Tuesday, October 14, 2014


Two weeks ago, I canceled a program. I've never done that before. The guilt was unbelievable, but I was quite ill and there was no one else who could do it for me.

I've been cross-posting over at the ALSC and YALSA blogs lately (here, here, here), and this month, I missed my deadline. Not just missed it, I flat didn't write the post. I just totally forgot. I was horrified at myself because it's so unlike me.

Liz and I haven't been super regular posters like some of our other amazing librarian blogger friends, but I haven't had a post since June. JUNE. That's crazy, even for me.

Life at my library has been a little...difficult lately. I haven't had a branch manager (my immediate supervisor) since July. Both of the girls that work for me (a full-time position and a part-time position) unexpectedly left at the end of the summer. I spent the entire months of August and September doing three people's jobs, and y'all? I did not handle it well. In September, I did 21 programs BY MYSELF and then my body just shut down. I've taken more sick leave in the last two months than I did in the last year, which left NO ONE in my department (and then there was more guilt). Why did I try to do all of that? Because we have programming requirements and because I didn't want to disappoint the kids and because I didn't want to look bad and because there was no one else to do it and and and...the list goes on.

This post has been one of Library Lore's most successful. Read it and then come back and tell me how terrible I am at taking my own advice. I know.

Things are getting better. I have an excellent part-time assistant now and a full-time specialist starting in November. I'm telling myself over and over every day not to feel guilty for things I can't control.

I don't have much more to say other than this: We have to stop doing this to ourselves. I have to stop doing this to myself. If you're currently doing this to yourself, STOP. There has to be another way. Let us, as a community, help you find another way.

In FAR MORE FUN NEWS, Here's a list of some happenings in Ally's world:

  • Marge Loch-Wouters came to Mississippi! I met her! I had dinner with her! She's an excellent hugger! It was awesome! AHHHH!
  • My state library association conference is this week. I'm leaving today! It's one of my favorite things we can do. I recapped it last year, and I expect to have just as much fun this year.
  • I had my annual fall open house for high school students and I had 241 teens show up! WOO! My biggest program number EVER.
  • I've deciding that interviewing people is the actual worst thing ever. I hope I don't have to do it again for quite some time.

Hopefully we'll get back to a more regular posting schedule soon. Liz and I both love being part of this community. Thanks for being so supportive of us, especially on twitter. I wouldn't have survived the last few months without y'all.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Some Truths About Searching for a Library Job

As a lot of you guys know, I recently resigned from my job, moved halfway across the country, and started a job as a Children’s Librarian in a new system.  Things have been busy—I’m near more friends and family, so my persona life is busier and more fulfilling.  My job is also different, but we’ll get to that later.

Right now, I want to talk about the process of switching jobs.  Keep in mind that not every case will be like mine.  However, if you’re thinking of switching jobs, or know someone who is in the process of getting a new job, I thought I would share some truths and tips with you.

 1.)   Do what is right for you.  There are a lot of different reasons to want to leave a job—maybe you want to move from librarian to branch manager, maybe you want to relocate, maybe you think your skills would be better in a position where the daily work is different.  As you begin to look for something new, you’ll be thinking a lot about the ramifications this has on the job you may be leaving, and how patrons and colleagues are affected.  Although it’s important to be gracious and make sure you are still performing all of your duties as expected, make sure that you are making the decision that is best for yourself. It’s okay to look for something where you feel professional and personal satisfaction, because sometimes if you don’t, it can start to feel like certain areas of your life are lacking.  This last point should go without saying, but don’t spend your work time on your job searching process.  That needs to be on your personal time.

 2.)    Finding a job requires resources.  When I was looking at other jobs, I would spend my evenings filling out job applications.  It was pretty tiring—I would come home, make dinner, and sit down to write cover letters or work on applications.  Although ultimately rewarding, this isn’t a particularly relaxing way of spending the evening.  In addition to taking time, I also found that I needed cash so I could travel to and from job interviews.  If you’re putting a lot of pressure on yourself to get a new job, make sure you’re not straining your resources.  Be sure to leave some nights for relaxation, and try to plan your finances accordingly.  For those of you who are friends of job seekers, be a good ear if they complain about paying extra for gas and being tired. It’s not easy.

 3.)   Have a sounding board (shout out to Ally here).  Maybe you want to practice interview questions, or it could just be the case that you want to rant to someone about the adventures and misadventures you get into as you search for the perfect position.  You may be very private about your desire to find a new job—and that’s okay. Try to find someone with a good ear. It’ll make you feel less frustrated as you go about the process.

