, Washington, DC
MSLS, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2013
She and her husband are avid adventure campers, having pitched tents in Iceland, Chile, and Argentina
Photo by Paul Wood, U.S. Department of Education
As a third grade teacher fresh out of college, Sara Trettin landed a spot at the Library of Congress (LC) Summer Teaching Institute. She credits that experience with preparing her to become a key driver of Future Ready Librarians, an initiative aimed at raising awareness among district and school leaders about the importance of the role librarians can play.
The focus of the institute was on strategies for using digital resources in the classroom. Trettin was blown away by the school librarians she met there, who described how they’d been partnering with the teachers in their schools. “I wished I had a school librarian that I could work with,” recalls Trettin. Soon after, she was selected for a one-year teacher in residence program at LC. One of the topics discussed there was how to introduce iPads.
“Over the course of the year at LC, I found that I really enjoyed working with educators and librarians on strategies for using the digitized primary sources to build critical thinking skills. This experience reinforced that it’s not just the infrastructure, devices, or digital resources, but providing personalized professional learning for teachers and librarians that will transform student learning,” says Trettin. She began pursuing a library science degree.
In February 2016, Trettin pulled together library leaders at district and state levels, including public libraries, to look at how to highlight the role of librarians and how they can support learning with technology. Collaborating with Mark Ray, chief digital officer for Vancouver Public Schools, WA, “We started by examining the goals these various leaders had and drew connections,” says Trettin. Then they presented on curation to fill holes teachers had rather than buying the same standard textbook. “We got leaders to join the session, share their perspective on their districts’ approach, and ask questions,” says Trettin.
After the presentation, one superintendent told Trettin, “We have amazing school librarians in our district, but somehow we never thought of including them!” Four months later, they spoke again, and, says Trettin, “He gushed about how [inviting school librarians to join the district team had] really taken off, that the librarians were spearheading summits, [professional development] for teachers, and hangouts and webinars with other districts, other states.”
However, technology isn’t the be all and end all, emphasizes Trettin. “It’s one tool that can help bring about equity. A kid in a rural school can connect to an international expert or an AP course he wouldn’t ordinarily have access to.”
Now, Trettin is looking across federal agencies for opportunities for librarians to lead or “plug in and play a role.” She’ll be examining community challenges such as high school graduation rates and, as always, helping the librarian role “to be seen.”
Since fall 2016, Future Ready Librarians has gained 3,000 new members. What would Trettin tell them? “Change the conversation by being part of it. Place your work in the context of community needs. The lightbulb will eventually go on.”