Changing the World, One Reader at a Time

Fitz_SmIFitz Between the Shelves is changing.

When I started writing about libraries in 2012, I had one goal: to advocate for my library program. What were we reading? What were we learning? How were kids using their designated library time? There was an undercurrent to each post: This space is important. Students use it, students need it, it’s worth funding. As I moved to my second school, and eventually my third, searching for the right professional fit, I tried on different platforms. I Tweeted, I Bloggered, I WordPressed. After a few different false starts, I finally purchased the domain for Fitz Between the Shelves in 2016. Since then I have slowly built up a digital brand around the tagline, “…because libraries should be magic.” Now, on the brink of 2019 as my online community begins to grow more rapidly, I’m making another change.

I have always believed in the power of libraries, the power of stories, to change the lives of children. I believe that childhood habits set the stage for a lifelong love of reading, and that strong reading habits are a massive indicator for curiosity, academic achievement, and overall success. At first, it felt that all I wanted from my online platform was to prove that librarians do, in fact, make noise; that libraries deserve to be funded, to be treasured. I still believe these things, of course. But as I have had more experience in providing that magical space for children, as I have seen them grow and change and flourish in my libraries, my drive has deepened and shifted.

In my years as a school librarian, I’ve realized something remarkable: Stories change readers.

When a reader experiences and loves a truly powerful story, they are a different person when they turn that final page. Perhaps their hearts are impacted, their minds a bit more open, their curiosity just a bit sharper; sometimes the effect is even bigger. Readers can begin stories with a set belief system about the world – This is the way things work, this is where I fit, this is who I am, this is how the world is – and finish them with another entirely. Stories can push children to step outside of their lives and consider a different perspective or experience. Each story read is the opportunity for another life lived – and these different lives make huge, irreversible impacts on the way children see the world.

I have known, for awhile, that my writing about libraries was changing to become about more than just advocacy and library magic. As my teaching has evolved over the years, as I widened from working with students in grades K-4 to grades K-8, as I found a true home in Charlottesville and learned the deep, historical wounds creating fault-lines in the city, I realized that I wanted this space to become a place to share…more. Yes, I’m here for the puppets and the glitter, but behind the scenes, I’m doing much more than that. And it’s time to update Fitz Between the Shelves to reflect my true passion and mission.

Where the page once read:

Please, don’t misunderstand – I’m not behind the circulation desk each day pushing a specific agenda or attempting to persuade children to join one political party over the other. Although education is inherently a political act, there is no place for partisanship in a library. Libraries are places for diverse viewpoints to flourish, and for readers to research and learn about all sides of an issue or question. No one viewpoint or story is more important than another. There is space enough for everyone to be seen and recognized, and to learn and grow, together.

Here’s what I focus on in my library, and what I plan to share more of here on Fitz Between the Shelves:

  • Critical thinking, curiosity, and asking lots (and lots!) of questions

  • High quality diverse literature, with a focus on stories written and published by diverse authors (often called Own Voices stories)

  • Books as windows, mirrors, and sliding glass doors, to help children better understand the role that they play in our school, our community, our country, and our world

  • Stories as social emotional tools to help children develop the skills that they need to be successful citizens, leaders, and human beings

  • Prioritizing viewpoint diversity, debate, and constructive conversation, and purposefully creating an environment where these practices can flourish

  • Creating a library designed for, curated to, and run by empowered students and their choices and interests

  • Helping other librarians to reach these same goals and strengthen the programs in their own schools

You’ll notice some other changes, too. There are a few new options in the main navigation menu at the top of the page. You can now look through the most recent posts as always, or narrow your view to look specifically at what I am reading, teaching, writing, or ranting. In Reading, you’ll find Insta Reviews and What is Mrs. FitzHenry Reading? wall updates. The Teaching tab will include all of my adventures at school – library lessons, Quest and FABLab electives, book clubs, resource lists, social emotional posts, school and community events, tech projects, and more. Writing will feature my pieces published in print or online (you can also find many of these on the Press page). And finally, in Ranting, you’ll find a mix of pieces that I feel passionately about – personal essays or reflections, articles or interviews I felt were worth sharing, and the weekly resource sharing segment I call Things that Made My Brain Explode.

I love working in my library and changing my little corner of the world, but I have a dream to create change in school libraries on a larger level. So featured in the navigation menu just past the above tabs is the Work with Fitz page, which I’ve been working on behind the scenes for a few months. If you’re interested in hiring me for a speaking engagement, consulting gig, professional development event, or anything else – that’s the place to start.

Thanks for sticking with me (and with Fitz Between the Shelves) as I’ve worked toward finding my platform and my voice. I’m so grateful to have the chance to share my work, my ideas, and my hopes for the future. I’m looking forward to sharing so much more with you in the years to come.

With love,
Ms. Fitz

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