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Career Shift: I’m Becoming a School Librarian!

Hi, friends! So, when we last left off this career update, I had taken a year-long Leave of Absence from teaching for the 2022-23 school year, after 18 years as a public school middle and high school English teacher. I’m thrilled to report that this year “away” has met — and exceeded — all expectations!

Words cannot express how glad I am to have taken the Leave, and how thankful I am that it was possible. During these 365 days, I grew Educational Cartoons to over 30,000 readers a month, built my Reiki practice to become one of the top-ranked in the state, and did some profound personal regrouping and rebuilding after the intensity of the divorce process.

Then February came, and I faced a question: Should I return to teaching, or should I extend my Leave of Absence for another year — or should I resign from the district altogether? I wavered between all three options for months. Soon, however, clarity began to emerge.

What opens for career paths, upon introspection?
Life paths open, upon introspection.

Returning to Teaching — But How?

Once I became rested enough to think (which took until February), what I began to realize was this: I truly missed being part of our city’s public education team. Specifically, I missed the opportunity to work with youth, and also yearned for the energy that comes from being part of a community of adults committed to making the world better for kids — and to helping kids make our world better, in turn.

However, a problem remained: I could not go back to doing what I’d been doing, teaching English to 140+ middle and high school students a day at a school that starts each morning at 7:10am. For a host of reasons, that position had become untenable in terms of work-life balance. Hence, the quest for a new school placement and field began! But what would it be?

Listening to where the heart guides us...
Listening to where the heart guides us…

The Job Search Process

When embarking on a job search, my family always taught me, “Cast your net wide” — and man, did I ever do that! From March to June of 2023, I took the following actions:

1. I applied to FIFTY-THREE jobs in the district (yes, that’s right: 53), covering all permutations of grades and responsibilities. I put in applications for everything from elementary school ESL, to Adult Education, to middle school Special Education, to Instructional Coach. I even applied to edit the district handbook!

2. I completed and passed certification tests in two new content areas, including Visual Art.

3. I launched the process of adding four new teacher licensure fields.

4. I went on nineteen job interviews, including two Spanish bilingual positions.

5. I networked up an absolute storm, striving for that ideal fit job by talking to everyone I knew, then everyone they knew. I believed I’d realize the ideal position when I found it… and thank goodness, I did!

Beautiful networking...
Beautiful connections…

Networking for the Win

The key to job search success ended up coming in early June from networking with someone, who introduced me to another person, who introduced me to a third person, who mentioned a position that had been totally off my radar, as it was hidden in a “bundle” with another job. I applied to that position, then sent the principal a follow-up email shortly thereafter.

On June 20 (the second to last full day of school), I Zoom interviewed at that school — and was offered that dream position: half-time librarian at a small grade 3-8 school in a historic Boston neighborhood that I love. Wow! But I had to see it in person first to assess the fit.

On June 21 — the last full day of the school year (talk about cutting the timing close!) — I toured the school.. and loved it. Truly a kindly, “family” feel! Everything I had been seeking. With relief and joy, I accepted the position.

School Library Certification

Now, how was I eligible for the job, given that I’d been an ELA teacher? Well, the process of getting certified as a school librarian is different in every state, and is often in flux.

Because I hold professional teacher licensure in four different fields already (yes, I tend to collect certifications), and because Massachusetts just revised its process, I can add library licensure after passing the certification test — which I just did! — and doing 150 hours of mentor-supervised work, or a seminar or institute on the topic, both of which are in progress.

This flower sums up the excitement!
This flower sums up the excitement!

Why Become a School Librarian?

So, how did I decide to change direction and become a librarian? Well, the boon of “casting one’s net wide” is that it helps you mentally and emotionally “try on” a vast variety of different options to see what resonates.

As the months and interviews went by in my job search, it became increasingly clear that being a school librarian is exactly the right career pivot for me. Here’s why:

A. Libraries and books are truly awesome.

My #1 inspiration for becoming a librarian is my nine year old son. During the “events of 2020-21,” our local library did handoffs of bundles of books (bless them!), and I watched my little guy become a true reader, right before my eyes.

Seeing the stories transport him every day since then has been magical. Growing up, libraries and books were my solace and sparkle, too — and they are (or can be) for so many others out there! I want to be part of that.

B. Affirming autonomy, choice, and social-emotional development.

Libraries are a place for each person to freely learn about and explore what matters to THEM. Freedom of choice is central — and that’s the flow I want to be around these days.

Libraries are also centers of community building, and now often house board games, maker spaces, and restorative opportunities for solo or group reconnection. Yes!

C. Exploring a whole new career world.

After nearly two decades diving deeply into teaching English in a classroom, I’m fascinated by the opportunity to learn a whole new discipline. As I became keenly aware while studying for the library teaching certification test, there’s a heck of a lot to learn — and that’s exciting.

D. Opportunities for collaboration.

I relish that a librarian has not only the freedom, but also the obligation, to partner far beyond the walls of the library. School libraries are vital collaborators for every classroom teacher in the building, but can and should also join forces with people and organizations outside the school, bringing in speakers, workshops, and countless other resources. Making connections is my happy place!

E. Possibilities of expanding thinking.

Helping someone who says, “I don’t like reading” realize they just hadn’t found the right book yet, and actually they adore it? Priceless. Providing the materials for someone to learn a whole lot about a new subject they’re excited about — from rocks to dragons to knitting? Gold. Libraries expand and enrich the mind and soul.

Becoming a librarian
Ready to become a librarian…

Hooray for New Horizons!

I’m over the moon happy about this new career path as a librarian — but want to clarify that I chose a half-time position because my other pursuits aren’t going anywhere. I will continue to grow the five (!) websites that I run, each of which brings me so much joy and fulfillment. (This was the original site, started FOURTEEN years ago in 2009!) I will also continue my bustling Reiki practice, as I work with people all over Boston, now.

A closing thought: Today during my first training as a school librarian, several kind people came up to me and exclaimed, “I’ve read your blog for years, and am so inspired by it!” I share this because I’m realizing that with this platform (humble though it may be) comes the opportunity to share a message: We can continually reinvent ourselves. We really can. What is that you want to become?


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Saturday 9th of September 2023

Congratulations on your new job! Lots of changes in your life, and wishing you the very best as you continue to grow, explore and smile!

Best wishes, Leslie Raney

P.S. You look fabulous!

Lillie Marshall

Saturday 9th of September 2023

Thanks so much, Leslie!!!


Thursday 24th of August 2023

Thank you for this beautiful reflection on your journey. For the first time in my 20+ year career in education (and beyond!) I find myself taking a break. In that break I seek silence and reflection, and the emerging opportunity to reinvent. I am not 'working'; rather, I am following passions and ideas - hoping the guidance comes before the money runs out. (funny not funny) Your story inspires! Good luck!

Lillie Marshall

Thursday 24th of August 2023

Tamera, You sum this up so well. I applaud you for doing what's necessary to rest, revitalize, and reboot. And the money piece is VERY real. Finding that balance between the practical financial piece and the emotional, logistical, and mental piece is key. Best of luck!


Thursday 24th of August 2023

Congrats, what a great job!

Lillie Marshall

Thursday 24th of August 2023

Thanks, James! I'm very excited.

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