Get to Know A… Joint Chief!

 

 

Spotlight-2

 

The joint chiefs have been having lots of conversations about all the amazing librarians out there rocking it out in specialized positions or just setting a new standard for youth services. With this new feature, we’d like to spotlight mighty people who have some words of wisdom for everyone who wants to follow in their footsteps or just climb the next mountain in their career.

For our very first spotlight feature, we wanted to take the opportunity to dig a little more into our own positions and our experiences. We hope you will ask us questions, commiserate, and share with us.

Brytani

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Please describe your position. Your title, duties, an average day in your work life.

 

My title is simply librarian, but in reality, I’m an all-purpose branch manager of two small-town/rural branches. I supervise two amazing paraprofessionals who handle a lot of the operational duties in keeping the branches going, and I focus on what we can do to grow and deepen our impact in the communities. I provide programs for everyone–babies to seniors–and I also form partnerships and perform outreach. Relationships with schools have become a passion for me, so that’s what I’m working hard to pioneer and develop for my county.

 

What attracted you to your current position? Was it an intentional move, a gut feeling, a happy accident, or a matter of convenience?

 

This was my first librarian position and I was recruited to it by another librarian in my system. I fell in love with our customer service policy and my director. It was so important to me to find a place where I could say “yes” as much as possible and work with people to break down those barriers to library services. This time, that place found me.

 

What things give you the most joy in your position?

 

I LOVE how connected I feel to my patrons. I see kids in their schools and daycares and they introduce me to their parents when they visit the library. I catch up with patrons I haven’t seen in a long time when I’m out shopping for supplies. The local hardware store asks me every time I enter, “what’s the library doing now?”

 

What’s most challenging for you?

 

Without a doubt, it’s the constant state of being asked to do more with less and less. Librarians everywhere can probably nod along with me when I say it’s the most nerve-wracking thing to figure out how you can grow when you’re dealing with lack of staff and resources. For the most part, I’m proud of how I’ve worked it out so far.

 

If this is not your last career move, where would you like to go from here?

 

I want to be a youth services coordinator. I dream of being able to support other library professionals in the area that’s stolen my heart. I want a team that I can help through hard times, mentor, and high-five for all their successes, big and small. I want to listen and learn and create plans together. I might not be there just yet, but I will be one day.

 

Pretend I’m an MLIS student, eager to figure out how to get your job. What’s the advice you’d give me?

 

Figure out what’s unique about you–your vision and your perspective–and then just find the people who know they need that. Be honest. Don’t be so eager for a librarian position that you’re willing to try to fit any job description. Do your research, get to know the policies of the library, get to know the leadership. When you find a good place, take some time to listen and evaluate. Be humble and open. When you’re ready, flex your muscles and try some new things. Don’t be afraid to ask your teammates for their opinions. Constructive criticism is your best friend. Don’t be afraid to change your mind.

Cory

cory

 

Please describe your position. Your title, duties, an average day in your work life.

 

I’m the librarian at a private Montessori school. I’m solo, so I do everything! Collection development, teaching research skills both formally and informally, reader’s advisory, teacher and admin collaboration. I also do a lot of the stuff that most staff members at elementary schools do — I help with arrivals and dismissal, cover spots at morning care when someone’s short handed, etc. I do an after school knitting club but otherwise no programming, which is a big change from public libraries!

 

What attracted you to your current position? Was it an intentional move, a gut feeling, a happy accident, or a matter of convenience?

 

All of the above. I needed to leave the job I was in (very bad fit) and this one happened to be available at the exact right time. The serendipity is that I’ve always wanted to go back to school libraries, and had dreamed of a small private school like this one. It ended up being a perfect fit as well as a port in the storm.

 

What things give you the most joy in your position?

 

I get to have really personal connections with kids and their parents, and do a depth of reader’s advisory that’s very difficult at a busy public library. I also love being free of the bureaucracy of a city department, and the day to day minutiae of management.

What’s most challenging for you?

