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Fay B. Kaigler Children's Book Festival

2019 Concurrent Session Presenter Bios

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Patricia Austin, a professor of children’s and adolescent literature at the University of New Orleans, is a member of the Americas Award Committee. An author of many articles in educational journals, book reviews, and a picture book, she is a passionate advocate for connecting people and books.

Kathy Barco is a library consultant and author. She retired from Albuquerque’s public library system, where she was literacy coordinator. Her 20-year library career included being a children’s librarian and serving as youth services coordinator at the New Mexico State Library. She is the co-editor, along with Valerie Nye, of True Stories of Censorship Battles in America’s Libraries, published by ALA Editions in 2012. Her latest book, co-written with Melanie Borski-Howard, is Storytime and Beyond: Having Fun with Early Literacy, published in 2018 by Libraries Unlimited/ABC-CLIO. Kathy earned her MLIS from USM.

Lindsey Beck works as the Executive Director for the Lowndes County Imagination Library and is currently serving as vice president of the Magnolia Book Award Executive Board. She holds degrees in Education and Library Science, as well as certificates in family literacy and youth programming. She is dedicated to bringing the joy of reading to every child in her community. She has previously worked in public and school library settings."

Anna Brannin is a librarian at Saint Stanislaus in Bay St. Louis. She currently chairs the AASL Independent Schools Section, serves as a board member for her local Boys & Girls Club unit, and is a member of the Hancock County Chamber Education Committee. She received her MLIS from Southern Miss in 2010 and loves returning to Hattiesburg each spring for this festival.

Jenifer Brea graduated from Ole Miss with a Bachelor of Education and went on to obtain endorsements in English, math, and library science. This is her twelfth year in education and tenth year as the librarian at Lake Cormorant Elementary School. Her passion is helping children find their love for reading.

Dianne Butler is a retired librarian who works part time at Discovery Christian School and a full time weaver of story magic.  She has presented workshops at the Children’s Book Festival, LAMP, MegaResource Conference, The LLI Conference, and Mississippi Library Association Conference demonstrating the art of storytelling.  During the summer Dianne travels the state participating in the summer library programs promoting literacy.  She also presents seasonal programs in several different venues encouraging all to get involved in storytelling. Dianne current lives in Florence, Ms with her husband of 47 years.

Dawn Collins has an undergraduate degree with a double major in Theatre and Religion from Converse College in SC and an MLS from Southern Connecticut State University. Before moving to Mississippi this summer, she was a Senior Librarian at The New York Public Library serving a large, diverse community in the Bronx.

Melinda Taliancich Falgoust is an internationally award-winning author whose writing has also appeared in Reader’s Digest, Writer’s Journal, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine and others.  Most recently, she has been recognized as a finalist in the Clive Cussler Adventure Writer’s Competition and the WOW! Flash Fiction Competition.  The veteran actor of stage and screen often reaches into her actor’s bag-of-tricks to introduce quirky characters that help bring her national and local presentations to life! She has worked on such projects as Vampire Diaries, Green Lantern, Red, and Battle: Los Angeles, among others.

Jo Watson Hackl was born in Biloxi, Mississippi, not far from Ocean Springs, where her favorite artist, Walter Anderson, lived and once painted a secret room. When Jo was eleven, she moved to the real-life ghost town of Electric Mills, Mississippi, and spent the rest of her childhood exploring the woods and encountering signs of the former town residents. Mr. Anderson's secret room and the ghost town were Jo's inspiration for her debut novel, Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe. Jo is also the founder of, a free resource for information and inspiration about engaging with nature. Jo lives with her family in Greenville, South Carolina, where she takes to the woods whenever she can. You can find her online at"

Terri Hadley works in the children's department of the West Regional Branch of the Mobile Public Library. She has a bachelor's degree in early childhood education and over 30 years of experience in the field. She has been working with children in a library setting for the past 11 years."

