There’s a New Lead Librarian in Town

Nicole Cooke Takes Over the Library


Justice Braodnax

Nicole Cooke, Head Librarian of Menchville

Nicole Cooke stepped into the lead librarian role in 2021.  She joined the Menchville library staff in 2019, moving from the classroom after completing her Master’s in Library Science at Old Dominion University.  She was named 2021’s teacher of the year and some major changes within the library are coming with her in charge. From offering concessions during lunch, purchasing LED lights, and adding new furniture, the Menchville library is looking quite different. Cooke shared her vision of a modern school library with the Lion’s Roar. 

Cooke got her start in education teaching in an elementary school and then at Woodside High School. Before becoming a teacher, she worked as a librarian at NASA. She has been a part of the Menchville faculty for nineteen of her twenty-two years working in education. Her gravitation towards the library was motivated by the opportunity of a career change, saying she “had always considered the library and decided it was time to make the move.” As a teacher, she worked with Menchville Librarian Sandy Graham on Inquiry Projects, and that experience also played a role in her decision. 

When she first arrived, the library was much quieter. However, nowadays, “it is a lot busier and a lot louder.” Outdated books are being phased out to make room for in-demand amenities. “Fiction books should always be on the shelves,” whereas non-fiction books don’t need to be because their “information can also be found in databases or in other online sources.”

The current library setup allows for Cooke to host entire classes, either for teaching a lesson or accommodating for the system’s lack of substitutes. She doesn’t “mind pitching in to help out and support our teachers,” and even refers to herself as a “grandma” teacher. She explained this as “breezing in and enjoying the class for a short time then leaving,” which is “always so much fun!” 

She loves her position here, revealing that being a librarian has “all of the joys of teaching without the troubles.” She “expects [students] to be their best” and appreciates the opportunity to build relationships with them. Her inspiration comes from those students “who overcome great obstacles in order to be at school every day,” saying it is their stories that motivate her to give them her best. Cooke loves our teachers and is proud to be “someone who always advocates for them.” She says that her “number one job is to support both students and teachers,” which is a great quality for a librarian to have. 

Since rising to the lead librarian role, Cooke has gained creative control of the future of the library. Aside from additional district meetings to attend, this has been the only major shift in responsibility. Creating a place where students can “enjoy the space,” whether that means reading, eating lunch, or playing games is her goal. 

Surveys were sent out to students and staff to record opinions on what should be purchased. “Meeting the needs of our patrons” is important to Cooke because she wants the library to be “student and teacher-centered” and “function as the heart of the school community.” Results of the survey demonstrated the need for more “hands-on activities and games” and select book titles.

Making “decisions about the future of the library is exciting” for Cooke and the rest of Menchville should be feeling the anticipation, too. The library is in good hands and the results are sure to be stellar, improving the well-being of both teachers and students. The creation of a library “full of activity and always busy” is within reach for Mrs. Cooke and there’s no doubt she will achieve her vision for the revamped library.