 

I miss storytime! There’s not a lot I don’t like about my job, although there’s slightly less freedom in a private school in terms of materials, and there’s not nearly as much space as I’m used to, so it’s a constant dance of weeding just enough, and not buying more than I absolutely need.

 

If this is not your last career move, where would you like to go from here?

 

I’d like to stay in private schools, but hopefully in a slightly smaller town than Houston, eventually.

 

Pretend I’m an MLIS student, eager to figure out how to get your job. What’s the advice you’d give me?

 

The more passions you have, experiences you can draw upon, the better. You may be new to librarianship, but you’re probably not new to employment, or academia, or hobbies. Bring all of those passions and all of that knowledge to the interview. A Montessori school, and probably any private school, is looking for well-rounded candidates who can bring a lot to the school’s culture.

 

Holly

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Please describe your position. Your title, duties, an average day in your work life.

 

Youth Services Coordinator. Manage an entire YS department and supervise 1 full time teen librarian and 3 part-time YS para-professional staff who also do some programming. I select, purchase, and manage for the entire children’s collection. I do weekly in house baby and toddler storytimes, preschool and family programming, the majority of school age programming, and all outreach, including monthly visits to all the daycares in town and the WIC clinic, as well as other events. I create marketing materials and promote all YS programs and manage the space in our children’s room.
On an average day, I probably have a program and a shift on the children’s desk as well as covering breaks and lunches for my staff. 2 days a week I do 1-4 outreach programs. I will probably work on program planning, book orders (or weeding) and answer lots of questions from kids.

 

What attracted you to your current position? Was it an intentional move, a gut feeling, a happy accident, or a matter of convenience?

 

When I read the posting for my current job, I was finishing up my last semester of grad school, and desperately seeking a job. I was picky though, and even though the idea of managing and being a department head was super scary, there was something about it that just seemed right and exciting. I was attracted to the idea of being responsible for the look and feel of the children’s services and being able to implement my ideas.

 

What things give you the most joy in your position?

 

My all time favorite things include programming, outreach, and just interacting and talking with kids in the children’s room about books or being creative or whatever they want to talk about. My heart melts a little bit every time I go to a daycare and the kids all scream “Miss Holly is here!” or a kid comes in specifically to tell me something.

 

What’s most challenging for you?

 

Management is the trickiest and most challenging part of my job. Knowing that I am ultimately responsible for a lot of things is scary, but makes me really focus on details and the important things.

 

Pretend I’m an MLIS student, eager to figure out how to get your job. What’s the advice you’d give me?

 

Be enthusiastic, try lots of things, and get as much hands on experience as possible. Ask for feedback from internship supervisors, professors, etc. Observe as many different programs as possible. Learn about the place you want to work.

 

Julie

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Please describe your position. Your title, duties, an average day in your work life.

 

I am a Library Associate III in Children’s Services. The III means that I am a PIC (Person in Charge) and have been granted the keys to open and close. It also means I am the go to person for vomit, blood, and rowdy patrons on certain occasions. On a ‘typical’ day (I will go with a Storytime Monday) I arrive at work at 9:30 and have some time to breathe, check e-mails, and prepare my room. At 10:15 I present a Rhyme Time session followed directly by Toddler Time. Once I have cleaned up the space, I usually take a lunch break before I have desk time for the remainder of the day. This fall, I will be offering Monday and Thursday Rhyme Time and Toddler Time sessions as well as about one other program each week. When I do have off desk time, I am mostly preparing for programs by cutting felt, learning chords on my ukulele, or reading aloud. When I am not preparing for a program, I am looking through new books, working on professional development (right now I am getting ready for two presentations), or doing a ‘duty as needed’.

 

What attracted you to your current position? Was it an intentional move, a gut feeling, a happy accident, or a matter of convenience?

 

I am currently a Library Associate in Youth Services. Before this position, I had just moved and took the first library job opening in the general vicinity of my apartment. While I wasn’t unhappy in Adult Reference, I knew I had to get to Youth Services. Of course, jobs can be few and far between so it took about a year before anything happened. We will call my position opening a ‘matter of convenience’. It really opened for me because I had made my intentions and skills known to both my supervisors and the administration. It has been the absolutely perfect place for me to really dig in and try new things.

