Julee Murphy is a teacher-librarian at the Early Childhood Development Center, a dual language elementary-middle school, and an Education Specialist at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. She actively advocates for literacy in her community through early reading intervention programs and is a member of many professional organizations that support reading. Julee believes readers come in all ages and anyone can develop into a reader at any point in their lives. Her hobbies include reading, using technology tools to engage her students, performing science experiments at home, and entertaining her grandbabies.
The Children’s Book Review: Why did you choose to be a librarian?
Julee Murphy: Some good folks decide to become librarians so they sign up for university classes, study very hard, take all the necessary tests, and eventually they are hired as librarians. Well, that’s one way to do it but I believe true librarians are called into service similar to the way preachers are called to serve. They are chosen by a greater power. Or so it was in my case. I have been volunteering in public libraries since I was a kid. I honestly think it all goes back to the town Ping Pong ball drop. A few decades ago it was in vogue to take a helicopter high above a town’s public square and drop a few hundred ping pong balls to rain down upon the town folks. Inspirational messages were printed on the balls while other balls awarded lucky recipients a free prize. I was one of the lucky winners, but at that age, I was not yet a good reader. I misread the message thinking that I had been doomed to have to go work at the town library. You see? It was a greater power at work in my life. I dutifully volunteered to work in the town library where I discovered these remarkable orange cover bound children’s biographies. I instantly fell in love with books when I first read the short life story of Nancy Hanks, the mother of Abraham Lincoln. From biographies, my interests soon spread to other genres and as I grew up, I continued to work in libraries throughout my college years learning the art of creating marc records, perfecting my alphabetizing skills by filing thousands of cards in the card catalog, and hiding theft detection strips in the spines of books. I lived in the stacks between classes enjoying the quiet almost as much as I enjoyed the rambunctious Greek life on campus. So you see, I did not decide to become a librarian. I was chosen to serve.
TCBR: Which kids’ or teen book is the most frequently checked-out in your library? Why do you think it is?
JM: There is one book in particular that is always checked out—The Big Book of Texas Ghost Stories by Alan Brown. It’s a thick book filled with terrifying tales such as The Screaming Bridge, Stampede Mesa, Dead Man’s Hole, and even one about an old dilapidated elementary school where ghost children laugh in the bathroom stalls and scratch fingernails across the blackboards. AWESOME!
TCBR: What is your favorite read-aloud for a preschool story-time? Why?
JM: There are so many read aloud favorites and they change with the seasons. I love to use Karma Wilson’s Bear books. In fact, I love to use lots of different bear books. They always seem to be just what I need. Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggie are always a hit with the pre-K crowd and there are so many good activities to go along with the reading. My recent favorite is One is a Feast for Mouse-a Thanksgiving Tale by Judy Cox. I like stories with a life lesson to them. The language is expressive and the illustrations are brilliant. I cut out pictures of the little mouse and all the food he tries to stack on top of one tiny, toothsome green pea and I have students act out the story with me. I try to construct my story-times so that children are saying the words along with me. I repeat a lot of phrases. I want them to be able to go home and share their interpretation of the story with their families. A lot of our kids do not have books in their homes so any story I can help them remember is a story they can share. I think I learned this by reading Tomas and the Library Lady by Pat Mora.
TCBR: Which new releases are you dying to lay your hands on?
JM: I am always on the lookout for a great release so I have accounts on Net Galley and Edelweiss. Librarians can sign up for free and have access to new books before they are released to the public. It’s an important part of our job to preview materials before we spend precious dollars on book purchases. If I like a book, I am going to shout it from the mountaintops! Great stories deserve to be heard so I advocate word of mouth advertising on my blog and on twitter. In particular, I am looking forward to Cress, the next book in the Lunar Chronicles by YA author Marissa Meyer. It comes out February 4, 2014. I have a group of 5th and 6th grade girls who love the series so I have fun reading it along with them.
TCBR: What steps do you take to strengthen the relationship of the library with local schools and the community?
JM: I am very active in community reading organizations such as the Early Bird Reader program which gets books into the hands of preschoolers and helps build home libraries. I am involved with reading advocacy organizations; one in particular, has us working hard to start a “Teen Book Fest by the Bay” in our Coastal Bend region. Teens need something special designed for them and we want them to meet great authors and have access to engaging books. I take part in events such as World Book Night to promote pleasure reading to everyone. I love to give away free books! This week, I am in the final preparations for my annual Holiday Family Reading Celebration community event that I host at Barnes and Noble each December. We are having some wonderful story-time and craft events, guest authors, and I even have a robot coming. I get a lot of support from my community partners that help fund my library and offer me great door prizes to give away. My pals from the Student Reading Council at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi are coming out in force to put on a Readers Theater. It is always a grand celebration.
TCBR: If you could be any fictional character from children’s literature, who would it be? Why?
JM: I would like to say Karana from Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell but that time has now passed for me. I no longer wish to live on a lonesome island fending for myself facing adventure after adventure. It was the first book to touch my heart and change me as a person. I would now chose Lucy Pevensie from The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. I love the thought of opening an ordinary wardrobe and entering a magical land. I loved this book so much that when I grew up, I wanted my own children to experience the magic so I bought them a wardrobe for their bedroom in hopes that they too could travel into Narnia.
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