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For long-time librarian, changing with the times is a must

Tech changes, but literacy is forever

Thornapple Kellogg — Dianne Knight is as surprised as anyone that she’s spent 35 years as a librarian at Page Elementary School in Middleville.

“My (high school) English teacher has never believed that I’m a librarian because I didn’t like the library,” she said, adding that her senior literature teacher had to walk her to the library to write a term paper, because otherwise she might have run. 

Turns out, Knight just didn’t like the quiet. Now, years later, she presides over a library that buzzes with activity and collaboration instead of the stereotypical quiet one might have found in years gone by. 

“I still like to have it quiet for at least a few minutes for the kids to read, but it’s a pretty interactive area now,” she said. 

During students’ weekly library hour, Knight likes to give them fun reading activities like “Reader’s Theater,” where group members each get a part of a story and have the option to act them out. Even the alternative activity for students who don’t want to act is fun: they play Mad Libs together to practice the parts of speech. 

“I like how she’s very nice and has a bunch of energy when we walk in,” said fourth-grader Zakyra Kinnon. “It’s just really fun in here.”

Fourth-graders at Page Elementary say they love everything about librarian Dianne Knight, and that she has ‘a bunch of energy’

More Details to Come

Even in the ’80s and ’90s, when Knight was in her first decade as a librarian at Page, she was working to keep up with the sea change happening with the rise of computers and internet technology and the impact they would have on reading. 

When she started as Page Elementary’s first librarian in 1988, she remembers standing in a room full of boxes that held book information in what was then called a card catalog. A little more than a decade later, she would oversee the gargantuan effort to enter all of those cards into an online database. 

“The hard part of that for me was relinquishing those cards because that was our only source of knowing what we had in our library. It was like, ‘What if I don’t get those (books) back?’” she recalled.  

Fast-forward two more decades to 2020, when she learned how to use virtual meeting technology so she could read to students online while the pandemic shuttered schools. It was hard to keep students engaged during that time, she said, and it’s been a process to get them back on track. 

To motivate them, Knight tries to demonstrate the ways students will need literacy skills throughout their lives.

“If you want to work at a McDonalds, you still have to be able to read an order … you have to be able to talk to a person,” she says to them. 

Fast Facts about Librarian Dianne Knight
Alma Mater: Grand Valley State University, 1979, teacher education
Years in Thornapple Kellogg Schools: 40 — five as a parapro and 35 as Page Elementary’s librarian
Favorite Childhood Book: “Strawberry Girl” by Lois Lenski and “Blue Willow” by Doris Gates.
Books She Recommends to Students: Anything by Chris Grabenstein, and James Patterson’s books for kids.

Knight challenges book lovers and fourth-graders, from left, Liliana Colon, Madalyn Bont and Zakyra Kinnon to read books in genres they usually don’t
Knight challenges book lovers and fourth-graders, from left, Liliana Colon, Madalyn Bont and Zakyra Kinnon to read books in genres they usually don’t

What Students Love About Her

For students like Zakyra — who isn’t afraid to say how much she likes library class in front of her peers — Knight provides additional challenges to read in multiple genres. 

“I challenge them if they are strictly a fictional reader to try and read some nonfiction. … I try to encourage them to read things other than they normally do, to expand their horizon,” Knight said. 

The opportunity to read books on a variety of topics is vital to a student’s education, she said, even though she knows that mindset is sometimes controversial today. 

“It expands your knowledge, and — I think — your imagination.”

In the context of her school, which educates district students in the fourth and fifth grades, she hopes her students can delve into a variety of books in appropriate ways. 

“I think that if they … feel safe in this environment, that’s important too,” she said. 

The love of books that Knight has fostered in Zakyra has led to the fourth-grader’s understanding of how important libraries are in the world: 

“If there (were) no libraries, I think the whole world would just be on their electronics. … Reading helps you get smarter,” she said. 

Read more from Thornapple Kellogg:
After 57-year hiatus, agriculture science program revived
Students tackle youth mental health crisis with peers

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Allison Poosawtsee
Allison Poosawtsee
Allison Poosawtsee is a reporter covering Rockford Public Schools and Kent City Community Schools. She has spent 15+ years working and writing in the education context, first for her alma mater, Calvin University, and then for various businesses and nonprofit organizations in the Grand Rapids area. As a student journalist, she served as editor-in-chief of Calvin’s student newspaper where she garnered several Michigan Collegiate Press Association awards for her work. Allison is a proud parent of two Grand Rapids Public Schools scholars and a passionate advocate for the value of public education.


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