What things give you the most joy in your position?

 

I enjoy every single part of programming from the planning process to the smiley babies. Storytime is sometimes more comfortable than my couch at home! I love being proud of what I accomplish and that drives me to keep improving. Currently, I am venturing out professionally and trying to get more involved in the early literacy community. I am very lucky that my library supports this.

 

What’s most challenging for you?

 

As I write this, it is morning sickness! I am very active in my Storytimes and it has been somewhat difficult making sure I can modify frog jumps and hold my ukulele comfortably over a growing belly. I really want to make sure that I can provide awesomeness while still taking care of myself. However, that fear is not just with my current state of pregnancy. I can get bored easily so I sometimes get into the habit of saying yes to everything. This is not always so great. I do like to be very involved, but I need to learn that focusing my efforts is better in the long term. I do not want to burn out!

If this is not your last career move, where would you like to go from here?
I am currently working towards my MLS so there are definitely future plans. I absolutely love my job, but I do want to be a children’s librarian. One day I would love to be an early literacy coordinator.

Pretend I’m an MLIS student, eager to figure out how to get your job. What’s the advice you’d give me?

 

I am an MLS student! If you are in a tough market and not willing to travel, you have to get your foot in the door somehow. Volunteer, take on those craptastic hours, and/or talk to people working in your desired system. If you have a more flexible future, get involved now! I am still pretty new to all this and I often have to pinch myself when I see how far I have come. It all started with an Ask a Ninja question I sent in in 2014!

 

Kendra

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Please describe your position. Your title, duties, an average day in your work life.

 

My title is Children’s Librarian. I am the only Children’s Librarian in a very busy branch in an 8 library system. There are 2 other Children’s Librarians in the system, as well as 1 Teen Librarian and 1 Children’s Library Associate. So, we are all VERY busy! My main duties are to provide library services and programs to the youth in my community. I maintain the youth collections, provide storytimes in two branches, provide other programs whenever possible, and provide reference and reader’s advisory from the youth desk, reference desk, or circ desk, depending on the day. There really is no average day! On most Thursdays I start work by checking emails and setting up for storytimes. Then I present 2 storytimes, clean up, eat lunch, and head to a services desk for at least 2 hours, sometimes more if we are short staffed. If I’m lucky enough to have some off desk time I will plan and prep future programs, work on collection maintenance, and catch up on various office-type tasks.

 

What attracted you to your current position? Was it an intentional move, a gut feeling, a happy accident, or a matter of convenience?

 

Moving to my current position was intentional and it was for many, complicated reasons. One was that as the sole income in my family I was looking for a higher salary. I was also not entirely happy in the position I was in, mostly for administrative reasons and when I realized the things I disliked about the system would not likely ever change, no matter how hard I worked, I knew it was time to move on. Before I ever apply for a position I read the job description many times, check out the area to see if it is a place I might actually be able to live, and get any insider information I can from people in the area (if there are any). If everything looks and feels good, I’ll go for it. That is how I’ve ended up in all of my positions.

 

What things give you the most joy in your position?

 

Autonomy. My boss is really great about letting me do my own thing. She trusts that I’m the expert on youth services and she is happy to provide guidance and the rules, etc. that are necessary to run a library, but otherwise she lets me do whatever I like in regards to programming and the collection. She is also VERY supportive of professional development and being allowed to share my knowledge and learn new skills whenever the opportunities arise is lovely.

 

What’s most challenging for you?

 

There is a lot more to do than I can do in the time I am given. It’s frustrating to provide ample programs and services for the busiest library in the city but not have the support of the other libraries and staff in the system to make sure those happen. It’s also the most affluent library and because of that there is a reluctance among other staff to put time and energy into providing programs to those they feel would be fine without them. So, basically my biggest challenge is the same pretty much everywhere. We just need more youth staff!

