Interdisciplinary Instruction: School Librarians and Music Education

While schools typically maintain distinct subject areas, 21st-century learners need to understand that knowledge is multi-faceted. One of the most effective ways for educators to address all standards, thus preparing students for life beyond PreK-12 schooling, entails teaching across the curriculum. School librarians work in an interesting space; they rarely possess a school-set curriculum to follow! (This certainly comes with plenty of opportunities, as well as challenges.) For the next several weeks, “Tammy’s Teaching Tidbit” will highlight how interdisciplinary education might look in the library.

The first cross-curricular effort involves music education. One of the literacies, and often the first to develop, is music intelligence. Music intelligence is the ability to create and appreciate pitch, timbre, and rhythm. Additionally, it encourages appreciation of many forms of musical expressions (Lamb, & Johnson, 2006). Music helps set the mood and can be used to motivate listeners, as well.

The National Association of Music Education also recognizes that technology plays a vital role in the development of 21st-century skills (Santos Green, 2014). Most school librarians teach, at least some, technology lessons! Although the music classroom and the library might seem like near opposites within the school system, both hold the same goal of opening young minds to numerous areas of learning (Damon, 2003).

Significance of Music in Education 

Historical Significance

Music has a strong and vast history, dating back to the beginning of humankind. (Some very basic histories of music can be found herehere, and here.) As such, music offers students opportunities to study artists and composers, different styles and trends, and the mechanics of instruments.

Cultural Significance

Music holds a substantial cultural significance. Different racial and religious regions around the world possess distinguishing instruments and tones. Middle EasternAfrican, and Asian are examples. This music is used for ceremonies, meditation and prayer, and day-to-day bonding with others.

Social-Emotional Intelligence

Music touches people on emotional levels. It helps teach self-control, self-confidence, and self-regulation. From a more social standpoint, music, particularly when conducted in groups, helps grow leadership and social skills, as well as empathy (Creating, 2019).

Ways to Use Music Education in the Library

  1. Conduct read-alouds of books about music! Not only can such titles open learners’ eyes (or ears, depending upon how you view it) to different types of music and artists, but they also encourage further exploration of musical topics.
  2. Use music to create. Part of music intelligence involves students being able to use, manipulate, and create original music. In the library setting, using music in such ways is most likely to occur either in the creation of multi-media projects or as makerspace activities.
  3. Research! Broad research topics might include biographical information about current and/or past performers and music creators, the ins and outs of musical instruments, or the history of dance and how it incorporates into cultural ceremonies.
  4. Play music in the background, especially when wanting to set a specific mood. For example, calming classical music would be appropriate to play when students are expected to check out books and read on their own.
  5. Use the mood-enhancing properties of music by having students listen to a musical work and then either write or create a piece of art from the emotions they experience.

*If you need a bit more persuasion to include music education in library time, look at the Library Media Content Standards. Music education can address nearly every standard in Personal Literacy and Information Literacy! It also tackles various standards of Digital Citizenship, especially as students increase their creative digital footprints.

An Added Note

While music education can be a part of library classes and literacy development, these lessons do not need to fall strictly on the librarian’s shoulders! Music educators are rarely asked to collaborate with other teachers; however, this does not mean they aren’t open to the possibilities. This might be especially true since music education ranges through many aspects, from dance to the sciences behind sound production (Pierce, 2009).

