“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – Dr. Seuss
The wise, and much beloved, Dr. Seuss taught many of us the pleasures of reading. Just open a book and you are transported to a different, time and place. You can be anyone. Go on an adventure. Solve a mystery. You can fall in love. You can overcome an obstacle. Most importantly, you can learn. Books teach. Books take you to new places.
But should you keep your head down in a book while life passes you by? Or should you get up and see the world? Are books as important today as they were in the past? Or has technology replaced the need for libraries?
These questions are answered by our very own Mrs. Catherine Masrour. Mrs. Masrour loves books and combines her love for reading with her professional training to share this love with others. Yet, her nose is not glued to her books. She knows the value of putting down a book and going out and seeing the world. She recognizes that books and libraries are losing ground against the conveniences of modern technology, and she wisely incorporates these new ideas with her tried and true library skills. Better yet, she teaches all of us how to use these new sources of information all the while fondly reminiscing about the value of a good book.
Mrs. Masrour is Smithtown High School West’s Library Media Specialist. She transformed her love for books into a career in which she passionately maintains a library and makes it a wonderful and technologically advanced place for others to learn. According to Mrs. Masrour, her job is to “support teachers and students with the resources needed to learn. This means I provide books and materials, but also technology and hands-on materials”. Simply put, Mrs. Masrour is motivated by students. She boasts that “Today’s students learn in a dynamic world where information is changing as fast as technology. Because of this, I want to make sure that my students are challenged to think critically, search effectively, construct meaning and learning efficiently and ethically, and select the best resources and tools for learning. My goal is to prepare students for work and life in the 21st century”.
This passion for reading is deeply rooted in her past. Mrs. Masrour grew up in an extremely small town called Dixfield, Maine. She recounts that the total population of her hometown was less than the population of Smithtown West. Mrs. Masrour told me that she had 63 students in her high school graduating class. “I knew every one of them by name. Dixfield is very rural and it is winter 9 months of the year. In Maine, I learned to do lots of outdoor things including skiing, skating, snowmobiling, sledding, hiking, and biking”. Although she loved books and did cozy up in front of a warm fire with her favorite books, Mrs. Masrour knew the value of balance and never forgot to go outside and see the world.
Not everyone can find themselves a job doing what they love, but Mrs. Masrour accomplished just this. She was able to go to school and study a field she loved- Library Sciences. She started college at the University of Maine and transferred to and graduated with a B.A. in English from Colby College. She later received her M.S. in Information Science and doctorate in Education.
Mrs. Masrour fondly recalls her mentor, and how she wanted to be like him. Her high school English teacher Mr. Libby got her interested in books and reading. But he also taught her to see the world. Mrs. Masrour explains that “Reading changed my life because even though I lived in a small town, books allowed me to travel and meet characters from a variety of different backgrounds. This made me more empathetic and more curious about my world”. Mrs. Masrour has seen the world and made her mark on it. Before coming to Smithtown, she served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Morocco, North Africa. She taught English to scientists and researchers so that they could better participate in conferences and academic meetings around the world. Books taught her skills and she put these skills to good work. The believes that this experience was extremely beneficial to her learning, “Travel taught me that there are good people everywhere in the world. I also learned that pretty much everyone wants the same thing–love, peace, happiness, and health”.
This background of book learning and world travel made her a perfect candidate for our Library Science Teacher, but Mrs. Masrour did not stop there. She combines her skills with Science and technology as well. She spends her time running a non-profit organization that supports STEM. She is particularly interested in STEM because she believes that we are going to need a lot of creative scientists, technology experts, engineers, and mathematicians to solve the biggest problems of the future. Through her non-profit foundation, she runs a STEM Summer Camp, STEM Family Fun Night in the fall, and a STEAM Conference for high school students in the spring. She also brings new technologies to students like underwater robotics. In addition, she holds board meetings and works with teachers to ensure they have the resources to support students with a strong interest in STEM. You can also find her at the High School West STEAM Conference and at the BULL STEAM Ahead event at High School East.
Mrs. Masrour sounds like someone to truly emulate, yet she is humble. When asked
“Do you have any advice for someone who would want to follow a similar path?” She responds that she does not think anyone could follow in her footsteps: “We all have our own paths. Even my children can’t follow my path because the world is constantly changing and evolving. The jobs of today may not even exist in the coming generations”. She is insightful and aware of the world around her and her place in it. When asked if there was anything that she would have done differently, she does not talk about her accomplishments. Instead, she wishes that she could have traveled more when she was younger. Although she can no longer travel and experience the world physically, her books allow her to keep exploring and learning about the world.
Mrs. Masrour doesn’t know if libraries and books will continue to exist in the future, but she is confident that there will always be a need for information. She hopes everyone will “seek, use, and share information to make the world a better place. Mrs. Masrour stated that one of the most significant accomplishments of her career was playing a part in the renovation and re-imagination of the HSW library. “I wanted to create a welcoming, flexible learning space that would have a variety of resources to support all types of learners”. She feels very accomplished and believes Smithtown High School West will serve as a model for other libraries.