Tamara Cox | Movers & Shakers 2020–Advocates

"I like to introduce myself by telling others that I teach in the largest classroom in the school: the library!" says Tamara Cox. In 2010, as Cox completed her library degree and moved from the classroom to a school library, South Carolina was making drastic cuts to school funding. The resulting loss of library staff and gutted library budgets sparked Cox to get involved as the legislative committee chair of the South Carolina Association for School Librarians (SCASL). Now there is "no greater advocate for public education and school libraries" than Cox, says nominator Jane Harrison, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction in Cox’s school district, Anderson One.

Sidsel Bech-Petersen

CURRENT POSITION

School Librarian, Wren High School, Piedmont, SC

DEGREE

MLIS, University of South Carolina, 2010

AWARDS

Anderson South Carolina School Librarian of the Year, 2019–20; South Carolina Teacher of the Year Finalist, 2018–19; I Love my Librarian Award, 2018

FOLLOW

@coxtl; @wrhslibrary

Photo by Michael Cox

 

Get Loud for Libraries

"I like to introduce myself by telling others that I teach in the largest classroom in the school: the library!" says Tamara Cox. In 2010, as Cox completed her library degree and moved from the classroom to a school library, South Carolina was making drastic cuts to school funding. The resulting loss of library staff and gutted library budgets sparked Cox to get involved as the legislative committee chair of the South Carolina Association for School Librarians (SCASL). Now there is "no greater advocate for public education and school libraries" than Cox, says nominator Jane Harrison, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction in Cox’s school district, Anderson One.

The first librarian ever to be named a finalist for the state’s Teacher of the Year award, Cox works with classroom teachers and students alike to increase civic involvement. She has testified in the state capitol, led teachers in writing postcards to legislators, and accompanied teachers and students to the state capitol. She works with the county’s election commission to arrange the use of voting booths in a statewide book award contest. Student’s exposure to the mechanics of voting "allows us to celebrate reading, demystify the voting process, and register eligible voters," she says. "This year is a vital year for civic education…. I plan to continue my efforts to help my students be more politically aware and informed and use their voices to speak up for causes that are important to them."

Cox also works to amplify the voices of school librarians. "She created a program called Speak Up SCASL, where school librarians across the state share the positive impact they have had on student learning through social media," says Harrison. This helps get the attention of school administration and legislators, who often are unaware of the power a school librarian has in the academic success of their students. "In a teacher forum hosted by a group of state legislators, one lawmaker lamented that despite passing laws about literacy we had seen no improvement in our state," says Cox. "I was quick to raise my hand and explain…that decades of research have shown that a strong library program helps student achievement, but these bills did not even mention school libraries."

"Even though sometimes it can be uncomfortable to speak up," says Cox, "we must find the courage to get loud about libraries. Our children are depending on us to fight for what they need to be successful."

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