Cora Caldwell has carved out an amazing career in public education, culminating with recognition earlier this year as Idaho’s School Librarian of the Year. With 26 years on the job as a librarian in the Gooding School District, including the last five as District Librarian, Caldwell has been able to impact the lives of countless children in her small town.
“I am so humbled,” Caldwell says. “People who get this award are great people, and I just don’t think of myself that way.” Many students, parents and colleagues in Gooding would strongly disagree, including Gooding Public Library Director Cindy Bigler, who worked with Caldwell at Gooding High School and now collaborates with her on numerous projects aimed at nurturing a love of reading. “She doesn’t really tout all the amazing things she does; she is a great mentor and is always willing to help people achieve their desires,” Bigler says. “Cora is constantly searching for new and improved techniques that support teachers and students and instill a love of learning.”
Caldwell grew up in New Plymouth and graduated from the University of Idaho. She started her education career teaching home economics in Gooding before taking classes for her media endorsement and obtaining a Master’s degree in Library Science from BYU. It was the dynamic in place in those early years that led her to the IEA. “I’ve been a member since 1972, because when I first started teaching, home economics was considered a hazardous occupation,” she says with a laugh. “I truly believe that there are things I can’t do to help and protect myself like a professional organization can.”
As the district librarian, Caldwell splits her time between the high school, middle school and elementary schools, as well as the Idaho School for the Deaf and the Blind. The ISDB is home to about 90 students from pre-K to beyond high school, and Caldwell helps makes sure that the unique needs of these students are met.
Whatever the age or ability level, whatever the student’s circumstances, Caldwell has one overriding goal. “Helping a child find the right book that will ignite a passion for reading is crucial,” she says. “It doesn’t really matter what they read, because if they enjoy it they will branch out.”
Collaborating with the classroom teachers is another critical component of her work. Teachers and librarians meet regularly to discuss what is happening in class and how library resources can supplement and compliment those lessons. “Our teaching staff in Gooding has been great,” Caldwell says. “They really care and go the extra mile.”
The same can be said for Caldwell, whose passion for connecting people and books has made her an indispensable part of the Gooding community. For her part, she deflects and shares the recognition that has come with her Librarian of the Year award. “I couldn’t do half of what I do without great support from family, staff, the public library, and the IEA.”