Member of the Month

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Member of the Month

Mary G. Milligan
Librarian, Newman Library, St. Luke’s Episcopal School, Preschool to 8th grade, San Antonio

Professional experience
I graduated from the University of North Texas with a BA in History and a MLS. After a stint as a reference librarian for the San Antonio Public Library, I was tasked with automating two different school libraries — from scratch, using first-generation Apple computers. It has been exciting to be on the cutting edge of library automation from the beginning! Later, it was my very great pleasure to get to design one library and to assist in designing a second, the St. Luke’s Episcopal School’s Newman Library, the latter with the firm of Lake-Flato (who later went on to do fine work in libraries like the HRC at the University of Texas). Since the 1985-86 school year, I have been the librarian at St. Luke’s, where I have striven to curate a collection that is diverse in its content, multicultural, and open-minded. When I first arrived at the school, I asked Father Joseph DiRaddo what I needed to know about being an Episcopal School librarian. He said to “keep in mind that faith is not threatened by ideas” and that our library collection “must include diverse and rigorous intellectual content.” That has been my mantra to this day.

Innovative library practices
During my tenure as the St. Luke’s librarian, I have hosted almost 100 authors – including Madeleine L’Engle, Tomie de Paola, Tim Tingle, Jack Gantos, Rick Riordan, Pat Mora, and Naomi Shihab Nye – and sponsored numerous programs such as a literary magazine, various book clubs for adults and children, international festivals, and literary festivals. I had an opportunity to write about this in the most recent book on independent school libraries, Independent School Libraries: Perspectives on Excellence (Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2010), which includes my article “What Else Can We Do? Library Programs Beyond Curriculum Foster a Culture of Learning.”

St. Luke’s Episcopal School has always been an educational leader in our community, embracing diversity, using technology, and incorporating core values and character education into the daily lives of our students. The library program has participated fully in the school’s curriculum. One of the many aspects of the St. Luke’s Library program that I am especially proud of is our preschool program. All of the preschool students, PK3, PK4, and kindergarten, come to the library weekly to listen to stories, browse the shelves, and check out books. Our youngest students are exposed to a wide variety of the best children’s literature and storytelling, and yes, three-year-olds do indeed check out books. In addition, parents are encouraged to visit the library and check out books for them as well. Our library is open until 5 p.m. and parents can check out 10 books at a time. I wholeheartedly believe that fostering a culture of reading begins with our youngest students.

Favorite literary character or book
My family, like many in the south side of San Antonio in the 1960s, had a set of the Book of Knowledge. I remember reading excerpts from Alice in Wonderland and a selection of Sherlock Holmes stories and seeing parts of myself in both characters. When I discovered children’s literature and found Meg from A Wrinkle in Time, I began to feel the magic of reading. But it wasn’t until I read Felita by Nicholasa Mohr that I truly understood the transformational power of the written word. I finally saw myself — a young Latina — and my neighborhood in her story; when the family is driven out of the barrio, I thought my heart and my head would explode. This led to a lifetime of activities on behalf of Latina/o literature: writing reviews, editing anthologies, organizing multicultural events, and eventually writing my own stories. It also significantly expanded my vision of what librarianship can do for all children.

Most memorable TLA experience
I have served the Texas Library Association in numerous positions and offices, including being a district chair; and I was honored to be selected for the TLA’s “Tall Texans” leadership program. I laughed the most when co-chairing the Author’s Area at annual conference; I learned the most from the Task Force on Transforming Texas Libraries for the 21st Century; and I found chairing the CRT’s Día de los niños / Día de los libros Committee to be the most relevant to my personal life experience. However, without a doubt, I feel my current tenure on the Texas Bluebonnet Award selection committee is my most memorable TLA experience. Our committee is the best book club ever!

Created on Nov 1, 2011 | Last updated October 01, 2014