 4.)   Give it time.  You may not find the right position right away, and sometimes library systems have odd hiring timelines, meaning the may not hire you right away after your interview. It’s not fun, especially if you feel you need to relocate.  Follow your gut.  If a position doesn’t feel right to you, it may not be a good fit. If there’s something you really want, make an extra effort without being pushy.  It took me seven months to land the position that was right for me.

5.)   Give it patience. Step back when you need to.  I know some people who claim to have gotten every job they’ve interviewed for, and it’s okay if you’re not one of them.  It’s okay if you get frustrated.  This is where you’ll need your sounding board.

 6.)   Network.  Never underestimate the power of professional connections.  You never know when someone will send a posting your way, or introduce you to someone in a system you’d love to work for.   And keep it up when you get that new job.  You may still want those connections one day.

I can provide information about my process that’s more personal and gets more in detail, but I wanted to share something helpful.  Hopefully these reminders have helped those if you who are or know job seekers, and otherwise, I hope it’s given you something to chew over.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Recent Things Liz Has Been Enthusiastic About (3)

Despite how long it has been since I have written an enthusiasm post, let me assure that you I have been excited about a lot of things.  I know! I'll start with my new job.

In mid May, I moved to Washington D.C. where I started a position as a Children's Librarian at a public library.  I'm very excited to be working with a children's staff of three other people (and lots of other great folks) and be living in the vicinity of my brother and several of my friends.

One of the things I get to do at my new job is Baby Time, which is very intense.  I do two back to back sessions, one at 10:30 and one at 11:00.  We distribute tickets to the first 70 people who come, and they all attend the 10:30 session.  Everyone else joins us at 11:00.  I get to work with a lot of bilingual children and nannies, so I've been learning new things that I can use with them.  One of my new favorite songs is "Mi Cuerpo." Lots of toddlers love to get up and dance with me, and even the babies love to bounce up and down on their caregivers' laps when I put this one on.

My current system has kids keep track of how much they read, so my branch is having a "Can You Read More Than A Librarian?" contest.  I'm keeping track of how much I read, and any child who reads more than I do gets to throw water balloons at me during our end of summer reading party.

Finally, this wouldn't be an enthusiasm post without at least some mention of books.  Here are three that I've read and adored this year.  No one is surprised that all of these come highly recommended by Ally, and now by me.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Recent Things Ally Has Been Enthusiastic About (5)

I mean, it's summer reading. So as enthusiastic as is humanly possible, amirite? Here are the things that are keeping me afloat this summer:


Obviously. It's me. Here are a few of the books that I've read recently that have just delighted me.

Wildlife by Fiona Wood
September 16, Poppy
Source: Goodreads

The Terror of the Southlands by
Caroline Carlson
September 9, HarperCollins
Source: Goodreads

Beware the Wild by Natalie Parker.
October 21, HarperTeen
Source: Goodreads

Cool Internet Stuffs

  • New Storytime Underground website! With a cool new initiative: Storytime University! Who doesn't love badges??
  • Jbrary posted new verses to the Zoom Zoom song--which was already a HUGE hit with my storytime kiddos--and they LOVE THEM. Thanks ladies!
  • Debi Ohi illustrated a beautiful quote from Ame Dyckman, and then made it into a print-ready poster: this is TOTALLY going on the side of my shelves!
  • The New York Times, pediatricians in general confirm a thing we've known for awhile.
  • My girlcrush Anne Helen Peterson is killing it on BuzzFeed. Seriously. This lady is amazing.
  • Stuff Mom Never Told You -- a funny, feminist, well-researched podcast that cites its sources. It's a librarian's dream, y'all. Be sure to check our their podcast on YA!

So. I'm in the depths of summer reading, I'm #alaleftbehind, and I'm trying to stay positive. What are y'all enthusiastic about lately?

Monday, May 12, 2014

Fifth Grade Library Tours

I am pretty late in sharing this post, and I'll share more about why I've been so busy soon.  Around Valentine's Day, I had the opportunity to give a group of ten fifth grade girls a tour of the library. They were part of a group called GEMS and wanted to see the library for an hour.  I figured these patrons would rather be busy and active while they visited the library, and not have an adult talking at them the whole time, so I decided to send them on a scavenger hunt.

