Library Skills: Author Interview with Shannon Miller

June 22, 2017

This coming fall, Cantata Learning is proud to present an all-new series collaboration between Shannon McClintock Miller and musician Emily Arrow. The series, Library Skills, addresses several key ideas needed for young kids to succeed in the library and stay safe and respect one another when it comes to learning and working together in the library and online. Below, we discuss the series with the author.

  1. In your own words, can you tell us what the series is about?

The Library Skills series focuses on essential and important skills that take place in the library. As teacher librarians, we need to teach and support a variety of skills within our libraries such as finding books, fiction and nonfiction, staying safe online, and having manners in the library… having lots of fun along the way!  

  1. Where, or how, did the idea for this series originate? And why is this an important topic for students?

The idea for the series originated from my own experiences as a teacher librarian in Van Meter, Iowa. I was the district teacher librarian for eight years working with 600 students in kindergarten through 12th grade.  

One day when I was talking with Kat Coughlan, founder of Cantata Learning, and sharing my experiences as a teacher librarian and we thought… Why not turn this into a series? We brainstormed topics and people involved, noting what has changed within libraries and education. It was really exciting to think that all of these important topics were going to be turned into stories and songs for our children to learn to. I couldn’t wait to get started.  

As teacher librarians there are so many things that we teach our students and ways we support our teachers, parents, and school community.  

  1. What was the writing process like? Did you learn anything from writing these books and what was it?

This was my debut project as an author of children’s books. It was so different from anything I worked on before. The amount of back and forth between the writer and editor, and the overall amount of time it takes was different… and exciting. I learned to start with the story I had to tell from the experience I had in the library and as a teacher librarian. That was a good place to start.

  1. Tell us a bit about the collaborative process. Obviously, you worked with an editor. Did you have opportunities to also work with the illustrator and music producer? What was that like, or what did you enjoy most about the experience?

As I worked on the series, I had the chance to work with all of the people involved. The editor and I worked back and forth to get the story perfect. It was fun to collaborate in a Google Doc… a lot of times at night time… as we made sure the story rhymed and made sense.  

As the story was put on paper and the illustrations were created, I would come back and give comments. For example, at first the illustrator had the librarian sitting behind the desk throughout the book and the students were always sitting at tables with books. I came back and said “This isn’t how a school library looks now. It is a place of noisy collaboration, creativity, and wonderful connections. And I can’t ever remember sitting behind the desk very long.” That was one of the best parts… explaining and showing how school libraries look now.  

I also worked with the music producer in recording the beginning of each book. I went to his studio in Boulder twice in fact. The first time was at night. When he listened afterwards, he could hear crickets in the background so Hagan and I went back to his studio the next week.  That time it was perfect. It was really fun for my family and I to see what was involved in the recoding process of a book.  

Because of the music writing process I need to know the main idea of the book in order to create the chorus, which gets written before the verses. It takes a lot of time to do this so I had to be patient. The music production and illustrations were worked on after the manuscript was written, so waiting for the book to come together was hard.

  1. How do you hope readers will respond to these titles? What advice do you have for educators in regards to helping bring these books to life for their students?

I am so excited to bring the Library Skills series to all of the libraries and readers. This series is filling a gap with being able to teach our children, in a fun way to music, the skills they need to know and accomplish in the library, classroom, and beyond. And the meaningful stories paired with Emily Arrow’s beautiful songs will surely be a hit and be heard from libraries around the world. 


Whenever we hear educators discuss the one takeaway they wish they could instill in young learners, the topics of these four titles always make the top of the list. That’s how we know these books are going to be a boon in libraries everywhere!

Thank you Shannon for your inspired ideas and sharing your writing experience with us. We can’t wait for these books to debut in just a few short months!

You can keep up with Shannon and more news about the Library Skills series on Twitter @shannonmiller. And look for Shannon’s piece on Social Emotional Learning in the July issue of School Library Journal!