Teacher Spotlight: Sue Carlson, 3 decades at the library.

July 13, 2021

Sue Carlson

Teacher Spotlight: Sue Carlson, 3 decades at the library.

By Kate Krieger-Watkins, Staff Writer.

Teacher Spotlight is a presentation of Shelby State Bank, with offices in Ludington, Pentwater, Shelby, Hart, Hesperia, Manistee, Montague, Whitehall, North Muskegon, and Fruitport. 

LUDINGTON – Not every educator comes in the form of a classroom teacher, or even someone who works for an educational institution. Sue Carlson, assistant director for the Mason County District Library, educates library-goers about books and reading and the importance of literacy for all ages.

“I have worked at the library since September of 1989,” Carlson said. “It was Ludington Public Library then, serving the residents of the City of Ludington. In 1991, we began the long process of combining the two libraries of Mason County into one (the Mason County Library was located in Scottville and operated by the county). Mason County District Library was formed in 1994. So, I have worked for the library for almost 32 years. I have been the teen librarian, acting director, head of youth services and assistant director. But mostly, I guess, assistant director, since 1994. 

“Children’s literacy is very important to me. I spend quite a bit of time thinking about and studying how children learn and how their brains grow. Our preschool story time is specifically designed to grow children’s brains. I mean physical brain growth. When you can light up different areas of the brain, you can create connections between brain cells. So, story time incorporates reading, music rhyming, dancing (large muscle movement), finger plays (small muscle movement), art, math; both logic and geometry, and memorization as well as social/emotional learning. When your child attends Mason County District Library story time, that child is experiencing brain growth. Dendrites are forming.”

Carlson graduated from Ludington High School and then went to Grand Valley State University, but she has experienced most of her life’s big moments in Mason County and can’t think of living anywhere else.

“My family comes from rural northern Pennsylvania,” she said. “We moved here before I started school. I grew up in Ludington, married here, raised children here. I love the outdoors and spend weekends enjoying the natural bounty of Mason County, hiking, biking, swimming, kayaking, skiing.”

Many people may not see libraries or librarians as educational institutions or educators, but they are just that, providing information and services to all their patrons about reading and the importance of literacy in all parts of life, at every age of life.

“Public libraries are a cornerstone of democracy,” she said. “Anyone can educate themselves for free. People can study issues affecting our world in as much depth as they like. It is absolutely vital that voters are educated and engaged in understanding the concerns that affect us all. All are welcome here. This is one of the few places in our society where everyone can come together. Right now, there are infants and 80-year-olds here. Jobless poor and jobless wealthy. Landowners, homeowners, and homeless. Farmers and bankers. They all have equal access to the information the public library has curated for them. Reading and critical thinking are absolutely vital skills for people living in a democracy. Every citizen has the responsibility to accurately assess the facts and consider the consequences while voting on issues that affect us all. Early literacy is just the beginning, but that foundation is essential to growth as a reader. MCDL, along with parents and educators, can help to provide that foundation.”

One of Carlson’s favorite things about her job is the opportunity she gets to work with a large variety of people looking for information that covers such a large range of interests.

“I appreciate the people I work with, both staff and patrons,” she said. “There are a lot of smart, interesting, engaging and dedicated people working in and around libraries. There is something uplifting about engaging in research and delving into truth seeking. Teaching critical thinking is vital in today’s world. People have to learn to navigate our chaotic media landscape in order to find the facts. This is essential work.”

With more and more research coming out about the importance of early literacy, Carlson has been very dedicated to this primary principle that her job is centered around. She stated that families and children are affected by her role the most and she really has been trying for years to educate and to continue to keep early literacy information as one of the main focal points for the Mason County District Library.

“Your child’s literacy will affect their whole future,” she said. “Our world requires a sophisticated understanding of nuance and subtlety. Influencers of various kinds are increasingly successful at attracting followers and guiding ideas. People need to understand the difference between fact and fancy at a time when the deceptions have become incredibly dense, detailed and sophisticated. Literacy is the first step toward critical thinking.”

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