Above: Library Media Specialist Michelle Steever in the EGHS library that is her work home.
The East Greenwich High library media specialist has won hearts since her arrival in 2018
Earlier this month, EGHS librarian Michelle Steever was recognized for her work and contributions to EGHS with the Rhode Island Library Association’s (RILA) Outstanding Librarian Award.
RILA is an organization that works with libraries across the state, focusing on five main principles: Advocacy; Collaboration; Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion; Equal Access for All; and Intellectual Freedom.
The Outstanding Librarian Award is given annually to one librarian in the state who has “demonstrated an outstanding record of service to both his/her library and to the library profession,” according to RILA.
Steever was nominated for the award by a number of EGHS students, faculty and parents. Science teacher Frank Lenox first found out about the award last winter and reached out to individuals who had strongly advocated for Steever’s librarian position in the past.
Last week, many of Steever’s nominators arrived at EGHS to watch the virtual RILA award ceremony and congratulate her in person.
On the day of the ceremony, faculty and members of the school’s PTG decorated the EGHS library with balloons, flowers, cards, gifts, posters and even a cake.
The award ceremony was held live via Zoom and projected onto the library’s flat-screen TV for everyone to watch. When it was time to recognize Steever, RILA played a video made weeks in advance by the faculty and students who had nominated her for the award. The video, which is a comical representation of the numerous tasks that Steever accomplishes each day and directed and edited by Lenox, is below.
When writing about Steever to RILA, many spoke of her vibrant transformation of the library after its closure during the 2017-2018 school year. After just a year at EGHS, Steever “brought the library to life” by adding colorful artwork, decorations, comfortable furniture, and a podcast studio room. You can read more about Steever’s work in reopening the library HERE.
Lenox sent to RILA the same letter which he sent to the EG School Committee last year when he heard of potential budget cuts that could eliminate Steever’s librarian position.
He began his letter by emphasizing the positive impact that Steever’s presence at EGHS had on the school and students.
“By the start of the 2018 school year, there was already a sense of change,” said Lenox. “Most mornings, students were in the library at 7:30 a.m. for no other reason than ‘the doors were open.’ Decorations adorned the glass windows inviting students and teachers to ‘check out’ a book…. Students who I didn’t think could find time to read for pleasure, were checking out multiple books. It seems our library started to record a pulse.”
Lenox also mentioned Steever’s indispensable contributions when schools were suddenly shut down in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“With the onset of distance learning in the spring of 2020,” said Lenox, “Michelle has used her tech/website building skills to help teachers make materials available to students online. She also took on the process of setting up summer reading assignments for English and AP courses through the library website – something that did not exist until her arrival. Even in the absence of the physical structure, she has made the school library an essential element in our curriculum and classroom practices.”
The EGHS library website can be accessed HERE.
PTG President Nan Shea also wrote a letter to RILA, highlighting Steever’s ongoing support of the PTG during her time at EGHS.
“We previously held our meetings in the cafeteria or wherever we could find space,” Shea said in her letter. “Michelle offered up her library space for us and she reserved the library for our monthly meetings. She also presents annually to meeting attendees a detailed presentation on what types of resources students can access at the library and on the library’s website.”
Steever expressed gratitude for receiving the award and having been nominated by so many members of the school community.
“It’s an honor to be recognized in your profession by the people that I serve,” said Steever. “I don’t think anyone goes into librarianship to get attention. We’re behind-the-scenes people.”
Steever also reiterated her belief that “the library means something different to everyone.”
“When I was in school, the library was just a place where you went to go check out books, that was it,” said Steever. “And now that’s not it. It’s for people that just want to come down…. It’s really important that [the library] is a safe space for people to come and feel welcome.”
Aiza Shaikh, a newly-minted EGHS alum (Class of 2021), has been an EG resident since 2008. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys hiking, traveling, and eating coffee ice cream.