In honor of World Book Night, held tonight in conjunction with UNESCO’s World Book Day, we’re celebrating the work of an often unsung hero in education: the librarian. And Linda Braun is a librarian who isn’t afraid to speak her mind, especially when it comes to advocating for teens. Braun first realized the importance of creating opportunities for teens as a young adult librarian in a small town. She quickly realized that building library services for teens required their involvement in both planning and implementation. She also found that she loved to work with young adults. “Teens are great conversationalists if you give them a chance. They want to be listed to,” says Braun. “Teens aren’t afraid to ask questions and they are willing to hear the difficult answers if you show them that you are willing to respect their ideas.”
Braun now trains librarians, educators and teens on technology tools and uses. She’s also an outspoken advocate for young adult services and a professor at Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science, where she teaches young adult programs and services and emerging technologies. We asked Braun about taking risks in education and about inspiring teens.
Why is education important to you?
Education is a way for people to expand their worlds and learn how to succeed. Education should be inspiring and challenging and provide opportunities to be surprised and challenged by the unexpected.
Describe the most inspiring day you’ve experienced as an educator.
I can’t describe one day but I can describe a feeling that is inspiring, and that is feeling like I have made a connection with students and that they are as excited as I am about the content and the learning. There is an energy in a room (even if it’s a virtual space) when that happens that is truly inspiring.
What is your proudest professional achievement?
I am most recognized for working with educators to help them understand how to work with and support teens successfully – often through the use of technology. I am proud that people look to me sometimes to get ideas on how to make sure that the teens in their communities get the services they want and need. I am also proud to be known as someone who is willing to take risks and ask people to think beyond their traditional
How can other educators facing similar challenges implement what you’ve learned?
By being persistent, willing to take risks, being able to make mistakes and analyze those so to make changes, and being able to talk with others about what doesn’t work and what
was learned as a result.
If you could change one thing about today’s “system” of education, what would it be?
I’d like to change systems that focus more on the educator and not on those being educated. Good education requires understanding the child/teen or adult and looking at learning from their perspective as opposed to the perspective of the teacher.
What is the best opportunity for innovation in education?
Supporting those who are willing to try new things and stand up for the youth that they work with. Focusing on the reality of a situation and not expectations, misconceptions, and fears.
What advice would you give a new teacher (or to anyone wanting to make a difference in education)?
Be willing to try new ideas and make mistakes. Be ready to advocate for what you know is right for those in your classroom.
What is your greatest hope for the future of education?
That we learn to not get caught up in battles and fears that take us away from the true ability to meet the needs of youth.
About Linda Braun
Project Manager and Consulting Coordinator for Librarians and Educators Online
Linda Braun is a teen advocate, educational technology consultant, librarian, educator and author. She received the WISE Excellence in Online Teaching Award in 2008, 2009 and 2010 and has authored numerous publications on developing library services for teens.
Birthplace: New York
Current residence: Manhattan, New York
Education: MS in Library Science, MEd.
Person who inspires me most: Not one person but young people who overcome difficult circumstances and the adults who can support them
Favorite childhood memory: Reading signs while traveling and driving everyone with me crazy
Next travel destination (work or pleasure): Boston, Massachusetts
Favorite book: Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh