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Staff Spotlight: Martha Shinners

Martha Shinner 2012In June 2001, Martha Shinners started her work to develop and implement a youth services program at the Washington State Library. Prior to that date no individual on the State Library’s staff was specifically charged with these duties. Some work was just beginning in the area of early learning and in working with the K-12 school library community in Washington State when Martha was hired.

Martha was the right person to develop these fledgling projects. She brought a strong youth services background having worked in Michigan in a public library setting for 17 years, first as a children’s librarian and then as the coordinator of youth services for the Public Libraries of Saginaw.

Martha partnered with the Pierce County Library System (PCLS) several years ago to bring Read to Your Baby Booklets to the State Library. Initially developed by PCLS, the booklets are now available in seven languages. More than 450,000 booklets have been distributed by the State Library, in ones and twos, packets of 100, and boxes of thousands. Requests are received from throughout the nation although the primary audience is the Washington library community and the early learning community partners.

Since coming to the Washington State Library Martha has taken on additional roles. In addition to her primary focus as the Youth Services Consultant and Coordinator, Martha now supervises four staff and is an Assistant Program Manager for the Library Development program. As one of her staff has stated, “She’s an amazing supervisor and amazing person.”

Martha has advanced two K-12 school library projects, the first supporting teacher-librarians to better advocate for their roles within their schools. Teacher-librarians provide essential information literacy skills to the students with whom they interact. “It is important that these positions remain in schools,” Martha said. “Teacher-librarians help students to research and find information, evaluate that information for its quality, and better use that information. These are skills that will serve the students for the rest of their life.”

The second project supported Classroom Based Assessment first in Social Studies and in the final year of this project with the tribal sovereignty curriculum. Many school library and public library partnerships grew out of these grants. “This is the only grant cycle at the Washington State Library that has seen more than 100 applications submitted in competition for roughly 35 awards,” said Jeff Martin, Acting Library Development Program Manager. Martha is now working with the Washington Library Media Association and the K-12 school library community to advance common core practice in schools. This will be Martha’s third major project with schools and school libraries in her 11 years at the Washington State Library.

Every year Martha attends the annual meeting of the Collaborative Summer Library Program (CLSP). Washington State fully participates in this program of summer reading. Through our membership in the Collaborative public and tribal libraries receive valuable summer reading themes and supporting materials.

Martha provides (and has provided years of) consistent, dedicated, highly relevant, and inspired leadership to youth services and related areas throughout the state, exhibiting a dedication to the highest standards of professional leadership, through careful planning, consultation, and program implementation,” stated Diane Hutchins, a colleague from the Library development Program. “Her exemplary work has directly benefited library staff, library patrons, and especially the youth of our state, from babies and toddlers to teens, through such efforts as her outstanding leadership role in the nationwide summer reading cooperative, her work in creating, promoting, and distributing the Read to Your Baby booklets, and through the various other youth services projects she has successfully spearheaded during her tenure at the State Library.”

If all that were not enough, Martha is deeply involved in early learning in the state as a member of the Early Learning Public Library Partnership, working with faculty at the University of Washington and Florida State in supporting Project Views, and in partnering with the Department of Early Learning to move forward their Race to the Top grant.

State Librarian Rand Simmons noted, “Martha has worked tirelessly to support the literacy of Washington’s children, reaching out to all members of the early learning community. She is a treasure!” This spotlight is on you Martha.

By the way, when you see Martha say hello if you haven’t already met her. You might also ask about her time volunteering as a library puppeteer as one half of Hidden Me Puppet Productions.

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