Ross MS librarian wins national award

Arnulfo Talamantes, librarian at Sul Ross MS, is one of 10 national winners of the I Love My Librarian Award. He was recognized by the American Library Association (ALA) for his innovative efforts to inspire a love of reading on his campus and among his students.

He was selected from over 1,300 nominations from across the country and will receive a $5,000 cash prize and $750 donation to his library.  

“It’s a little surreal,” Talamantes said. “This is a huge honor. There’s something so special about Ross MS and it’s nice to see the spotlight here and bring some good news in these difficult times.”

Talamantes is in the middle of his seventh year both in Northside ISD and serving as Ross librarian. He started his educational career in Harlandale ISD as a high school English teacher, college readiness coach, and elementary school librarian. He earned degrees from the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) and Sam Houston State University.

“Mr. T is an amazing librarian, but a greater person,” said Ross MS principal Faustino Ortega. “He is very innovative and knows how to connect with our students. He is always looking for ways to make reading a ‘cool’ thing at our campus.”

Two initiatives illustrate that commitment to innovation – The Ross Bookstore and Roots Garden. Students earn Rebel Bucks for their positive behavior on campus and then can go shop for books at the bookstore.

“I just thought why don’t we offer high-quality, high-interest books to our students,” Talatmantes said. “They can pick for themselves and build an at-home library. Book ownership is a huge badge of honor.”

The Roots Garden has also blossomed under Talamantes leadership, growing from four beds to 31 beds during his tenure at Ross. It was started with book fair funds and continues to grow thanks to grant funding and now funding from his award.

“Just like a library, the garden is a place of knowledge,” Talamantes said. “You can go in so many directions and learn about plants, climate, and history. Agriculture is everywhere.”

It’s not unusual to see campus groups helping tend to the garden and cooking healthy dishes from the harvests. The library is the academic hub at Ross MS and Talamantes sees it as a place to provide support.

“We don’t have egos at Ross MS,” Talamantes said. “It’s a big part of our success. We focus on the work and what’s best for our kids.”

He said the award recognition is validation that they’re on the right track.

“It’s easy to do great things when you’re in a great school district,” Talamantes said. “My principal Mr. Ortega and our Library Services Director Lisa Kulka give such freedom to professionals. It helps us run with our ideas and know they have such a belief in you.”

The award is sponsored by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and supported by the New York Public Library. To learn more about this year’s honorees, visit the I Love Libraries website.