Books Highlighting Music

Maker Projects for Kids Who Love Music by Rebecca Sjonger (Middle School)

Music by Stephen M. Tomecek (Middle School)

The History of Music in Fifty Instruments by Philip Wilkinson (Middle School +)

The Oboe Goes Boom, Boom, Boom by Colleen A.F. Venable (Primary Elementary)

The Petes Go Marching by James Dean (Primary Elementary)

Who Was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart? by Yona Zeldis McDonough (Upper Elementary)

Who Was Louis Armstrong? by Yona Zeldis McDonough (Upper Elementary)

Who Were the Beatles? by Geoff Edgers (Upper Elementary)

Because by Mo Willems (Primary Elementary)

Welcome to the Symphony: A Musical Exploration of the Orchestra Using Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 by Carolyn Sloan (PreK-Primary Elementary)

The ABCs of Rock by Randy Diderrich (PreK-Elementary)

The Music in George’s Head: George Gershwin Creates Rhapsody in Blue by Suzanne Slade (Elementary)

Videos About Music

90 Global Musical Instruments | From A to Z | Lesson #7 (Upper Elementary and Middle School)

75 Popular Asian Musical Instruments | Lesson #8 (Upper Elementary and Middle School)

Musical Instruments Names and Sounds for Kids to Learn (PreK through Primary Elementary)

Unheard of Instruments in the Saxophone Family (Middle and High School)

The Muppets take on A Cappella – “Cool Kids” (Upper Elementary +)

Silly Symphony – The Tortoise and the Hare (Elementary)

Up Close With A Curator: Octobasse (Upper Elementary +)

Class Notes: How do Composers Compose? (Upper Elementary and Middle School)

Kids Meet an Opera Singer | Kids Meet | HiHo Kids (Elementary)

Instrument Families (Upper Elementary +)

New World Symphony – Antonín Dvořák – Music History Crash Course (High School)

Clara Schumann – Music History Crash Course (High School)

The Origins of Music – The Story of Guido – Music History Crash Course (Middle and High School)


Damon, S. (2003, Winter). From the bookshelf: A librarian with a music educator an unstoppable teaching duo. General Music Today, 16(2).

Lamb, A., & Johnson, L. (2006, December). Turn up the music with digital technologies. Teacher Librarian, 34(2).

Music Together Worldwide. (2019, April 23). Creating harmony: How music can support social emotional development. Music Together.,self-confidence%2C%20leadership%20skills%2C%20social%20skills%2C%20and%20socio-emotional%20intelligence..

Pierce, D.L. (2009, December). Influencing the now and future faculty: 

Retooling information literacy. Notes, 66(2), 233-248.

Santos Green, L. (2014, November/December). School librarians and music educators: A concert for student success. Library Media Connection, 20-23.

Addressing Antisemitism

School Library Journal published an article in late December about an uprising in antisemitism. While this EDI article will focus on aversion for those of the Jewish faith, the same principles apply for members of all marginalized faiths and belief systems.

Even in typically homogenous areas, much like rural North Dakota, cultural and religious diversity is on the rise. [Currently, it is estimated that 400 people of the Jewish faith reside in North Dakota; additionally, two active synagogues exist in the state (Jewish, 2023)]. When looking outside of North Dakota, particularly as one moves towards the east and west coasts, the Jewish population becomes more predominant.

Addressing Antisemitism Through Spoken Language

  1. Derogatory language towards another human being should not be tolerated, period. If antisemitic comments are made, your job is to hold the speaker accountable and let them know such language will not be tolerated. (There are both professional and nonprofessional ways to do this; please attempt to keep it professional.) Comments that are “just a joke” are not funny if they harm someone in any way.
  2. Learn and use the correct terms for Jewish celebrations, customs, and places of significance. It is ok if you stumble a bit; the important part is putting forth the effort to learn.

Addressing Antisemitism Through Social Media

  1. Post on the library’s online platforms (website, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) the library’s statement of dedication to diversity, inclusion, and equity (Anti-Semitism, n.d.). 
  2. Share information about Jewish customs, both serious and whimsical.
  3. Report or remove, as deemed most appropriate, any antisemitic comments made on the library’s social media pages.
  4. Create a hashtag campaign about the positives of Jewish culture (Five, n.d.).
  5. Hack a negative hashtag to try and switch it to a positive (Five, n.d.).

