Librarian of the Year Helps Students Find Their “Authentic Self”

By Office of Communications
Employee News
December 01, 2023

Rachel Grover (pictured above), librarian at Rocky Run Middle School, was an elementary and middle school teacher before she became a librarian. As a teacher, “I loved making a difference in students’ lives — and their learning — and weaving multiple content areas together in one lesson,” she said. She wanted to be able to impact more students, and “becoming a librarian gave me the flexibility to collaborate with students and teachers across all content areas.”

Thanks to a generous grant from the local Asha-Jyothi Foundation, Rachel has worked to create two modern makerspaces within the school library. They’ve been named by students the Inspiration Studio and Tech Den. 

The Inspiration Studio offers low-tech supplies including cardboard, crafting materials, and plenty of googly eyes, which Rachel says are currently popular. The Tech Den offers students a suite of high-tech materials, including a green screen, podcasting equipment, and graphic design resources. Both makerspaces are used by individual students and classes alike, bringing together students and teachers to utilize the space, prompting critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration. 

“Ms. Grover is a champion for literacy and uses innovative approaches to assist students and teachers in accessing the library,” her principal Peter Kownacki said.

Rachel sees libraries as essential spaces in schools because students visit them to “be themselves,” both as students, and also as people. “Whether they are selecting a book, playing a game, studying for a test, laughing with friends, or making something with makerspace materials, in the library students are making their own decisions and simply being their authentic selves,” she said. “Students are figuring out who they are and how reading for pleasure and academics align with their identity. 

“That’s why librarians work diligently to cultivate relationships and get to know students, so we can match them with books that provide reading experiences as windows, mirrors, and sliding glass doors, reflecting their own experiences and those of others,” she said.

As for Rachel, she enjoys reading almost everything, although her favorite authors at the moment are Jennifer Nielsen, Stuart Gibbs, Victoria Jamieson, and Jason Reynolds.

In addition to being a librarian, Rachel serves on several school committees and has had numerous articles published in library journals including School Library Connection and the American Association of School Librarians’ journal Knowledge Quest, as well as the VAASL Voice and the Knowledge Quest blog. Notably, she also has presented on various library topics at the district, state, and national levels. 

Librarian of the Year

Katie Bruechert, Heather Baucum, and Maura Madigan pose with their awardsRachel was recently named Librarian of the Year by the Virginia Association of School Librarians (VAASL) in November.  

“Rachel exemplifies the exceptional qualities of a learner, collaborator, and a leader and is highly deserving of this recognition,” said Amy Goodloe, former Rocky Run principal.  

Three other FCPS librarians were also honored at the VAASL conference:

  • Katie Bruechert, Thoreau Middle School, Rutherford Memorial Award.
  • Heather Baucum, Crossfield Elementary School, Ignite Award.
  • Maura Madigan, North Springfield Elementary School, AASL Presentation Award.

The last time an FCPS librarian won Librarian of the Year was seven years ago.