An open book of kindness, passion and knowledge | Joanne Cameron



From Contact magazine, Spring 2014

In the spring of 1989, Joanne Cameron walked into a large empty room that was to become part of the new Limestone Creek Elementary School in Jupiter. Her task: to set up a library from scratch.

“I felt a bit overwhelmed, realizing the size of the project at hand,” says Cameron. That intimidation, however, soon turned into excitement as she thought of all the possibilities of the new job. “What librarian wouldn’t love to have the opportunity to order all new books, equipment and videos to start a library collection?”

Cameron did just that with the help of a supportive principal and assistant. By opening day that fall, Limestone Creek would boast a beautiful new library filled with nearly 10,000 books and state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment to share with its 1,000 students, faculty and staff.

Cameron served as Limestone Creek’s librarian for the next 11 years and considers the experience one of her most exciting. She recalls a similar feeling when she first stepped into a library at age three in Pittsburgh. “I just loved  going up to look at all the books and knowing you could bring all these magical things home with you.”

Cameron kept her fascination with libraries into adulthood, when she took a part-time job at a local library while attending William Paterson University in Wayne, N.J. An elementary education major at the time, she soon discovered an opportunity to combine this love of the library with her desire to teach through a new dual major the university was promoting: education and library science.

After graduating with the bachelor’s degree, Cameron went on to hold several jobs as a preschool and elementary school teacher and public librarian. She says all of her experiences were wonderful, but the experience at Palm Beach State College has been particularly rewarding.

“I get to teach a lot more in a college environment, and that is where my heart truly lies.”

After taking one of her classes, students learn about the world of information available to them at the library – information that Cameron says they can’t access through Google. The newly remodeled library at the Palm Beach Gardens campus offers more than 100 different online databases, where students can access more than 60,000 periodicals. It also has video viewing and production rooms, as well as practice rooms where students can rehearse class presentations.

Cameron has been an early adopter of new technologies and has been among the first to incorporate the use of Lib Guides, iPads, e-readers, virtual learning objects and other tools to enhance student learning.

But what people appreciate the most about Cameron is her personality and genuine desire to help students.

“Joanne brings more than technological ability to her work,” says Dr. David Pena, Library Learning Resource Center director. “She has that human touch – sincerity, a warm heart and a pleasant demeanor that is essential to engaging and retaining students. It is a rare day when I do not see a steady stream of students going into her office for personalized assistance. I’m sure that many of them would be lost without her.”

Cameron has taught at Palm Beach State since 2002 and has lived in Jupiter since 1983. Although she grew up in Wyckoff, N.J., she says she feels truly at home in the Sunshine State.

need to ask…

Q  What are some common misconceptions about librarians?

A  We have to know a lot more than just books. Besides being good communicators with people and active adopters of technological developments, librarians need to have detailed subject knowledge to pass on to library users. We provide training to show people how to search for information and evaluate what they find. Most people are unaware that to be a librarian, you need to have at least a master’s degree.

Q  When did you know you wanted to become a teacher?

A  I had a wonderful third grade teacher, Mrs. Ruth Frances, who was kind and caring in the classroom. I knew I wanted to be just like her one day.

Q  What does a typical day look like for you?

A  I spend half the day at the reference desk teaching students one-on-one. The other half I teach classes about the array of library resources available to them.

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