Get to know an…Early Learning Librarian



Arwen Ungar


Your title, duties, and what an average day might look like for you.


My title is Early Learning Librarian, which is wonderful because that means I really get to focus on early literacy and be a champion for these types of programs and services in the library, the district and out in the community. My duties include facilitating and coordinating the programming and services for children aged 0 to 6.  I’m also a supervising librarian so I also do a lot of scheduling and administrative work.  I am lucky to have a passionate and innovative staff of Senior Library Assistants who put on more than 1300 children’s programs last year!   They make the supervision part pretty easy.  My library is part of a larger district so I also spend time with my peers in workgroups and meetings making decisions about technology and youth services.


An average day for me really depends on the day of the week. Some days I have two programs in the library and one out and some days I don’t have any programs and three meetings. In a typical work week, I have at least 3 meetings and I usually visit two outside locations such as transitional housing or school groups for storytime and library promotion. I facilitate three in-library storytimes including a bilingual storytime. I also work about 10 to 12 hours a week on the various reference desks–there are 5 floors so that keeps it interesting!


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


My move here was definitely intentional. In addition to the opportunity to work in a new, beautiful building that has one of the only early learning centers of its kind it also happened to be a 15 minute drive from my house.  My last job was in a basement and about an hour and a half from home with traffic.   At the time, it was the only job that I had applied for in a year so I really wanted it. Dream job, dream location!


What things give you the most joy in your position?


I love outreach!  It’s really reaffirming to go out into the community, talk up the library and then see the people you met come into the library for the first time. I also love stretching myself and getting out of my comfort zone by providing bilingual storytime. It’s scary but I know it is something that we need to be offering. Storytime in general is the most mentally demanding but also the most rewarding. I love the moment when a baby learns how to clap or wave goodbye or just gives me a huge smile when they see me. Having proud parents tell me about the milestones their kids have made since they last saw me is also fantastic.


What’s most challenging for you?


Bilingual storytime! It’s definitely difficult to do programming in another language. There is at least one moment in each storytime where I completely forget how to speak any language. But I breathe deeply and it passes.


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


I’ve only been at this job for about 8 months so I am very happy right now.  I think ultimately I would like to be a branch manager at a smaller branch in the system or somewhere nearby.


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


Take a job no matter what the title, no matter how far the commute is. My very first job after graduate school was a Library Assistant job for 5 hours a week and was located an hour and a half away from my house without traffic.  That job helped me to get a second part-time job which eventually became full-time. Apply for jobs where you have to fill out the paperwork and hand deliver applications because these jobs get fewer applications than jobs that you can submit online. You may have to swing working two part time jobs for a while which is not great but doable in the short term.


Try lots of things, volunteer, get an internship but don’t kill yourself. Don’t be disheartened by a lack of response to job applications. You will get an interview eventually. It took me about 10 months to get a full-time job after graduating but many in my cohort had jobs before they graduated.  Everyone is different! Remember to breathe and don’t forget to take time for yourself and your family!


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