Addressing Antisemitism Through Programs

Ignorance is a main reason for the abhorrence of a group. Library programming can be an excellent way to teach truths and dissolve misunderstandings and negative stereotypes. This programming might be as simple as storytimes that focus on Jewish characters and customs (For example, Hanukkah Bear by Eric A. Kimmel and The Night Before Hanukkah by Natasha Wing are both light-hearted ways to introduce young children to a main Jewish holiday. Since libraries typically require children to be supervised by their adult caretakers, these types of titles also teach adults a little.)

Programming can also focus more on adult audiences. Programs addressing the Holocaust or Hanukkah tend to be the more common. However, various other ideas can be explored, such as traditional food-tastinglearning Yiddish classes, or hora dance events.

Resources and Ideas


RBG’s Brave & Brilliant Women:  33 Jewish Women to Inspire Everyone by Nadine Epstein – Upper Elementary

It’s a Mitzvah! by Julie Merberg – Early Childhood

Soosie: The Horse That Saved Shabbat by Tami Lehman-Wilzig – Primary Elementary

The Librarian of Auschwitz: The Graphic Novel adapted by Salva Rubio, original novel written by Antonio Iturbe – Upper Elementary/Middle School

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry – Upper Elementary

The Story of Albert Einstein: A Biography Book for New Readers by Susan B. Katz – Primary Elementary

Goodnight Bubbala by Sheryl Haft – Early Childhood, Primary Elementary

Little Red Ruthie: A Hanukkah Tale by Gloria Koster – Early Childhood, Primary Elementary

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – Teens+

It’s a Whole Spiel: Love, Latkes, and Other Jewish Stories edited by Katherine Locke and Laura Silverman – Teens+

The Light in Hidden Places by Sharon Cameron – Teens +

Last Stop Auschwitz: My Story of Survival from within the Camp by Eddy de Wind – Adults

Irena’s Children: The Extraordinary Story of the Woman Who Saved 2,500 Children from the Warsaw Ghetto by Tilar J. Mazzeo – Adults

The Redhead of Auschwitz: A True Story by Nechama Birnbaum – Adults

People Love Dead Jews: Reports from a Haunted Present by Dara Horn – Adults

The Escape Artist: The Man Who Broke Out of Auschwitz to Warn the World by Jonathan Freedland – Adults

Why the Jews?: The Reason for Antisemitism by Dennis Prager – Adults


Anti-Semitism:  90 ways you can respond (n.d.). Words to Action.

Five ways to counter extremists on social media. (n.d.). Tanenbaum.

Jewish population by state 2023. (2023). World Population Review.

Programming for Adults with Special Needs

In North Dakota, 24% of the adult population has a disability. This population is more likely to suffer from depression and other health problems (CDC, 2022). How can we serve these individuals and their caregivers?

When faced with this question, the Unicoi County Public Library answered with Story Time! The program started when some caregivers approached staff to ask if adults could join the preschool story time. The special needs adult story time follows a familiar pattern: a few stories, some songs, and a craft. They limit it to the adults and their caregivers, but they welcome volunteers to help with the craft. They hold the program on the second and fourth Fridays of the month in the morning. The timing of the program works around staff availability and the daily schedules of the group being served.

Unicoi County Public Library is not alone in implementing programming for this audience. All over the U.S., libraries are finding ways to serve adults with special needs. Programs range from sensory story time at Charlotte Mecklenburg Library to Library for All events at Jefferson County Public Library.

If this is a programming area that you would like to develop, here are some best practices:

  1. Reach out to the organizations already providing services to this population (residential facilities, day facilities, respite care services, etc.). They will be vital to the promotion and general planning of your program.
  2. If this population already comes to the library, talk to the caregivers who bring them. They spend a lot of time with their clients and know adaptations needed or activities they would enjoy.
  3. Be creative. We are all limited by staffing and funding, and it might not be feasible to staff/fund a new program. Maybe there is an existing program where this demographic could be included.

Other Programming Ideas


CDC (2022). Disability & Health U.S. State Profile Data for North Dakota (Adults 18+ years of age). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Disability and Health Promotion.