I had designed this scavenger hunt a while ago, and I kept a couple of different factors in mind as I assembled it.  I wanted to ask questions that would do two things: have elementary school children think about what items and services the library offers and teach them how to use materials, including the library catalog.  I also didn't want people to be tripping each over while they did the scavenger hunt, so I made sure to put all of the questions in different order on each of the sheets.  There were also a few bonus questions in case anyone was super fast.

I asked the girls if they wanted to work individually or in pairs, and they unanimously agreed on working in pairs.  Since I know you're all wondering, here is a copy of our scavenger hunt sheets. I had originally designed this as a spring scavenger hunt, so maybe a few of the questions were bizarre given that the tour was in February, but everyone rolled with it.  Later I asked on a scale of one to ten (ten being super fun) how enjoyable the tour was, and most girls gave it a rating of somewhere between seven and ten.

Usually when I have tours in the library, I share whatever happens to be my favorite of the new picture books at the time, so I shared Crankee Doodle by Tom Angleberger and I Scream, Ice Cream by Amy Krause Rosenthal.

We finished up by making these origami heart bookmarks.  Origami has never been my strong suit, so I made several practice bookmarks before the tour to get it down.  Only one person really struggled with it, and for the most part, the girls helped each other out.

That was a wrap on our fifth grade tours!  I was really glad to give these girl a more in depth look at our library and teach them an interesting new craft.

How do you guys handle fifth grade tours at your library? What awesome and exciting things have you done for them? Please leave links and let me know in the comments, because I'd love to hear about them.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Outreach Success (2)

Hi everyone!  Things have been very busy in Iowa, but I am still doing outreach, so I'm back to share more books and activities that were big hits. If you want to read more about how I typically do outreach you can check out my first Outreach Success post.  Today's post will also focus on preschoolers.  For now, let's get on with the books.

I'm really surprised I haven't heard more librarians raving about this book. Monkeys are almost always a hit with preschoolers, and this book has some fantastic interactive elements.  Absolutely every child loved the ending.

Of course, the perfect follow-up to this was Five Little Monkeys Sitting In A Tree with sign language.  Thanks to Marge for making the video and Amy to linking to it. It took the kids a few minutes to catch onto this one, but usually once you got to monkey three they were all pro. 

Another fantastic interactive book. I know some people have been nervous to share this book because of too many kids coming up to tap the tree.  Before reading this book I said, "Miss Liz will tap the tree, and you can pretend to do it from where you're sitting."  It worked great and the kids really enjoyed it and grasped the concepts. I also know people have given kids picture sets so that they can do the actions with their own pictures during the read aloud.

In between stories I did Wiggle Your Fingers, which I originally found in Amy's post. If you don't know it, here's how it goes:

Wiggle Your Fingers!
Wiggle your fingers up,
Wiggle your fingers down.
Wiggle your fingers all around.
Wiggle them on your shoulders,
Wiggle them on your head.
Wiggle them on your knees,
And tuck them into bed.

I finished with a Jan Thomas book, which are always a hit.  I taught the kids the lullaby before we read the book and the loved it.  There were gasps of surprise and sheer delight at the whole thing.

So there you have it.  Here are the books the preschoolers in my town have been loving. Please feel free to tell me if you've had any great outreach successes.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Recent Things Ally Has Been Enthusiastic About (4)

It's been awhile since I was enthusiastic about much of anything.. Let's remedy that, shall we? Lately, I've been excited about these things:


All three of these ladies are amazing and completely deserve this recognition. Check out the current LJ or click here to read all about it. Y'allllllll our PLN is LEGIT.


Credit: E! Online
It is no secret that I love Veronica Mars like A WHOLE LOT and that I was a kickstarter backer and this whole thing has been THRILLING.  It was even more fun that it turned out to be a librarian field trip for me and my friend Callie.



This weekend, my BFF came to town to visit me (HOORAY!) and we did a lot of amazing things that were amazing. Including the fact that we redboxed this masterpiece:

Source: IMDB
Ok, but the thing is that Much Ado is my favorite PLAY and one of my favorite literary works EVER and this whoooole thing was brilliant. I have been excited about this since the news leaked that Joss had done this project, and I was so excited to share it with the BFF. I was DELIGHTED and GIGGLY and RIDICULOUS the whole time we were watching it and Laura, bless her lovely soul, didn't tell me to calm down once. Because my enthusiasm, it was intense.


