Onaway school librarian Dawn Rivers was not a kid who read. In fact, when she was a student at the former Wiley Middle School in Cleveland Heights, she only went to the library to work as a library aide. And that was only because students who worked as library aides could take a free trip to Cedar Point at the year’s end.
But today, this 15-year Shaker veteran librarian spends her days surrounded by Onaway’s collection of just over 19,000 books, thinking of ways that students can connect to their interests through reading. Ms. Rivers’ passion for reading and libraries came late, but once she caught the bug, she refused let it go.
Learn more about Ms. Rivers, her awakening to the world of libraries and her passion for yoga.
If you weren’t a reader as a child, how did you end up as a librarian?
After I graduated from Heights High, I wanted to be a flight attendant. I didn’t even take the ACT. But my Mom had other plans for me. She told me that I was going to college. So I went to Kent State and was an English Education major. I was also a single mother who didn’t have any money. As part of my coursework, I took a library class and realized that everything in the library is free. Once I understood and learned the power of resources and information, I realized that I had to teach people about this. I’d had an epiphany. So two weeks after I graduated, I started my master’s program in library sciences.
What do you learn in a library sciences graduate program?
I learned a ton. You learn about management of the library---you learn about how budgets are created, managing staff, presenting information to whoever controls the library, whether that’s a board or a committee. You also learn about the acquisition side, how to purchase the right materials for your collection. And you read tons and tons of books, and you learn about books and styles of writing. It’s a lot of work, but it has to be so that you’re familiar with every aspect of a library.
What’s on your list of favorite books for kids?
I don’t do favorite book lists. There are just too many to name. I do themes, instead. So for example, I take something like women’s history and I focus on women who are alive to make it relevant for the students. This year, some of our students read Malala and learned about educational rights. They don’t understand that there are 130 million girls worldwide who don’t go to school and 500 million who can’t read or write. During Hispanic History month we learned about Sonia Sotomayor, we’ve done author studies on they author Patricia Palacco, and we’ve read about renewable energy. Also, for almost every class in every grade, I read because I don’t think we read enough to our children. I noticed that many kids aren’t read to and they don’t know how to listen to stories. Part of what I do is training them in this way and getting them to feel engaged. I’ve also found that at the elementary school age, even if students have difficulty reading, they still want to hold books. They want to be part of the community of readers. So they’ll just check out books.
You’re a licensed yoga instructor. How did you get into it?
I started doing VHS Rodney Yee tapes in my basement in 1999. Then I started taking yoga classes at One to One at Case and then one day I was grabbing some food at J. Pistone and saw a promotion for one free week at Cleveland Yoga. I went during spring break and it changed my life. I started working there part time, getting free yoga and getting in my teacher training. Since then, I’ve done classes for the District and at the YMCA. Now I rent a space in Lyndhurst that I call Daybreak Yoga---it’s a play on my name---and my goal is to someday open a yoga studio.
What’s the thing you enjoy most about being a school librarian?
When my daughter was younger, she wanted to be a librarian. And I told her no, she couldn’t study to be a librarian right away. I told her that the more experience she has in life, the better librarian she’d be. I’m glad that being a librarian changed my life. I love to get kids excited about learning and to see that light that goes off when they realize that they can read and that it’s a good thing. Every day, I just try to drop seeds, hoping that the students take what you’ve taught them and learn to use it.