Hermiston School District’s secondary librarian, Delia Fields, was hesitant at first to nominate the district’s high school principal, Tom Spoo, for an award that would recognize him for supporting the school’s library program.
For almost a decade, the only people receiving the Distinguished Service Award for school administrators had been on the other side of the state. Pat Consoliver, then-principal of The Dalles Middle School, was honored in 2010.
“It’s just a different makeup for many of those schools,” she said. “We’re not amazingly flashy. We don’t have an urban center. We’re understaffed.”
Some of the administrators nominated in the past oversaw schools in which single libraries housed two certified librarians. At the Hermiston School District, two librarians split their time between eight different school libraries, overseeing thousands of kids each.
But once she started writing Spoo’s nomination letter, she knew she had a winner. Spoo was selected to receive the award earlier this month.
“We’re still doing great work. And Tom is part of what makes us successful,” Fields said.
Spoo said he wasn’t expecting to win the award, and doesn’t like the spotlight, but he is appreciative to be recognized for supporting the library.
“I trust people to do their jobs,” he said. “Sometimes that means stepping back and not micro-managing.”
Fields said she feels that he’s someone who will take her seriously when she brings new ideas for the library program to the table.
“He wears so many hats, I’ve had to learn how to slip in questions and pitches. Sometimes I come out with a losing hand, but most of the time if I have a solid plan with low cost, he’s very positive,” she said.
Fields knew he really cared when he started bringing in books to process into the high school library’s system himself.
“He’s starting to recognize that he and I have a partnership that helps the whole school,” she said.
Spoo will receive the Distinguished Service Award next month during the Oregon Association of School Libraries conference in Lincoln City.
This year, Hermiston School District libraries will participate in the Battle of the Books and create a system that allows teachers to easily search through the library catalogue online.
Fields, who is a regional representative for the Oregon Association of School Libraries, said she has reason to believe that Spoo is one of only a handful of administrators in Eastern Oregon who oversee library programs that staff certified librarians.
She said other schools have libraries and assistants to help run them, but no certified librarians to help students navigate information in the digital age.
“People see assistants and think information literacy services are happening,” she said. “But they’re not.”
Spoo said that he’s noticed a difference in the district’s library services since some library positions were cut over a decade ago.
“It was budget cuts, I would have done the same thing,” he said. “But you look back now and think, ‘gosh, there is validity to having librarians’.”
He added that in the digital age, students need extra help determining the validity of different source materials online.
“That’s why librarians are so critical now,” he said.