Also. It wouldn't be me if I wasn't getting enthusiastic about at least one book. I'm enthusiastic about a LOT of books lately, but for brevity, here's an excellent one:

Source: Goodreads
This book comes out in June. Mad props to Kelly and Callie for telling me about this because OH MY GOSH Y'ALL. This book is about teenage girls and hysteria and relationships and fear and holy freaking moly. Pre-order this for yourselves and your library NOW. PLEASE AND THANK YOU.

What are Y'ALL enthusiastic about this week? HIT ME WITH IT.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014


Like most of all of us, when I stepped into my current position, I inherited my programs. My predecessor and her predecessor were great, great children's librarians and they served the community fully at the time they were there.


There has been a ton of economic growth in this town in just the last year or so. And lots of new families are moving in. And I'm trying my best to offer fun programs that everyone has access to.

So. Recently I've added:

  • Toddler Time!!
I've talked about this some, but my storytime group has grown a lot. My "baby" storytime we've always done was birth-36 months. That's a HUGE developmental gap. It's not so huge when you only have 5 or 6 kids coming but in the fall I was averaging about 15-20 and it was chaos.  So I split my groups. My baby storytime is now birth-18 months. My Toddler Time is 18-36 months (AND SO MUCH FUN), and Preschool Story Time is 3-5 years. So far, it's working really, really well. My babies that were really intimidated by the big walkers have started to babble and thrive in their own storytime with a much larger play space! And the Toddlers just love life. It's been fun to watch. Also this group LOVES anything that comes from Jbrary. Anything. Jbrary, y'all rock.

  • Family Story Time
This town has more working parents than its two nearest sister cities (we're all suburbs of the capital city but our towns are SO SO DIFFERENT), so I have to have more programs in the evening. Sometimes it's a drag, BUT I'm trying to make them a lot of fun for all of us. So I've started a Family Story Time, once a month in the evenings. Thanks to everyone on twitter and also Sarah who sent me some emails with some excellent information. I'm not going to lie. It has not been well-attended. YET. I'm playing with the times, and I've opened it up to 0-5 years. I just have a huge percentage of my patron base that have never been able to attend a single daytime storytime. And that totally bums me out. Even though this hasn't been a big success yet, I really have high hopes for it in the future. And I will take any suggestions y'all have to make it better!!

  • Middle Grade Book Club
We don't have a lot of programming that hits this "tween" spot (or whatever we're calling 9-12 year olds now), so me and my FT specialist came up with this.  It's D's program, she plans and runs it. So far the books picked have been WHEN YOU REACH ME and DOLL BONES. It's in its infancy, but we're excited about being able to provide something specifically for our kids that have kind of outgrown our afterschool programming but aren't ready for our teen stuff yet. We're hoping this will be popular enough to launch more tween programming!

Any suggestions or concerns, as always, are appreciated. What new things are you doing for your library? Let us know in the comments! Link to your awesome posts!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Take Your Child to the Library Day!

As some of you guys might know, Saturday February 1st was Take Your Child to the Library Day.  This is something I learned exactly one week before the fact when I was browsing Amy Koester's blog.

We currently don't offer evening storytimes because when we did, no one came.  Saturday storytimes are also rare because I am a one person department, and have a lot of other responsibilities to take care of throughout the week.  Because I found out about Take Your Child to the Library Day so last minute, I decided to keep things simple with two family storytimes and a passive program.

I'm fortunate to have a great relationship with our local newspaper--the editor is always willing to talk about the library.  I asked him to share some basic information about our program.  We also put up posters in the library, and every day on Facebook, we shared one reason why parents, guardians, and caregivers should take children to the library.  A photo of the craft we'd be making at the program was even shared on Facebook!

When programming in winter, or really when trying to leave your house at all in winter, there are certain things that one cannot control.  Yes, I'm talking about it. That four letter word. Snow.  The stuff decided to come out of the sky some time between midnight and one a.m. Saturday before my program, meaning the plows were still trying to get the roads cleaned up when I held my 11:00 storytime.   Thankfully I still had a few attendees.

My library director was kind enough to come in and help with the program.  Obviously, we selected library themed stories to share during this particular storytime.

For extension activities, we obviously sang "If You're Happy And You Know It Read A Book."  Thank you Jbrary for this and all of your other awsome videos!
 <iframe width="440" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/TZLPGxK3yRI" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

We also have a set of cards (made by my director) that feature different numbers of the Dewey Decimal system and pictures of the items that the books are about.  The kids have to look at the picture to figure out what books in that area are about.  For example, 811.54 features a quill and an inkwell, and that's also the one the children always struggle with.

