Former Beaverton School District librarian accepts state award with mixed feelings

by: JONATHAN HOUSE - Jenny Takeda will be honored with the 2012 District Librarian of the Year award on Oct. 13 at the Oregon Association of School Libraries Awards Banquet in Seaside. How devoted is Jenny Takeda to library science in the Beaverton School District?

Enough, it would seem, to realize the third-grade teaching position the district offered her in the wake of massive restructuring for the 2012-13 school year was not the right fit.

“I was bumped out of the librarian position and placed in a third-grade classroom,” she explains, referring to district budget cuts that eliminated all but one full-time librarian position. “I did a lot of thinking, and I didn’t think that was where I needed to be at this point.”

Based on the formulary the district used in its staff reduction process, Stoller Middle School Librarian Emily Carlson was transferred into Takeda’s former role. Last week, Takeda found herself training a new library media assistant at William Walker Elementary School.

That, in a nutshell, is how the woman considered the state’s most exemplary media specialist of 2012 came to be — after nine years as the district’s coordinating librarian — a substitute teacher on voluntary leave from full-time duty.

Despite the irony, the 14-year district veteran will nonetheless proudly collect her 2012 District Librarian of the Year award on Oct. 13 at the Oregon Association of School Libraries Awards Banquet in Seaside. The state’s professional group for school librarians and media specialists received nominations for Takeda from 15 school and district personnel for the association’s premier annual citation.

“We have never had a candidate nominated by so many teachers and staff,” said Ruth Murray, past president of OASL. “Jenny stood out above the other highly qualified candidates with the depth and breadth of her experience and district programs. For nine years, she coordinated all of the school libraries in the Beaverton district, including staff training and support, maintaining the technology needed to run school libraries, integrating library programs with district curriculum and more.”

Mixed emotions

As pleased as she is to be recognized by her peers, Takeda admits the occasion — and the five-minute speech she’s expected to deliver — will be bittersweet.

“I want to write something meaningful,” she says. “I want to talk about the importance of libraries and librarians. It’s hard to think about how I can be inspirational. I feel so conflicted now with what happened with my job and the recognition I’m receiving for my work.”

The sweet-natured professional is accepting her semi-chosen substitute-teaching role with grace and a sense of humor. While training the new media assistant at William Walker last week, she observed the teacher she was covering for was the school’s former full-time librarian.

“It’s a bit unusual for me to be doing this training when it’s no longer my responsibility to do so,” she says. “She asked if I would be willing to give (the assistant) some training since official training hadn’t been scheduled, and there was flexible time in her schedule this week. As the former district librarian, training was definitely a big part of the job.”

Among the larger library projects Takeda commandeered was converting or “migrating” the digital Horizon circulation system from a DOS to Windows-based platform beginning in 2003.

“I had been doing those trainings for the library staff since that time,” she says. "One of the things I loved about being the district librarian was helping others. So this is a way for me to feel like I’m still making a difference and providing support, even though I’m not in that role.”

Legacy of leadership

Steve Langford, the district’s chief information officer, says despite the recent budget-induced staff shuffling, Takeda’s recognition from OASL is well deserved.

“Jenny was, and is, a wonderful leader in terms of library media specialists around the state. I think she’s seen as a go-to person and thoughtful leader who is very passionate about literacy and providing literacy supports for students,” he says.

The formula that led to Carlson replacing Takeda and Takeda being offered a third-grade classroom position, he notes, was based on a combination of seniority and education licensure criteria.

“We do miss her tremendously and her impact in the department,” he says.

Takeda says understanding the budgetary reality behind the staffing decisions doesn’t make the situation easier — for herself or the students deprived of full-time library and media instruction.

“I know the classroom positions have to be maintained,” she says. “I don’t think I expected all the library positions to be eliminated. That came as a shock.”by: JONATHAN HOUSE - Jenny Takeda, a substitute teacher in the Beaverton School District, helps fourth-grader Alan Valdovinos Giron navigate a web page during a computer instruction session at William Walker Elementary School.

Period of transition

Although she appreciated the opportunity to transition to a third-grade teaching position at William Walker, it was difficult having to surrender her near-decade’s worth of technical and institutional knowledge in the district’s library system. The additional challenges of being out of the classroom-teaching world since 2003 and having 3- and 5-year-old boys at home led Takeda to take a leave of absence and reassess her professional future.

“It’s been the hardest experience I’ve ever had professionally,” she says. “Knowing I do really quality work, that couldn’t be factored into this process, has been hard.

“I want what’s best for those third-graders. I knew I could do a good job, but my heart was still in the library world, and I was not ready to let go."

A California native, Takeda has lived in the Beaverton area with her husband, Chijo, since 1993. For three years, she worked in the children’s section of a Powell’s Books outlet before deciding to further her education credentials at Portland State University. She launched her retooled career as a library assistant at Charles F. Tigard Elementary School, eventually landing in the Beaverton district in 1998.

Not sure what’s next professionally, for now Takeda plans to enjoy her subbing assignments and looks forward to commiserating with former media specialist colleagues at the upcoming OASL awards ceremony.

“I will hold my head high and do my best to smile,” she says. “We’re still a community, but are not as in touch as we used to be. I look forward to seeing everyone.”

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