In Focus

Joan Upell

Joan Upell

An avid reader, a teacher, a storyteller, a professional clown, and a bit of a geek… add it all together and what do you get? Joan Upell, a school librarian for 28 years and currently a South Dakota State Library School Library Coordinator.

My career in libraries was officially launched as a library page in 1974 at the Tecumseh Public Library in my home town of Tecumseh, Mich. However, by this time books, libraries, and librarians had already been a big part of my life for years. Mrs. LaPointe’s Blackie Bear stories and the Snipp, Snapp, Snurr adventures fed my reading appetite as I grew into the Boxcar Children and Nancy Drew series. It was only logical that I end up with a BA in English Literature with a minor in Library Science from Western Michigan University. Following a year at the University of Michigan as a dorm librarian for 800 freshmen, my MLS and I became the librarian at Dwight Elementary School for grades K-8 in Dwight, Ill. Moving from rural Illinois to the Chicago area I next was the Assistant Children’s Librarian at the Park Ridge Public Library. It was there that I became Rainbow the Poetry Clown and learned invaluable skills from my master puppeteer and storytelling colleagues.

The next 15 years were spent at Ravinia Elementary School in Highland Park, Ill. working with students in grades K-5. The library was on the second floor and was traditionally known as the Tree House. It was a 100-year-old building, but the technology was cutting edge. My one-year leave of absence from Ravinia turned into a 10-year career as the K-12 librarian at Tiospaye Topa School on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation. Add this all together and it ends up at the South Dakota State Library. My new and exciting challenges now include traveling to school libraries in ESA 1, 2, 3, and 4 south. I have met fabulous librarians, learned all about webinars, and have become a dedicated Web 2.0 user.

When not being a librarian, I’m the cook, the maid, and the ranch hand on my sister’s U2 Ranch outside of Eagle Butte. I also have a twin sister in Ohio and two sisters and a brother who live nearby my mom in Michigan. In my opinion, my beautiful black and white paint, Joey, is the best horse on the ranch, but that is constantly disputed by my neighbors who had to pull him out of the mud with the John Deere a few years ago. I also have a herd of cats and a few cows of my own.

My five hunka children and eight grandchildren keep me busy and laughing. Hayzil, age five, and Jaxson, age two, love to “play library” with Grandma’s books. Tucker who is one just loves to eat the cat food. Plus, there’s always time for my King Arthur and Sherlock Holmes collections, as well as reading historical fiction and mysteries. My latest favorites are by regional authors Joseph Marshall and Craig Johnson.

librarian, school libraries, staff

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