February 16, 2018

Andrea Baker & Amy Daniels | Movers & Shakers 2004


Chicks in Charge


What do you get when you pair Andrea Baker, a ‘serene and serious’ blonde, baseball-loving Democrat from Iowa, with Amy Daniels, a ‘wild and crazy,’ redheaded, NASCAR-loving Republican, native-Carolinian? A rare partnership where both know how to turn a bad situation–the steadily declining budget for their Airport High School Media Center–into an opportunity. They call themselves the ‘chicks in charge,’ a title they’ve fully earned.

They hated to tell their teachers constantly no. As in, ‘No, I can’t afford to buy this new book,’ and ‘No, we can’t afford to buy new computers.’ When Baker and Daniels wanted to set up a writing lab for students, they met with another no. Their computers were too old, and there was no money for new technology.

That’s when the two of them started to explore Linux and open source solutions and wondered why everyone isn’t looking that way. ‘To recycle older computers, install a free operating system and free software that are comparable to many proprietary packages just made sense to us,’ Daniels says.

It also meant that they could start saying yes to their students and teachers. The only problem was that neither Baker nor Daniels knew anything about Linux. But being librarians, they researched, took a Linux class together in spring 2003, and started lurking on electronic discussion lists. When they learned about a school district in North Carolina that installed a Linux lab, they invited themselves for a visit and were amazed to see how a complete lab could be cobbled together for little money.

Next they ‘invaded’ a meeting of the Columbia Linux Users Group. The only women, they explained their project and enlisted the group’s enthusiastic assistance. They received donations of a server, equipment, and time. On a Saturday in October 2003, they spent eight hours deleting operating systems and installing Linux network interface cards and a new server. By the end of the day, they had a functioning lab.

Baker and Daniels have only worked together since 2002, but they’ve formed a strong partnership, drawing on their differences and strengths.

Baker, a transplant to South Carolina, started as an elementary school media specialist when OPACs were new and revolutionary, but she’s been comfortable learning new technologies, collaborating with teachers to integrate them into class assignments, and teaching computer classes for faculty in the evenings.

Daniels became a media specialist because she couldn’t stay away from books and loved sharing them with young people. Convinced that fluent reading is essential for success in life, she pushes students to ‘read, read, and read some more’ and launched a districtwide celebration of reading. At the same time she understands how uncomfortable some teachers are with technology and offers minilessons and hands-on instruction whenever she can.

What have they learned from each other? Baker has taught Daniels to be more outspoken, while Daniels has given Baker lessons in being a true Southerner and showed her how to be ‘assertive without being pushy,’ Baker says. For Baker, Daniels is simply ‘one of the best perks I have in the workplace, a partner, friend, and confidante.’

Each one, in their own way, is smart, funny, and tough. Put them together, and, as Daniels says, ‘You don’t want to mess with chicks in charge.’




Andrea Baker

Current Position: Media Specialist, Airport High School Media Center, Columbia, SC
Degree: M.A. in Library Science, University of Northern Iowa, 1987
Active in : Columbia Linux Users Group

Amy Daniels

Current Position: Head Media Specialist, Airport High School Media Center, Columbia, SC
Education: MLS, University of South Carolina, 1988
Active in : South Carolina International Reading Association