Our craft was really enjoyable.  I invited kids to recreate a favorite book cover or scene from a book and add googly eyes.  As an example I redid the cover of Let's Sing A Lullaby with the Brave Cowboy, but we set out several books on the tables in our program room to help inspire attendees.  The kids really enjoyed having fun with crayons and glue.  I invited them to either take their creations home or leave them with me to be hung in the library.

While I was in storytime, this was our passive program.  I set out paper, crayons, and a list of instructions on a table we have near our new books.  Because googly eyes are a choking hazard to little ones who are looking to stick everything in their mouths, I housed the eyes behind the circulation desk.  One of the first instructions was to go ask for eyes if you wanted to do the craft.  I also e-mailed my staff a copy of the instruction.

I had a lot of fun planning and implementing this program.  I'm really looking forward to next year when I can plan farther ahead and do more.  Did you guys celebrate Take Your Child to the Library Day?  What did you do?

Friday, January 31, 2014

When Things Aren't Perfect

There's a lot of guilt wrapped up in youth services.

I mean, this isn't news to any of us. It's just something I've been dealing with a lot lately.  The past few weeks at work have been really hard, for lots of reasons. I've had an open position in my department for almost 8 weeks. Everyone here keeps getting sick so we're all covering each other. I've been involved in really neat outside professional development things that take up some work time. I'm working a lot of extra hours on desk. These things are no one's fault. But because of situations out of my control, I haven't had as much time to do outreach and PR or get in contact with schools and teachers, or make myself seen in the community. And honestly, because of all these things, I haven't had the energy or frankly the motivation to work at it more, or harder.

My program numbers have suffered. And I know numbers aren't everything. But that doesn't make it easier.

I love programming. I really do. I love singing with my kids in storytime, I love watching their faces when I bring a really awesome performer in. I love bookclub conversations with teens about great YA books. I love it all. But many days it's also my least favorite part of my job, and a lot of that is because of the pressure that comes with it.  Some of the pressure is external, sure. If our programming stats are zero, well, my programming budget will be lower next year. That's a real-life cause and effect situation.

But there are other reasons it weighs on me. This would be the internal pressure, y'all. It looks bad when I spend money and lots of time on a program and no one comes. I know that's shallow, but we all think it, right? Your boss walks in and sees 10 kids in a program where you expected 40. You can't help but think that your superiors will be disappointed in you. You can't help but think that kids will have less fun with 10 other kids than if there were 40 there.  You can't help but be really embarrassed/guilty/nauseated when you have an outside performer booked and no patrons come.  You can't help but feel terrible that you've had your staff work like crazy on this program and then no one shows up.  And then your guilt about your situation starts to eat you up inside because if you really loved your kids, you would have worked just a little bit harder, right? Is this starting to sound familiar? I know a lot of you. I know how dedicated you are and how much you love your kids. I know you do everything you can do but it doesn't feel like enough sometimes. It's so hard not to feel like a failure.

And there's not a lot I can say here to console myself. I am the very worst at taking my own advice and once I fall into this shame spiral, it's hard for me to come back from it.  But I'm working on speaking truth to myself, and here is what I've come up with:

Things we can do:
  • Have a backup plan. This works for when you have a performer scheduled to come and they don't show. This also works when you planned a huge group activity and three people come. Just have something on hand that you can switch to. Even if you never have to use this plan, you'll feel so much better having it. It's like the Xanax in your purse that hope you don't have to take. My system requires a backup plan for summer reading and I used to think it was a hassle but now I wouldn't do anything without one.
  • Do the PR and outreach that you can do. Does your library have a dedicated PR person? AWESOME. My system has one PR person for 20 branches spread across 4 counties. She's got a lot on her plate. A lot of the day-to-day stuff is handled by me and my department as part of my daily responsibility. I know that if I do the things that I'm supposed to do, I will feel better whether or not my program room is full. And even if I don't feel better, I'll still know that I've done what was expected of me.
  • PLN, baby. P.L.N. Your personal learning network is so, SO important, and we as YS librarians are lucky to have amazing people everywhere to connect with.  So much so that Annie just wrote about this, and Julie just wrote about this, and Anna presents about this often, and I still want everyone to keep talking about how amazing we are and getting to know each other. Sara talks about how here. Because maybe then we can talk sense into each other.
  • Form relationships with your patrons. If these kids and parents know that you're invested in them, their families will come. This? This is the easy part. This is the part we excel at. Y'all are wonderful at this. Keep doing it.
Things we cannot do:
  • Force people to come to your programs. I mean, obviously. But it bears repeating. It's difficult because, for the most part, we target a demographic that can't drive. We want the kids to be excited about the programs, but if the parents don't buy in, no one's coming. It's a hard balance to find, and sometimes it doesn't work.
  • Everything. I want to. I wish I could. I'm a department of three: me, a FT specialist, and a PT specialist (the open position). Just in youth services in January (and winter is slow), I had 25 programs scheduled. I was present for about 20 of them. I ran 16. Plus I'm doing collection development. Plus interviews. Plus helping to run the library. I'm the only department head at my branch who isn't married/doesn't have kids. I'm delighted to help out/take extra shifts when other people can't, because I know my wonderful coworkers would help me. But it adds up. I want to be in the schools, I want to be talking to teachers and parents but...I just can't all the time. I physically can't. And I have to stop pushing myself to exhaustion.
I'm writing this as much for myself as anyone. Burnout is real and summer reading is imminent. Do what you can, friends. You can't do more.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Outreach Success

