Skokie stint proves ideal for future children’s librarian
Paula Shapiro speaks with Skokie resident Domerica Patino (right) this month at the Niles Township English Language Learner Parent Center. | Jon Durr~Sun-Times Media
NAME: Paula Shapiro
BEST KNOWN AS: Co-creator of Booking With a Buddy ELL program
SKOKIE — When Paula Shapiro learned that she was going to do her practicum at the Skokie Public Library, she was thrilled — to say the least.
“I felt like I had died and gone to library heaven,” she said.
For more than the past three months, Shapiro has worked at the renowned library, but that work came to an end earlier this month in grand style.
Shapiro helped create a new pilot program run by the library and the Niles Township English Language Learner Parent Center called Booking With a Buddy. Fourteen families assimilating in a new place participated; adults and children were paired and improved their English skills through reading.
Shapiro, who has been attending Dominican University in River Forest, helped create the program from the ground up. It was an ideal project for her — reflecting just why she is pursuing library sciences.
“I always believed that kids need a fair shake and a level playing field,” she said. “What better way to have them on a level playing field than early literacy and literature?”
Creating a program as a joint venture of the Skokie Library and the ELL Parent Center, she said, makes so much sense.
“What makes a library so unique is it’s open to every person potentially,” she said. “But libraries don’t always know how best to do that, and that’s why the marriage of these two programs is so awesome.”
Shapiro, 46, is from Minnesota and has lived in Evanston the past 16 years. She has always worked with youths, including heading up a department for children at the Jewish Community Centers.
For the past 16 years, she raised her own three children, but she wanted to return to her original path. Shapiro has become a positive role model for her children, she said, because they see her going after something worthwhile.
The Niles Township ELL Parent Center this month held a potluck dinner; there were two reasons to celebrate.
The families completed the successful pilot program that Shapiro helped build, and this was Shapiro’s last day in graduate school.
The degree was due to come in a couple of weeks, the graduation ceremony was to be held at the end of the year.
Now she begins her search for a job as a public librarian. Shapiro said she’s willing to travel 40 minutes from home to fulfill her dream.
“Working at (Skokie’s) library and working on this program — it’s the perfect cap to my (academic) career,” she said. “I couldn’t have asked for anything better. It’s the perfect final hurrah.”