Hackney, K. (2023, January 15). Library creates story time for adults with special needs. Johnson City Press

Book Review:  An Introduction to Collection Development for School Librarians, 2nd Edition

This 2019 text, written by Mona Kerby and published by AASL, discusses key components of what to expect when taking on the role of a school librarian. Topics covered entail:

  1. What Do I Do First? 
    This chapter highlights twelve tasks for the first few weeks, including:
    • Learn how to use the circulation system,
    • Meet the classroom teachers,
    • Find and read your district’s school library handbook and any policies,
    • Plan your lessons,
    • Locate the different sections of the library,
    • Learn the logins for OPAC and databases (if you need to know your school’s remote access to the ODIN databases, email,
    • Prepare bulletin boards and decorate the library,
    • Organize, declutter, and dust (as needed),
    • Prepare a school library gradebook and learn students’ names (if your school does not give grades for library, then this step would more likely be to study yearbook pictures and practice addressing students by their names),
    • Ask to conduct mini workshops for other educators in the school (the point here is to show how the library, and you, the librarian, can help them beyond books),
    • Buy a new outfit if that makes you feel more confident,
    • Lastly, make tasks for home, such as cooking and cleaning, as streamlined as possible. Especially first-year librarians will be spending a lot of extra time at work; there is no need for home to be stressful due to undone tasks.
  2. What Should I Learn Next? 
    Chapter two discusses the different types of information school librarians should know to be most successful, including:
    • Library Media Content Standards,
    • Your learners,
    • The curriculum,
    • And the library selection criteria (this should be a part of the library’s Collection Development Policy),
  3. What Sources Do I Use to Select New Materials? 
    A couple of weeks ago, see here, “Tammy’s Teaching Tidbit” addressed a variety of material review sources.
  4. What Sources Do I Use to Fill in Collection Gaps? 
    The fourth section outlines options for filling gaps in the collection. Some resources include:
  5. How Do I Weed a Collection? 
    Chapter five outlines a topic that some librarians adore while others detest: Weeding! Guidelines for weeding should be a part of all Library Collection Policies. Systems, such as CREW (Continuous Review, Evaluation, and Weeding) or MUSTIE (Misleading, Ugly, Superseded, Trivial, Irrelevant, Elsewhere), can be used to help direct weeding.
  6. How Do I Evaluate the Collection? 
    Part six talks about using data, typically from circulation statistics, to help evaluate the usefulness and use of a library collection. After you, as the librarian, have determined gaps that need filling, those areas should be high priorities for your budget and improvement plan.
  7. How Do I Turn a Complainant into a Positive? 
    This section highlights addressing material challenges, including:
    • Possessing a reconsideration form and policy,
    • Professional statements on intellectual freedom,
    • Coping with challenges,
    • Attempting to avoid censorship, and
    • Respecting students’ privacy for their library material selections.
  8. How Do I Showcase the Collection? 
    The final chapter discusses allowing 24/7 access to digital resources, as well as using advocacy, leadership, and communication to advertise collection materials.

Overall Thoughts

This less-than-one-hundred-page read gives a good overview for conducting collection services in a school library. It would be a good introduction, as the title suggests, for those who are new in their school librarianship journeys, but also a quick refresher for the more experienced professionals. Additionally, there are various ALA resources to further explore. Of course, tips and suggestions need to be evaluated and adjusted depending upon your library’s policies, as well as the expectations of the librarian role in your school(s).     


Kerby, M. (2019). An introduction to collection development for school librarians (2nd ed.). ALA Editions.    

Public Domain Day 2023

Happy (Belated) New Year! Or, as those of us in the cultural heritage/ digital initiatives field like to call it: Public Domain Day. Every year, on January 1, new works enter the public domain, and that is cause for a celebration. This year, works from 1927 (that were copyrighted in the United States) entered the public domain, which means they can be freely shared, reused, copied, edited, etc.