 

If this is not your last career move, where would you like to go from here?

 

This is tricky because I sort of have two dream jobs. One is to be a youth services department head for a large library, or an early literacy coordinator/manager for a library system, preferably in the Pacific Northwest. (Pretty tall order. I kind of doubt it will ever happen, but a girl can dream). The second is to work part time as a children’s librarian while writing, teaching, and providing training across the country (THE WORLD!!) and I would especially love to teach children’s (especially early literacy focused) programming courses at a community college or university.

 

Pretend I’m an MLIS student, eager to figure out how to get your job. What’s the advice you’d give me?

 

Get as much experience in a library as you can. Even if you can only get work as a page, shelve all the children’s books and ask if you can help out in programs, even if it’s just to clean up. If you can’t find a job, go to every library in your area and ask to observe storytime. Or, if you can, talk to the children’s librarian. It is really important that you know exactly what you are getting into! I’ve heard lots of MLIS students tell me ho much they love children’s books and that is why they want to be a children’s librarian. I’m here to tell you, it’s a LOT more about the kids and families than it is about the books. You have to like people or you will be miserable as a librarian. Also, be patient and stay enthusiastic! The job market is competitive but if you keep at it you will find a great position eventually.

 

Mary

MaryK

 

Please describe your position. Your title, duties, an average day in your work life.

 

My title is Early Literacy Senior Specialist. Those with “senior” in their titles in my library system are branch or department managers. I manage the early literacy department. We are made up of 8 people (not including me) – 2 librarians, 1 program coordinator, 3 library program associates, 1 clerk we share with the Children’s department, and a part-time shelver. We focus on early literacy internally (storytime training and evaluation, passive early literacy programming in the library, resources and support) and as outreach (a volunteer program that sends readers into ECE classrooms once a week for storytime, parent workshops, teacher training, partnerships, community events). I am the manager, so I make sure our work connects with the bigger picture mission of the library, work on community partnerships, manage our grant projects and budget, supervise the team, and get to do some of the workshops/presentations/events. I also do two weekly storytimes in a preschool classrooms – 1 in English and 1 in Spanish! Gotta keep up my skills! Average days mean lots of email, probably some meetings, and maybe a workshop/event/storytime.

 

What attracted you to your current position? Was it an intentional move, a gut feeling, a happy accident, or a matter of convenience?

 

I had been in my previous job for 10 years or so and while I liked it, and the library system I was with, I was a little burned out. When this position came open it seemed like too good an opportunity to pass up. The supervisor was someone I had worked with in the past on committee work, and I liked and respected her. It just seemed the right time to move up in terms of my career and my skills.

 

What things give you the most joy in your position?

 

Storytime, always and forever. Working with creative and passionate people – both inside my library and in the larger library community. Partnering with other organizations to get the word out about the importance of the first five years of life – and how EASY it is for a parent or caregiver to help their child get ready for Kindergarten. Talking to parents and caregivers about the same – and seeing them light up, realizing that they CAN and perhaps already DO so many great things for their kids.

 

What’s most challenging for you?

 

There are many things that can be challenging – sometimes convincing others that early literacy IS important and worth the library’s time (although I’m fortunate in that my system has devoted an entire department to it, and made it a strategic initiative) is one of them.

 

If this is not your last career move, where would you like to go from here?

 

Honestly, I’ve only been here a year and a half – I’m still new! I haven’t thought much beyond this. If I could define my dream job, though, I think it would involve sharing picture books and early literacy information with parents and kids 100% of the time. I get super excited when I find a wonderful new book and I want to share it with EVERYONE.

 

Pretend I’m an MLIS student, eager to figure out how to get your job. What’s the advice you’d give me?

 

Wow. My path here certainly wasn’t a planned one, so it’s hard for me to say. Hone your storytime skills. Read anything and everything you can about early literacy, and TALK about it. Demonstrate your passion. Be willing to learn from other departments and find out how early literacy and youth services fits in with a library’s bigger picture activities. At the same time, advocate for your department! Ask lots of questions. Buy a monkey puppet and name him Sammy and take him to every storytime. That last one is optional.

