The Unquiet Librarian: An Epilogue

Photo used with written permission from Zenonas Meskauskas .

Ten years ago today, I began The Unquiet Librarian blog.   It’s hard to believe a decade has passed, but the years have passed in the blink of an eye.  When I began blogging, I simply did it to have a space to reflect on my practice, period.  So many other great librarians were writing and sharing their work, and I thought how fun it would be for me to do so, too.

Ten years and 800 posts (!)  later, very few of the librarians who were blogging then are still doing so.  The entire landscape of social media has changed (not for the better, I fear), and so has librarianship.  This blog has reflected my professional journey as a librarian for nine years and then back to the classroom this past year; it has been one with many unexpected turns and twists.  In recent years, I’ve felt a little like Odysseus trying to find my way back “home” to a space where I could do what I’ve always aspired to do:  that is to simply do good work that is meaningful and to be respected for it.  The last five years have definitely presented many tests and challenges, and I am proud to say I feel I passed them with as much as grace and dignity as I could even when things were messy and less than ideal.  This is not to say I had moments of questioning or when I stumbled, but overall, I feel I passed the tests that were thrown my way.  I am also thankful for the clarity and understanding that these trials have brought as well as the amazing people I’ve been blessed to befriend in the last four years.

I have always tried to keep learning at the center of my reflective writing and shared openly in hopes that not only would doing so bring me insights and push my thinking, but I also hoped that perhaps my writing help others along the way, too. I am proud that I have blogged this long, and even prouder that I did some of the best work of my entire career after I had won several major professional accolades in the library profession.  I am even prouder that I continued writing and reflecting in the midst of tremendous professional and personal adversity and upheaval.  I am proud I kept my blog my own and did not commercialize it even though there were several opportunities to do so.

A year ago, I made a very deliberate decision to leave the library profession and return to the classroom.   There were many reasons for making this choice, but ultimately, I needed to be in a positive space where I could dwell in teaching and learning and innovate with support and encouragement instead of being marginalized or ostracized for those passions.  More importantly, I missed having my very own community of learners that I could connect with daily in deep and authentic ways.   I realized the library was no longer the space that allowed for these needs, and I returned to my first love where my career began:  the English Language Arts classroom.  I can now say without any hesitation and with absolute certainty that this decision was the best thing I could have done for myself both professionally and personally.  This is not to say there were not times of doubt and questioning in the last twelve months, but I can now see these moments were signs of the growth I was undergoing.  I have also learned throughout my life questioning and doubt give you opportunities to really think about what you believe in (both professionally and personally) and what matters most.  I am forever thankful to Chestatee Academy principal Jennifer Kogod for believing in me and supporting me—she never doubted in my ability to transition back to the classroom successfully.  That confidence and faith were and continue to be invaluable to me as she shares my passion for literacy and learning.  The freedom I’ve been allowed as an educator during the last year has been the catalyst enabling and fueling tremendous growth for me as a teacher and as a person.

I am also indebted to my CA students in grades 6, 7, and 8 of this past year.  You pushed me and challenged me to think about everything I thought I knew about Language Arts and writing instruction, and I became a better person and teacher for it.  I hope that I was able to give as much to you as you gave to me.   You have my love and know I will always be in gratitude for our time together this past year.  I will forever cherish all of the moments when I saw you grow and even more importantly, when you recognized your own growth as a writer and learner.

Being back in the classroom has not only fueled my energy and passion for teaching, learning, and literacy, but it also has helped me emerge from the long dark tunnel of grief that has imbued every aspect of my life since my mother was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer in June 2013 and all that followed for the next ten months and then aftermath of her passing.   This is not to say I still do not have moments of immense sadness because I do, but teaching and learning with my students and fellow teachers has helped me re-calibrate my inner compass and to feel happiness again.  Teaching in the classroom again has given me a sense of purpose and meaning, and frankly, it has saved me—I do not say that lightly.  After seeing so much ugliness in life between 2013 and 2015, I was losing myself.    Being in the classroom again, even with all the challenges teachers face, has renewed my sense of optimism and faith in the good of humanity.  I know my mother would be so happy to see me teaching with joy and feeling a sense of hope and excitement about life.   In addition, the steadfast friendships that have remained in spite of so much adversity, the encouragement from colleagues near and far, and your prayers have helped me continue to draw upon the inner fortitude instilled in me by mother and beloved grandmothers to arrive at this place.

Though the space where I do this work is different, my commitment to inquiry, literacy learning, and doing quality, authentic work remains as steadfast as ever, if not more so.   However, it no longer makes sense to reflect and write here on this blog; therefore, this is my last post at The Unquiet Librarian.  However, I will leave the site up as an archive of my work and journey for you as well as for me.   This decision was not an easy one, and I am thankful to all who supported me as I wrestled with this decision, including Brian Mathews, Joe Fox, Jennifer Lund, and Anastasia Diamond-Ortiz.  It would have been easy to have continued blogging in this space, but those who know me well know I am not apt to take the path of least resistance (for better or for worse).  This space simply no longer fits, but I am thankful for the time that it did.