Jo Hawkins-Jones is faculty with the School of Education at The University of Southern Mississippi.  In this role, she teaches early literacy courses.  Prior to her current position, she worked as a K-12 educator for nine years, in which she served as a lead teacher and taught middle school English and reading intervention. She has a passion for literacy and building stronger educational foundations for diverse learners.

Soline Holmes is the head librarian at an independent school in New Orleans, Louisiana.  She is pursuing her Masters of Library and Information Science at LSU where she was recipient of the Richard Peck Scholarship and the Mary Hutcheson Memorial Scholarship. As a member of Actors' Equity Association, Soline has worked as an actress performing in New Orleans, New York, regionally, and internationally over the past 30 years.

Christina Keiper is the Associate Director of the Library of Hattiesburg, Petal & Forrest County.  She has been with The Library for 13 years and was the former Youth Services Librarian.  Ms. Keiper received her MLIS from USM. She is still known to patrons as Miss Chris.

Hanna Lee is the Youth Services Coordinator at First Regional Library. While serving youth through libraries is her dream job, she has also provided academic support to students of color and first generation college students, taught middle and high school students, and served in administration at an international school."

Jennifer Luetkemeyer worked in K-12 before earning her MLIS from Florida State University in 2013, followed by her Ph.D. in 2016.  Upon graduation, she joined the Library Science faculty at Appalachian State University.  Her research focuses on issues of access in the K-12 environment, and she regularly works with elementary school students in a rural community in North Carolina.

Kelly Matthews, M.Ed., is a Google Certified Educator and National Board Certified geometry and physics teacher at North Pontotoc High School. She has instructed other educators on how to use Expeditions and uses it in her classroom regularly.

Colleen McCoy is the Outreach Coordinator at the Center for Latin American Studies at Vanderbilt University.  She leads public engagement programs, organizing K-16 teacher workshop series, strengthening collaborations with Minority Serving Institutions, building partnerships with cultural arts organizations, and co-coordinating the Americas Award."

Tamela Camp Miller is a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi with a B.S. in History & Political Science and a MLIS with a Graduate Certificate in Youth Programming & Literature. She has been an educator at Oak Grove Middle School in Lamar County (MS) for 19 years, 14 of those as the school's Library Media Specialist. She is currently a member of the Magnolia Book Awards Committee for 6th-8th grades, is the sponsor of the Magnolia Book Club, the BYOB (Bring Your Own Book) Club, and the 2019 Yearbook Advisor. She is interested in maker spaces, tween & teen spaces in public and school libraries, and reader's advisory.

Carrel Muller recently retired after twenty years as the lower school head librarian for Academy of the Sacred Heart in New Orleans where she organized and hosted numerous author visits from first-time locals to national book award winners.  She co-authored and illustrated three educational activity books and taught writing children's literature at the University of New Orleans.  She received the SCBWI Merit Honor Award in fiction for her story ""Thornbush"" (in Cricket), and she is the regional advisor emerita for the Louisiana/Mississippi Chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.

Claudia Nisbett is Professor of Education at Belhaven University in Jackson, Mississippi. She has been Chair of the Education Department at Faulkner University, a past elementary principal and elementary teacher in the classroom. She is involved in teaching reading and literacy courses at the college as well as the following courses: Classroom Management, Educational Psychology, Children’s Literature, and Math for Teachers, and Diagnostic Reading. She emphasizes patterns found in nature as well as quality children’s literature to enhance children’s involvement with their outside environment.

Carmen Oliver is the author of picture books A voice for the Spirit Bears:  How One Boy Inspired Millions to Save a Rare Animal, a Junior Library Guild spring 2019 pick and Bears Make the Best Reading Buddies.  She’s also the author of the forthcoming picture books Bears Make the Best Math Buddies (September 2019) and Bears Make the Best Science Buddies (Fall 2020).

