Professor serves as role model for future school librarians
"Our program gives teachers the opportunity to earn their master's degrees, expand their sphere of influence and work with students, teachers, administrators and parents," said Audrey Church, associate professor in the Department of Education and Special Education and coordinator of the School Library Media program. "Our graduates help students become critical thinkers, enthusiastic readers, skillful researchers and ethical users of information."
Offered since the early 1990s, Longwood University's School Library Media graduate program is one of only two nationally recognized school librarian programs in Virginia. Students in the program are primarily teachers who want to become school librarians, balancing their graduate education while working full time. On average, 100 students are enrolled in the program, with classes offered online and off campus in partnership with Virginia school divisions.
Church has coordinated the program since she started at Longwood 12 years ago. During her tenure, she has taught almost every course the program offers, including Collaborative Instructional Processes, Media Selection and Evaluation, and Technology Applications.
In addition to being active in professional and academic organizations, Church's current research interests include principals' perceptions of the instructional role of school librarians, educators' use of 21st century skills and the history of school libraries in Virginia.
Before joining the university, Church was a librarian for Lunenburg County Public Schools for 20 years. Her extensive experience in the field allows her to relate to students in the program and serve as a mentor for alumni.
"I try to be an always-open line of communication and information for our students and alumni while serving as a role model for what being a professional in the field is all about," she said. "I try to be constantly available. I set high expectations but provide scaffolding along the way, and I try to always recognize and celebrate student accomplishments."
Recognizing professional accomplishments and supporting each other is one of the main reasons Longwood faculty, students and alumni from the program can be seen en masse at various professional gatherings.
"Each year at our fall state professional organization conference, our program holds an event for alumni and current students," Church said. "Last year, we had more than 100 people attend. Seeing alumni and students connect and hearing what everyone is doing at their schools is truly rewarding!"
If Church's predictions for the future of her profession come to fruition, Longwood's School Library Media gatherings will continue to grow.
"Many school librarians in Virginia are eligible to retire," she said. "I anticipate that more school divisions will want cohorts in order to have a pool of well-qualified candidates. Longwood's program is ready to meet that need."