Courtesy Daily Sitka Sentinel
Mt. Edgecumbe High School librarian Erika Drain says she feels a little strange as an individual receiving the statewide service award for librarians.
“I’m surprised I got this award, because I’ve never done any of these service things by myself,” Drain said, noting she has collaborated on most projects with local librarians and librarians across Alaska.
Drain, the MEHS librarian for the last eight years, is this year’s recipient of the Linda K. Barrett Service Award given by the Alaska Association of School Librarians. The award is given annually to a librarian who has demonstrated outstanding service to the school library profession and provided significant contributions to state and local activities.
The honor was presented at the annual AkASL conference banquet in February in Fairbanks.
“I almost didn’t make it to the awards,” Drain said. She and Blatchley Middle School librarian Kari Sagel were exploring a comic book store in Fairbanks on the afternoon of the banquet, when Sagel – who knew Drain was going to receive the award – urged her friend out of the store and to the event. Sitka High librarian Ginny Blackson said the award is well deserved.
“She is one of the finest librarians I have ever worked with,” Blackson said. “Her ability to meet the needs of one of the most diverse patron groups has always amazed me. The students come from all over the state and represent every culture, every reading level and every social belief.”
Drain thinks she may have been selected for the award for her work as co-chair of both the statewide Battle of the Books program and her work on the Alaska Spirit of Reading. Drain said she enjoys participating in both programs, particularly working with other Sitka librarians who are also statewide leaders in reading programs.
“This group of librarians down here in this town is pretty spectacular,” Drain said.
She participated in the project of “sorting, archiving, loading and packing” the valuable book collection from Sheldon Jackson College, after it closed in 2007.
Past president of AkASL Robin Turk said Drain has served on the nonprofit organization’s board since 2005, and has “delivered innovative ideas for improving the goals and services of AkASL.” Drain wrote grants for providing READ poster CDs and training for librarians, wrote grants for professional development, led the reform of association policies and “most importantly worked to organize support for the passage and funding of the School Library Collection Grant.”
A news release from AkASL said that Drain coordinated a letter-writing campaign to legislators, created flyers, brochures and a website to coordinate the campaign.
Drain more recently was instrumental in the Sitka observance of World Book Night Monday, in which librarians, reading advocates and staff from Old Harbor Books coordinated a book giveaway along a bus route from Burkhart Street to O’Connell Bridge. The supply of several hundred books ran out before the bus was able to cross the bridge to reach Drain’s students at Mt. Edgecumbe High School, but plans were immediately started to collect donations and finish the route this afternoon.
Drain rode the bus the whole way, getting off at the various stops to pass out the eight selected titles, candy and various other books.
Drain grew up in Montana and received her degree in elementary education and art education from Montana State University in Billings. She taught kindergarten through grade 8 for seven years in Billings Catholic schools, then returned to school to receive a master’s degree in technology from Leslie College in Cambridge, Mass.
She moved to Southwest Alaska in 2000, as a technical integration specialist working with teachers on how to use technology as a teaching tool. While working fulltime, Drain also earned her librarian endorsement through the University of Washington distance learning program, with two summers of on-campus studies. After receiving her certificate, she became the Southwest Region School District library media specialist, living in Dillingham and traveling from Koliganek to Tokiak. She said she enjoys working at Mt. Edgecumbe High School.
“It is one of my favorite jobs ever,” Drain said. “The kids who go here are great. There are a lot of people who are starving for good literature who love coming in this library. And a lot of kids who graduate, I hear from them, and they say, ‘I miss our library.’”
Drain said she was happy to receive the statewide service award, but had a twinge of guilt. “I felt there should’ve been several people in the award,” she said.