What is the public domain? According to the United States Copyright Office, a “work of authorship is in the ‘public domain’ if it is no longer under copyright protection or if it failed to meet the requirements for copyright protection. Works in the public domain may be used freely without the permission of the former copyright owner.”

What entered the public domain on January 1, 2023? As always, a lot. Books from authors Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, and Agatha Christie are now in the public domain. Notably, all of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes works are now in the public domain. Prepare for even more spinoffs of Holmes and Watson.

Movies that entered the public domain include “Metropolis” (directed by Fritz Lang), “7th Heaven” (directed by Frank Borzage), “Wings” (directed by William A. Wellman), and “The Jazz Singer” (directed by Alan Crosland).

Music that entered the public domain include “The Best Things in Life Are Free,” “(I Scream You Scream, We All Scream for) Ice Cream,” “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” and compositions from Louis Armstrong.

Those in the copyright field, or those who are advocates of Public Domain Day, are particularly watchful of next year. On January 1, 2024, the original version of Mickey Mouse (“Steamboat Willie”) will enter the public domain. The issue is complicated because there are also trademark protections in place, which are separate from copyright. Historically, Disney has aggressively protected its characters, and the company is largely attributed for the lobbying of the copyright extension law passed by Congress in the 1990s. All eyes will be on Disney next year. Stay tuned to see what happens.

Preparing for Challenges – How to be Ready Before You Get One Webinar

On January 18th, ALA’s Graphic Novels & Comics Round Table sponsored a webinar about tackling material challenges. This informational session entailed a panel of four librarians, with two from public libraries and two from schools.

Two main apprehensions were addressed.

First, a lack of actual policies. All libraries should have governing board-approved collection development and reconsideration policies. Both types of documents should address the library’s mission statement. One panelist recommended creating reconsideration policies where the complainant must do most of the work. (This includes reading the material in its entirety, as well as documenting exact passages of concern.) While a review board will be a part of the reconsideration process, requiring the individuals or groups who are bringing the challenges forward to really dig into the titles should cut back on mass lists of challenged materials. Additionally, all library policies must be transparent to the public/library stakeholders. When community members know why and how materials are selected for their libraries, they are less likely to point fingers at individual librarians. To keep up with current issues and trends, these policies also need to be updated on a regular basis.         

Second, a lack of support, even with policies in place. Even if a librarian feels like their library has ironclad selection and reconsideration policies, challenges can be intimidating! Support, both professionally and personally, is necessary for getting through material challenges. Support can be found in various spaces, including professional library organizations (such as ALA and NDLA), government agencies (NDSL), and through networking with other librarian professionals informally (Schlibtalk, NDLA listservs, or NDSL’s Facebook pages all offer opportunities for librarians to “talk” to another.) On a more personal level, supportive friends and family can be great sounding boards for venting; even family pets make excellent listeners!

Don’t forget to turn to library users for support! Every library has its regulars; these individuals clearly see the library as a place of value and often make the most effective advocates. PTO/PTA members or Friends of the Library can also endorse library decisions.   

To round out the presentation, one panelist suggested offering patrons training sessions on intellectual freedom; the intention is to teach patrons their rights, as well as the rights of others. Sometimes, soft censorship occurs within libraries. Soft censorship entails moving a potentially offensive material to a different area of the library, such as behind the circulation desk or from the teen to adult section. (This act is often initiated by patrons not agreeing with a certain material, but not wanting to make a big racket about their distaste.) The material is still technically available to patrons; however, it is not nearly as accessible as it was in its original location. If a book is rarely checked out because its intended audience cannot find it, is that book really serving its purpose for the library users? Additionally, when library staff give into one, seemingly small act of censorship, it becomes more difficult to push back against bigger acts of censorship, both in materials, as well as library programming. One panelist summed up the issue of censorship well, “If you don’t want to read it, leave it on the shelf for someone else!”