Venetia Oglesby has been the Library Media Specialist at New Hope Elementary for 17 years. She achieved National Board Certification in Library Media in 2010. She is currently serving as president of the Magnolia Book Award Executive Board. Venetia is passionate about advocating for the vital role of school librarians in today's educational communities and is currently finishing up her Masters in Library & Information Science from USM.

Vandy Pacetti-Donelson, '06 USM alumna and former board director for the Florida Association for Media in Education (FAME), is Director of the Library/Archivist at the United States Sports Academy in Daphne, AL.  Vandy is an active library advocate and presents on school library programming and evaluation.

Emmie Powell is a 2016 graduate of the Master of Library and Information Science program at USM. She landed her dream job after graduating as the youth services librarian at the West Regional Branch of the Mobile Public Library. Although she is new to the library world, she has over 12 years of experience working in early childhood education.

Alicia Schwarzenbach is a New Orleans native with over twenty years of experience in academic, public, school, government, and corporate libraries. Her heart belongs to youth literature, her mind enjoys the challenges of technology, and she has served as a Social Media Coordinator for the Fay B. Kaigler Festival's online presence."

Emma Seiler is a graduate of Mississippi State University.  She has been teaching middle school science for 3 years, and science and engineering outreach for almost 20 years.  She currently has a mini-maker space in her classroom and uses it to engage more students in STEM activities.  She is also the STEM Club Advisor for OGMS."

Elizabeth Simmons received a Ed.S. in Secondary Administration from Delta State and M.S. in Library and Information Science from the University of Southern Mississippi. She is the School Library Specialist at the Mississippi Department of Education. She is a strong advocate in bridging the information literacy gap, she works with teachers, librarians, and administrators to bring the library to the forefront of curriculum. Her professional interests focus on incorporating new technology into everyday academics. She is a currently working on her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from Delta State University.

Diana Sweigart has diverse professional experience in K-8 mathematics, math intervention, and educational administration. Currently, she works as a professor at The University of Southern Mississippi where she teaches courses related to math instruction, classroom management, and curriculum planning."

Jeannie Thompson, M.L.I.S., is a high school library media specialist at North Pontotoc High School and a graduate-certificate program student in archives and special collections at USM. She regularly uses Google applications in her library lessons and programming for high school students and recognizes the value Expeditions has for increasing information and archival literacy."

Kim Walls is the school counselor at Lake Cormorant Elementary School and has been a school counselor in DeSoto County School District for the past thirteen years. She received her master's degree in counselor education from Mississippi State University. She truly believes bibliotherapy is one of the best ways to reach children and help them reach their full potential."

Meredith E. Wickham is the director of the First Regional Library System in northwest Mississippi. She holds an MLIS from the University of Alabama. Wickham serves on the board of directors of the Association for Rural & Small Libraries and is passionate about improving services in rural libraries with underserved populations.

Denise Woltering-Vargas, the program manager at the Stone Center for Latin American Studies at Tulane University, organizes community outreach events, acts as liaison with K-12 educational community locally and nationally, curates the Latin American Resource Center, and is one of the coordinators for the Americas Award.

Nancy Varian is the Director of the Center for Professional Development and a Professor at Malone University in Canton, Ohio. She organizes Malone’s Literacy Celebration bringing in renowned children’s authors and/or illustrators each spring. She has traveled all over the world and loves to teach children about other places and people. She has taught Children’s Literature, Content Reading Strategies, Math and Science Methods, Social and Culturally Diversity classes and Understanding Poverty."

Terry Young has been the chair of the American Association for the Advancement of Science/Subaru Prizes for Excellence in science writing since 2005.  He is also the person responsible for the Scholastic Research paper "School Libraries Work!" and serves on the advisory boards for several publishers and also as a STEM Literacy expert.  He has written extensively on topics from science read alouds to STEM apps and how school librarians can strengthen science instruction in their schools.

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Fay B. Kaigler Children's Book Festival

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