June 18, 2018

Amy Mikel | Movers & Shakers 2018 – Innovators

Amy Mikel


Coordinator of School Outreach, Brooklyn Public Library


MLIS, University of Washington, 2012


@BKLYNlibrary on Twitter; Brooklyn Public Library Teacher Lab

Photo by Gregg Richards


Teacher Accelerator

“My mind-set is to think through a process or procedure or problem and connect the threads of a solution,” Amy Mikel says. “Then I keep at it, even if it takes years.”

That may explain how Mikel’s in-person class for 20 teachers has in three years become a digital class for more than 1,000.

When Mikel joined the Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) as coordinator of school outreach in 2012, “I realized…quickly that there were large gaps in knowledge and understanding among classroom teachers about the modern library,” she says. “I was curious if any teachers would be willing to give up their free time over the summer to learn with me.”

In August 2014, 12 teachers became the inaugural class of Mikel’s Teacher Lab. In a small room at BPL, she boosted their library resource skills, including navigating the collection, finding primary sources, working with databases, using Google and Wikipedia correctly, writing citations, and evaluating authoritative resources. To pass the course, they built an annotated bibliography.

Over the next three years, she grew the class from a two-week session into a four-day intensive and convinced the New York City Department of Education to grant it “P-credit” status, which means its graduates earn professional development credit—the first such class for teachers offered by a public library in the city.

This success was satisfying, but Mikel grew frustrated by its limited reach. “That’s why I took it online,” she says.

With the help of a $25,000 Sparks! Ignition grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Mikel launched the digital Teacher Lab in July 2017. It’s a 12-hour, self-paced course. On completion participants earn 12 credits—and it’s free.

Because she wants “as many educators as possible to have access to the course content and reconnect to the library,” Mikel designed the online content to be widely applicable—and it’s proving to be. More than 1,000 educators from 17 states have enrolled and about ten percent have finished so far.

Judy Zuckerman, director of youth and family services at BPL, says, “Amy [is a] rare combination of…creative thinker who consistently comes up with innovative ideas to solve problems or improve services and…successful implementer who sees an idea through to fruition, managing all the details and bumps along the way.”

This article was published in Library Journal. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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  1. Hi Amy Congrats!!!!!!!!

  2. Yay!!!!! Amy – so many congratulations!!!

  3. Patricia Sarles says:

    Congratulations Amy! Awesome work that you do!

  4. Antoinette DeSouza says:

    Hi Amy,

    Congratulations! You deserve it. You led the workshops that I attended with babies in utero like a true champ! Glad to see you being recognized for your tireless efforts!

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