 

Soraya

soraya

 

Please describe your position. Your title, duties, an average day in your work life.

 

I am a Youth Services Librarian at the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District for the last three years.  It’s hard to describe just one day in my position because it’s chaotic and random so I’ll give just a brief overview of what a typical work week looks like:

-Two toddler storytimes, two to four outreaches between elementary, private and charter schools, community centers, and day cares, generally one school age program (Mad Science!), and possibly one teen program (video games, science, technology, anime, crafts, etc.)

-Managing eight employees including scheduling and cross training, and being the Person In Charge periodically throughout the week

-Working the desk answering reference, reader’s advisory, technology, and homework help including covering Reading Buddies at least one day a week which is a program where our teen volunteers help school aged kids with their reading skills, and maybe I’ll get two hours of off desk time a week

-Maintaining professional development through Storytime Underground, ALA, ALSC, and NLA (Nevada Library Association) by attending webinars and trainings, serving on committees and taskforces, keeping up on trends and news, and now mentoring others to work in Youth Services

 

What attracted you to your current position? Was it an intentional move, a gut feeling, a happy accident, or a matter of convenience?

I discovered my librarian career by accident when I became a teenage volunteer at 14.  Since I can remember, my family visited the library every week for storytime and books and when I was old enough, my mom forced me to start volunteering.  I hated it at first because it didn’t entail reading but the librarians I worked with were awesome and got me involved with all aspects of Youth Services.  I eventually was hired as a Page at 16, promoted to Circulation when I graduated from high school, again to a Youth Services Assistant when I got my undergrad degree and realizing that I loved the work I did, pursued my MLIS and voilá!  I am very fortunate to have found a profession I am passionate about and would not trade it for anything.

 

What things give you the most joy in your position?



There is no better feeling in the world than having an amazing storytime, getting bear hug tackled by a horde of Kindergartners, or when a child or teen comes back to you raving about the book you recommended to them and asking for more titles.

 

What’s most challenging for you?



The most challenging aspect of this position actually has to do with Youth Services as a whole and how undervalued and under-appreciated the field is in the grand scheme of things.  Youth Services staff genuinely care and have a passion for what they do and it reflects in their work and the services they provide.  We foster a love of reading and learning from birth through high school and build those relationships with the library that will hopefully lead them to being adults who value libraries and literacy.  However, for the amount of work that we accomplish day to day, the impact that we make and invaluable outputs and outcomes that come from instilling that love of books and learning and exploration is not treated with the same respect, not compensated appropriately, and not given the recognition we deserve.  It’s much harder for a Youth Services Librarian to move into upper management or higher level positions than it is for an Adult Services Librarian.  There are some people that assume that because we have fun that we are not working hard or that the work we do is not as important.  It is beyond frustrating and a bit soul crushing to put your heart and more often that you’d think, your literal blood, sweat and tears into your work and to not be valued for that above and beyond effort.  Maybe someday?  I can dream…

 

If this is not your last career move, where would you like to go from here?



My next goal is to move into a department head position but ideally I would like to keep moving up and become a director one day so that I have the power to change the library systems for the better, embrace the a new era of librarianship and to give the support to Youth Services that it deserves.

 

Pretend I’m an MLIS student, eager to figure out how to get your job. What’s the advice you’d give me?

 

Do not stop learning.  Don’t stop growing and bettering yourself not just professionally but personally as well.  There are some many people who become content and/or jaded in their positions, who lose their drive and willingness to try beyond doing the bare minimum of that job.  Don’t lose your passion and if you find that happening, reevaluate and search for what drove you into this field and what makes you happy so you don’t become a mindless drone going through the motions day by day.  Find new venues that get you excited, revamp old ideas that will motivate you again.  You can do it and we at Storytime Underground are here to support you!  You are amazing and talented and don’t let anyone make you believe otherwise!

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