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‘More than just reading all day’

State association recognizes two Cherry Hill school district librarians

The New Jersey Association of School Librarians (NJASL) recently honored two Cherry Hill school disrict librarians, Carusi Middle School’s Erica Coonelly and Kingston Elementary’s Ana Hanneken.

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Coonelly got the Ruth Toor Media Specialist of the Year Award, which “honors a certified New Jersey school library-media specialist who, through individual and sustained effort, has made outstanding contributions to the operation or effective school library media services,” according to the NJASL website.

Coonelly has worked in education for 19 years, six as a teacher and 13 as a librarian, and joined the township district three years ago. Along with checking out books and providing reader recommendations, Coonelly is also responsible for helping students become 21st- century information users by teaching digital literacy, namely how to discern credible information and trustworthy sources.

She also played a role in the recent passage of the state’s information literacy bill. New Jersey is the first state to require that K-12 students are taught information literacy. While the standards are being developed, its passage is something of which Coonelly is proud.

“Before it was passed into a bill, there was no requirement to teach students information literacy,” she explained. “It was kind of like if the district felt like it was important, they could factor it into a media lesson here or there, but there were no standards to hold any district accountable for this information.”

Though the literacy bill doesn’t require an instructor to be a media specialist, Coonelly hopes it will provide some security for those in that role if schools seek to cut the position.

“They are experts on the topic at hand, so hopefully schools that are looking to possibly or potentially eliminate librarians from their district will reconsider,” she noted.

Coonelly explained that media specialists also teach research skills and emphasize to students that they should put information in their own words and not just copy and paste the writing or viewpoints of others.

Special to The Sun
Ana Hanneken received the Villy Ghandi Leadership Training Scholarship for 2023, an award that also recognizes outstanding contributions in the area of school library media services.

Hanneken received the NJASL’s Villy Ghandi Leadership Training Scholarship, named for the past president and school media specialist, who exemplified leadership and made contributions to the association, according to its website.

Librarians are recommended to apply for the award, and the winner receives a scholarship to attend the Summer Leadership or International Convention of the Association for Educational Communications and Technology. They also serve on a committee and attend NJASL board of trustees’ meetings.

Hanneken started her library career in Pennsylvania in 1998, spending eight-and-a-half years there before taking time off to raise a family. She returned to work seven years ago and previously served in the Monroe Township School District in Middlesex County, where she was recommended to apply for the scholarship. She also started a makerspace – a collaborative work area for teaching tech skills – in the disrict.

“Educational technology are just … the 21st-century technology that we want our students to be using,” Hanneken pointed out. “So it can be something as simple as the Google Suite, all the things that encompass drive, but it can also be more advanced programs. There are a lot of programs that teach kids how to do multimedia, and there are programs used as formative assessments with students.”

Though she only started working in the Cherry Hill district two weeks ago, Hanneken is excited being closer to home. She teaches 24 classes a week and stays on top of the latest technology and trends. Her specialty is knowing how to find programs that match what curriculums seek, such as helping a teacher put on a play using green screen technology.

“A lot of people think all we do is read all day and walk around and say ‘Shh’ to everybody, but it’s quite the opposite,” Hanneken said of being a librarian. “It’s an exciting position (where) you are able to touch the lives of students. My ultimate goal is always to try to get kids to be passionate about reading and sort of change the stereotypes about the library.

“I want them to feel like the library is a place they enjoy coming to and they feel like it’s a fun place.”


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