I am thankful to all of you who have supported my writing, thinking, and work for the last ten years in this space. Though there are many who have served as a point of light, I would be remiss if I did not thank Brian Mathews (formerly of The Ubiquitous Librarian).  Brian not only inspired me with his blogging from the beginning of my career until he ended his blog in 2015, but he was also the person whose quality of reflective thinking I aspired to do in my own blog.  In addition, he has been a sounding board and a source of sage professional advice at key points in my life in recent years.   I am also indebted to the teachers, students, librarians, and fellow educators whose stories have filled this blog and the work embedded in it.

The beauty of letting go of something is that you are free to grasp new opportunities and to embark on new paths.  I sincerely hope you will join me at my new blog, Living in the Layers.  I will continue to reflect on all things learning and literacy as well as read, write, and revise my practice as a Language Arts and Literacy educator wherever the next decade takes me. It seems fitting to begin my new blog, inspired by Stanley Kunitz’s poem “The Layers”, today on Independence Day as I embark on this new phase of my work as a literacy educator.   As the header image for my new blog (pictured below) implies, sometimes we must be brave and courageous to venture into places we might not go in order to make those turns and moves that will “clear our vision” of what once was and to begin to see what can be.

My Summer of Abundant Reading: Musings and Reflections


This is the first summer since 2012 that has not involved long-distance moves, major family illness, and/or other significant life upheaval.  It has been a godsend to have an extended period of time of self-care that has included regular exercise, plentiful sleep, quiet unhurried reflection time, minimal stress, and lots of reading!  I have probably read more texts (and I use a broad definition of texts) this summer than any other year of my adult life since I was last in graduate school at UGA over 10 years ago.  I have focused most of my text reading on books this summer—-it has felt like a luxury to have time and energy to do so.  Though I love reading, I have been a picky reader as an adult and have struggled at times to find self-selected reads that appeal to me.  I have been surprised by the volume of reading I have done this summer though I feel the gift of time, no professional commitments, my Kindle, a new job, and new connections on social media have contributed to my reading revival.

I have read hard copy versions of some books; however, I have read quite a few books on my Kindle Fire that I purchased last fall.   What do I love about reading on my Kindle?  I can:

  • Read while I am working out at the gym on the elliptical–exercise for the body and mind!  In addition, reading while I am on the elliptical makes gym time go MUCH faster.
  • I can sample many kinds of books thanks to the free preview feature of Kindle books—I am confident that I have tried many more kinds of books through the serendipity of Kindle book browsing than I would if I were physically browsing shelves in a library or bookstore.  This aspect of book discovery is one I find quite interesting and is making me think much more deeply about how readers connect with specific books.
  • I can use the “Blue Shade” feature on my Kindle to help ease eye strain (people seem to love or hate this feature, but I like it).
  • I can easily and seamlessly post updates from Kindle reads to my Goodreads account (and I have used Goodreads much more for book ideas this summer than ever).
  • I can easily highlight and take notes, and then export those for easy reference at a later time if I want.
  • I can add Audible narration when available (and in my budget)—I like this feature even though I don’t consider myself an audiobook person.


With that said, there are times I want the hard copy of the book to read—this desire mainly occurs with professional books though sometimes I wish I could afford both the hard and copy the e-copy as I am trying to figure out the best method of taking notes on my professional reading that fits who I am as a learner these days.  With my professional books, I often want to flip to a specific section of the hard copy of the book not just for ease of reference, but also because sometimes I just need to SEE it right in front of me.  I still like highlighting and writing out notes by hand, but I do love the ease of highlighting on the Kindle, too.


Other times a book may only be available in hard copy, but sometimes you also need the hard copy to better appreciate the graphics, art, or photography.



Here are my summer reads; the ones that I have boldfaced are my favorites:

  • Inside Out and Back Again, Thanhha Lai
  • Hour of the Bees, Lindsay Eagar
  • The Unstoppable Writing Teacher, M. Colleen Cruz
  • Shadowshaper, Daniel Jose Older
  • Road to Tara:  The Life of Margaret Mitchell, Anne Edwards
  • Eruption, The Untold Story of Mt. St. Helens, Steve Olson
  • Georgia, A Novel of Georgia O’Keeffe, Dawn Tripp
  • The Atomic Weight of Love:  A Novel, Elizabeth Church
  • My Name is Lucy Barton, Elizabeth Strout
  • Simple Dreams:  A Musical Memoir, Linda Ronstadt
  • Cumberland Island:  Strong Women, Wild Horses, Charles Seabrook
  • Losing Clementine, A Novel, Ashley Ream
  • Awash, Dawn Lee McKenna
  • Being Mortal:  Medicine and What Matters in the End, Atul Gawande
  • American Ghost:  A Family’s Extraordinary History on the Desert Frontier, Hannah Nordhaus
  • Lily and the Octopus, Steven Rowley
  • Lab Girl, Hope Jahren
  • The Wright Brothers, David McCullough
  • Sally Ride, America’s First Woman in Space, Lynn Sherr
  • Blue Horses, Mary Oliver
  • The Beekeeper’s Lament, Hannah Nordhaus

As you can see, I read a pretty diverse mix of books including biography, nonfiction, memoir, fiction, and poetry.  I read some things that I normally would have never picked, but I stumbled upon them through my browsing experiences in the Kindle Store and Goodreads; there were also times I discovered books to read (or to add to the wish list) through colleagues on Twitter and Facebook.  Interestingly enough, I have been watching a lot of documentaries this summer, which seems to parallel my growing love for nonfiction.  I am thinking a good bit about the core of powerful stories at these genres of film and texts, but that is another set of reflections for another day.

