April 19, 2018

Nancy McGriff | Movers & Shakers 2002

The Power of Quiet Persistence

Working with kids, teachers, fellow librarians, and anyone trying to make a difference

Nancy McGriff attributes her many successes not to extraordinary ability but to her persistence. When she sees something that needs doing, she presents a compelling, evidence–based case for it and keeps pushing until someone says, “Yes, let’s do it.” She learned from her father that things don’t change unless someone stands up and says, “This is important.”

People told her seven years ago that she’d never get kids to read in her K-12 school in the middle of nowhere; she proved them wrong. What’s more, she got the teachers reading, too, in a regular book club. How?


Current position: Library Media Specialist, South Central Schools, Union Mills, IN

Degree: MLS, Ball State, 1973

Active in: AASL, Indiana Library Federation, Association of Indiana Media Educators [former president, now Information Power implementation co-coordinator]

Nancy convinced the high school principal to require 20 minutes of free reading every day. She got grant money and handed it to teachers to build classroom book collections. When Lord of the Rings opened in theaters, she got discount tickets for the kids and made multiple copies of the books available. She loaded students on a bus, took them to a bookstore, and let them choose books for her library. Then for Dr. Seuss’s birthday, she got every library in her county to participate in the Read Across America project. She hopes the working relationships formed in this process will lead to greater resource-sharing in the future.

McGriff also works tirelessly so that someday all Indiana media specialists can get time and money to do in their schools what she’s been able to do in her own, with equally measurable learning results. As cochair of Indiana’s Information Power program, she integrated the information literacy standards for school libraries with the new Indiana state standards for academic disciplines. Then she trained media specialists around the state to use the standards to get teachers to work with them on improving student learning and thinking. McGriff is now regularly invited to speak at conferences and show other library agencies how to put equally effective standards in place. The trick, she says, is to do your research, have hard evidence in hand, and just keep pushing.