Customer Profile: Len Bryan

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This awesomely decorated and bedazzled man is Len Bryan, a library media specialist at Cedar Ridge High School in Round Rock, TX. Before entering librarianship, Len was an English teacher and athletic coach for about 10 years. Sensing his time in the classroom was coming to an end, he was looking for a new path, but knew he wanted to stay in education.

“I never considered becoming a librarian until one day I received an email from the librarian I worked with at the time,” he said. “It started with, ‘Do you like electronic gadgets? Do you sometimes find yourself compulsively arranging your friends’ coffee table books?’ I did and I did, so I was immediately interested!” Len earned his MLIS from the University of North Texas in 2008. After working at a middle school library for a year, he was hired to open the library at Cedar Ridge High School.

What sparked his interest with a career in education in the first place? Len’s response is humbling and inspiring, so I’m just going to let his story speak for itself:

I have always been interested in education. I grew up dirt poor in rural Louisiana, the second of five children. My single parent mom worked in the elementary school cafeteria, and she always had such admiration for the teachers in her school.

When I reached middle school, I made friends with a boy whose mom was my English teacher. She was the first person to tell me I WAS going to go to college. I listened to her, and I have such a great life now, especially compared to my siblings who did not get an education. I feel it is my duty to share my love of learning and the benefits of getting an education with all of my students, especially those who think it is not possible for them. I did it, and they can too!

Well said!

Len’s responsibilities definitely reflect the changing role of librarians. “Interestingly enough, I do very little of what many people see as ‘typical librarian duties.’ I rarely check books out, I never shush students, and I almost never put books back on the shelves,” he said. More frequently he plans lessons, maintains the school’s website, conducts presearch for teachers and students, negotiates purchases with vendors and troubleshoots equipment. That’s a lot of hats to wear (I’m sure many of you reading this wear the same hats, too).

In addition, I discovered the Cedar Ridge High School Library has its own Facebook page as a way to spread news about school events, displays, library news and research. It has over 260 “likes” and seems quite active! Len built the campus website from scratch using CSS and Microsoft Expressions Web. “The website, just like our entire program, is in a constant state of evolution and improvement. I have been working on it since I was hired back in 2009,” he said.

As for the biggest issue he sees his students face in regard to the research process? “Google. To our students (and many of our teachers), Google is the answer, and they are often not even sure what the question is. Our students do not struggle to find information, they struggle to evaluate their sources and find authoritative, factual, reliable information. They are drinking from the information firehose that Google provides, but they do not realize the water is largely non-potable.” Interestingly enough, efforts to encourage use of scholarly sources has worked “in pockets” in the student population, but oftentimes “kids are easier to convince than many of our teachers.” Yikes!

Many thanks to Len for his flexibility with our interview. We originally had it scheduled smack dab in the middle of Hurricane Sandy (and when power was hard to come back in NYC). Keep up the great work, Len!

Emily Gover is the in-house librarian for EasyBib. She is busting out the elasticated pants for a highly delicious Thanksgiving this year. You can find her on Twitter, @Emily_EasyBib, or posting news you can use at the EasyBib Librarians Facebook page.


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