FARMINGDALE — When her name was pulled from the bag Friday afternoon, Jody Bachelder thought she’d won some small token of appreciation, like a scratch-off lottery ticket.
Bachelder, the head librarian for Hall-Dale schools, then spotted librarians from other schools in Regional School Unit 2 in the gym of Hall-Dale High School. And leaders of state library groups. And her husband.
But she still had no idea what was happening until Peg Becksvoort, past president of the Maine Association of School Libraries, told her she’d won the group’s Walter J. Taranko School Library Media Specialist of the Year award.
Bachelder’s mouth dropped open, the audience of students and teachers burst into applause, and Bachelder started to cry when she saw her children, who had secretly come home from Brooklyn and Chicago.
“I knew they award this every year,” Bachelder said later, “but I had no idea and never would have aspired to becoming the Maine school librarian of the year. It’s very humbling.”
Bachelder’s fellow Hall-Dale librarians, Patience Thomas and Laurie Taylor, nominated Bachelder for the award last year. Thomas, the media technician for the middle and high schools, said it was perfectly fitting for Bachelder, who loves movies as well as books.
“This is the Oscar of library science for the year. What could be better?” Thomas said. “She doesn’t get thanked enough, and I just felt like this would be a really great thank you.”
Thomas and Taylor collected letters of support from Hall-Dale students and teachers, RSU 2 administrators and librarians from other schools in the district, which includes Dresden, Farmingdale, Hallowell, Monmouth and Richmond.
The letters praise Bachelder for embracing technology, collaborating with classroom teachers, always knowing which books to recommend for individual students and stretching the library budget by trawling used-book sales.
Becksvoort, the librarian at Falmouth Middle School and chairwoman of the Taranko award committee, said the nominating materials showed that Bachelder is an energetic and innovative librarian who is treasured in the schools.
“We should all take some lessons,” Becksvoort said. “It was so pleasing to read those letters. It gave me goosebumps.”
Bachelder has been working as a librarian for five years. She was a classroom teacher before her children were born, then took a job as an education technician after they started school, later earning a master’s degree in library science.
As the only RSU 2 librarian with a master’s degree, Bachelder has taken on a leadership role, Thomas said. Bachelder has convened meetings among all the district’s librarians to coordinate their resources with new curriculum standards and RSU 2’s evolving model of proficiency-based education.
Bachelder manages a website for the Hall-Dale High School library, including a book blog and tutorials she wrote about using the Internet for research.
She also runs book clubs that volunteer Janet Favor said are a hit with students at the middle school.
“They come and they bring their lunch, and she always brings some sort of sweets or something to add to that,” Favor said. “They’re excited, they’re engaged. And they’re learning something at the same time.”
Thomas said Bachelder makes the library a warm, welcoming place where people want to go, and she maintains great relationships with students and other staff.
“She’s so full of positive energy,” Thomas said. “She has a great sense of humor, and she keeps me balanced. She’s so fair and compassionate and kind and smart. And she works so hard.”
Bachelder said she’s motivated by a desire to make teachers’ lives easier and to help students become the best people they can be.
“I don’t have just two kids — who came from way out of town — I have hundreds of kids,” she told the audience in the gym.
Bachelder said one of the first thoughts to cross her mind after she was presented with the award was a list of all the things she wants to do to continue improving Hall-Dale’s libraries.
A check for $750 that accompanied the award should help.
The library hasn’t been immune to budget cuts, and much of the money has to go toward curriculum materials. Bachelder said the award money will allow her to buy “fun” books that students will be excited to read.
“I have so many books to buy,” she said.
Susan McMillan — 621-5645