Being able to sample books on the Kindle or to read a free excerpt online before ordering a hard copy of a book was critical to the choices I made.  Most of the books I read this summer I liked though there were a couple I thought I would enjoy more (they fell flat for me); there were also a couple I found incredibly disappointing and didn’t enjoy at all.  I still have quite a few in progress, and I have a “want to read” list that is a mile wide!

As I mentioned earlier, my summer reading experiences have me thinking a lot more about how people find and connect with specific books as well as the experience of contemporary “browsing” and book discovery.  What is that like in a digital environment compared to physical browsing?  What do those experiences have in common?  How are they different?  What does this mean for our students or our library patrons?  Ourselves?  How and why might it differ for children/teens from adults?  Interestingly enough, I did not go to my local library for any print or digital books, nor did I consult with anyone from my local library for a suggestion or help.  Instead, I relied heavily on Amazon browsing and Goodreads suggestions. However, my reads and “to read” lists not only came from these sources, but as I mentioned earlier, Twitter colleagues.  I also belong to two Facebook groups on teaching reading and writing that have provided lots of great professional “want to reads”; I have also gotten many ideas for children’s books to read from the Coastal Savannah Writing Project Facebook group.  All of these musings have me wondering how might I draw upon my experiences as a reader to help my students during the upcoming school year.

Most importantly, my summer of reading has helped me reconnect with myself in many ways.  To feel the joy of reading I felt as a child has been energizing and has helped me remember why as a child I declared I wanted to be an “author” or writer of some sort (more on that in a future blog post).

Buffy as a Child Falling Asleep with a Good Read
Buffy as a Child Falling Asleep with a Good Read

This summer of abundant reading has also helped me explore genres of writing and topics I like as well as discover new favorites.  On a more personal level, my reading has been therapeutic and helped me in many ways process and cope with the profound grief I still feel over the passing of my mother who has been gone two years but whose absence is still felt acutely in my heart and day to day life.  The act of reading and the actual books I have read (even the ones that seemingly have nothing to do with losing my mother) have all in some way been healing for me.  Many of my reads also have me thinking about new dreams for myself, seeing life in a different and positive way, or contemplating how a particular book might inspire/nurture a friend or future student.  I have re-discovered just how nourishing and sustaining reading genuinely is for me.

What have you been reading this summer?  How do you discover books to read?  What have been your favorites?  Where do you like to read, and what formats of texts do you enjoy?  What are you looking forward to reading next?  How are you helping your students or library patrons connect with books?  I would love to hear your experiences and reflections!

Help #WageHope


Three years ago today, my world changed forever when I learned that my cherished mother, JoAnn Gunter, had stage 4 pancreatic cancer.  I didn’t even really understand what “stage 4” meant—though I would learn the harsh reality of that all too fast—but I was in utter shock that my mom, who was always regarded as a freak of nature for her youthfulness even at the age of 69, could have such a devastating disease.  I could not fathom that MY mother, the one who never drank or smoke, who exercised faithfully, who had none of the risk factors for this evil disease.   Even now, it still seems incomprehensible.  MY mother, the person who always had my back, my best friend, and my eternal source of wisdom even in the most difficult of times.   Within 10 months, mama was gone—nothing could be prepare me for the void her passing would leave.

I have not yet been able to write about the experience of what it is like to walk such a journey with someone you love more than anything, a roller coaster of fighting one of the deadliest cancers you can get.  For now, I will simply say it has taken me to some of the darkest hours of my entire life and that watching such suffering up close profoundly changes you and the way you see life forever.  Grief is still ever-present for me, but the strength of character and grit my mother instilled in me has kept me moving forward even on days I frankly didn’t want to go any further—and I know that is exactly what she would have done had our roles been reversed.  I try to keep my focus on continually learning from the experiences of the last few years and how I can turn those insights into positive action and energy–to do anything else would dishonor the sacrifices my mother made to give me the life I have and the preciousness of life.

wage hope

It seems fitting on this day to share that the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, an organization whose efforts are making difference in the war on pancreatic cancer, is nearing its year-end fundraising goal.   Pancreatic cancer has now surpassed breast cancer to become the third leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States.  I respectfully ask you to consider making a donation of any amount to this organization dedicated to finding methods of earlier diagnosis and more effective treatments for this disease that is one of the deadliest cancers with very low survival rates.  If you would like to make a contribution, please click here.  On behalf of my mother and all those who have been touched by this disease, I thank you for your gracious consideration.