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Meet Kristin Tarnas – ALSC’s 2024 Emerging Leader

Late last year, ALSC selected Kristin Tarnas, a K-8 school librarian at Hawaiʻi Preparatory Academy on Hawaiʻi Island, as its representative in the 2024 Emerging Leader program. Here is your chance to learn a bit more about Kristin through a series of questions.

Congratulations on being one of fifty people across the country selected to join together as ALA’s 2024 class of Emerging Leaders!
Mahalo nui, I am enormously honored and excited to be part of this year’s Emerging Leaders (EL) cohort! I am exhilarated to be selected for the EL program and immensely proud to be sponsored by the Association for Library Service to Children. Service to children has been central to my life, and while being a librarian is a new role for me, valuing the role of libraries in the lives of children is seeded in who I am.

Please tell us a bit about yourself.
I am Kristin Libsohn Tarnas, a K-8 school librarian at Hawaiʻi Preparatory Academy on Hawaiʻi Island.  I was born on Long Island, New York, and I grew up on Hawaiʻi Island, Hawaiʻi. Growing up in Hawaiʻi during the 70s with a single mom and a variety of schooling (and non-schooling) experiences led to my interest in education and dedication to supporting children and learning.  In the midst of starting my family, I learned a great deal through my Masters in Education program at Bank Street College of Education. However, I have to say that the practicum of parenting our two sons continues to provide some of my most significant and rewarding learning experiences!  When I am not immersed in work, my idea of a luxurious day includes coffee with a friend, gardening with an audiobook, and eating and playing a card or board game with my family.

What led you to your new role as a librarian?
My experiences as a young child of feeling safe and inspired in our Hilo Public Library planted the seeds of knowing that libraries and the people who make them possible are critically important for our communities.  I think “librarian” was a career that I put in a fantastical category like “astronaut,” “Olympian,” or “rock star.” However, of all of those, being a librarian was the most intriguing to me!  Thanks to encouragement from my school and public librarians, I started to think that such a fantasy might be possible, so I went back to school. Becoming a school librarian combines my interest in education with my desire to create an inviting space, develop a fulfilling collection, and support information literacy and literary joy for kindergarten through middle school students.

What is your favorite part of working with children as a school librarian?
It is tough to choose one favorite… how about a few favorites?  Even though this is only my second year as our school librarian, it has been incredible to see so many children enjoying the library and observing how much they grow in their literature interests and information skills from year to year. I can only imagine what it will be like to see last year’s Kindergarteners become 8th graders! My pleasure in creating user-centered environments in the classroom is especially fulfilling in the library, as students and teachers access the space each day for various purposes supported by the library’s design. One of my favorite favorites about being a school librarian is collaborating with my school colleagues to support learning goals for our students. Working and creating educational experiences with our dedicated teachers is invigorating and strengthens our school and professional community.

What made you apply for the Emerging Leader program?
I learned about the Emerging Leaders program from one of my many wonderful Library and Information Science (LIS) professors at the University of Hawaiʻi, where I graduated with my MLIS. This professor encouraged recent graduates to consider applying for Emerging Leaders for a powerful experience in the national library community. One of the most salient elements of my journey as an LIS graduate student was learning within the unique community I would serve. Several of our LIS courses led a group of us to start the Ānuenue Hawaiʻi Keiki Book Award to advocate for books created for and about our Hawaiʻi keiki so that they can see themselves in literature and imagine their own creative future. In the end, my decision to apply to be a part of the Emerging Leaders cohort was motivated by my desire to be an effective advocate in my community, to support Hawaiʻi’s children and the creators of books that celebrate and make their lives visible.

What project you will be focusing on during your time as an Emerging Leader?
As a school librarian, it was great news to find out that I will be working on a project for the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) titled,  “Developing Creative Collaborators, Flexible Partners, and Resilient Citizens.” Our task will be to create materials centered around the National School Library Standards (2018) Shared Foundation of Collaborate—to work effectively with others to broaden perspectives and work toward common goals. We will start the project in Baltimore at LibLearnX and present our work at the 2024 ALA Annual Conference in San Diego. I hope you will stop by and take a look at our work if you are attending the annual conference!

Is there anything else that you would like to share with your ALSC colleagues?
Living in a geographically isolated area like Hawaiʻi, it can be challenging to connect in person. Even most of my Hawaiʻi librarian interactions are interisland and take place via video conferencing. Access to lively conversations and information created by librarians through online resources has been essential for developing my practice as a school librarian. For instance, I learned more about the Emerging Leaders program from episode 243 of Amy Hermon’s School Librarians United podcast- a lifeline for new librarians! I realize that some level of isolation is a reality for most librarians due to the nature of our roles and logistical factors, from geography to time. For that reason, I want to thank all of you who generate, curate, and share your experiences and ideas to help us provide excellent service and care in our libraries.

As a child, the library was a place where I could be myself, a place where my self could be. This is a feeling that I want for other children, especially those who struggle to find those places in their lives where they can be safe, comfortable, and authentically themselves. 

As I prepare for the upcoming LibLearnX and ALA Annual Conference in San Diego, I look forward to the growth and learning ahead. I’m committed to continuing my advocacy for inclusive literature and library services that resonate with our unique Hawaiʻi communities. 

A Hui Hou (until we meet again) via blog, journal, social media, video, podcast, or even in person!

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