Much like a lot of you guys, outreach is part of my job.  It's actually a challenging part of my job, because as I've often said, I'm a one woman department.  I need to be visible and helpful to patrons who come see me at the library, whether they are regulars or only visit once every couple of months.

Of course, some of my favorite patrons to serve are those who attend my storytimes.  However, people in my town to tend to have large families, perhaps because many folks are religious, or because in areas with lots of farms, people tended to have more children.  Sometimes families aren't available to bring every child to storytime, or they can't make it to the library at all, so I interact with the kids through outreach.

We have a public preschool in town that has six classrooms in it, and there are morning and afternoon classes in each room.  When I go to see those classes, I see each class for about twenty minutes, which is why I only do this routine every other month.   Every class has a different chemistry: some are super bouncy, others are not as shy and tend to sit fairly. 

I always start my visits with "Finger In the Air" and end with "Teddy Bear Teddy Bear."  Even if they see me rarely, I like the idea of kids associating particular song with Miss Liz.  When I pick rhymes and songs between books, I try to pick whatever I've discovered lately that strikes me as particularly engaging.  For this last visit I consulted Amy Koester's blog post When We Get the Wiggles.  I thought I'd share what books worked and what didn't.

Let's start with the books that worked for each class.

With asking kids to count on every page, this book has a lot of great interactive components, and there's so much more you can do with it. If you do crafts with your outreach groups, there's a lot of potential for fun, developmentally appropriate crafts.  Also, the monkey sipping a cup of tea is basically what I would be if I was a monkey.

I may, from this day forward, stick a Jan Thomas book in my bag for every outreach visit I ever go on.  These books are perfect for kids with the wiggles.

And next, I have a book that I found worked better for some of the classes that were a little bit less wiggly and all over the place.  And that's not a judgment call!  Every class has bad days, just like I had a difficult storytime last week.  Some days certain books work better than others.
I have to admit, this one makes me sad because there's not a song to go with it.  Normally, Pete's other books are great for groups with any level of wiggles.  This is probably not my favorite Pete book. It is, however, chock full of a variety of animals, and kids love declaring, "Look! IT'S A TURTLE!"   For restless groups I swapped out another title, and I cannot remember what it was.

So those are some of the books I read and loved during outreach, what I used for different groups.  What books have you had a lot of success with recently?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Lessons From A Young Librarian

It's a glorious day in Iowa!  Not because it's a brisk winter day (-14 with a -40 windchill, I expect to see a polar bear at any moment) or because I'll be holding my first Baby and Me at this library.  And it's not just because we're finally back after a mini hiatus (little time off for the holidays and 16 hours of driving in one week are not conducive to blogging).  Today marks my one year anniversary at my job.

The position I currently hold is my first professional librarian position.  For that matter, it's the first position where I am full-time, not seasonal, salaried, insured, and have benefits (woohoo I finally get vacation time as of today!).

Having a year of experience behind me is rewarding. I've learned a lot but also get to wake up every morning knowing that there are more lessons to be had.

I wanted to share some of what I've learned thus far. 

To understand this post, there are two things you need to know: I live in a town of 11,000 and am essentially a one woman Children's Department.

Replacing someone who has been there for 25 years is hard.  If I had a dollar for every time someone said I had big shoes to fill, I could probably cover my car insurance payment for a month. When a librarian works in a library for that long, everyone in the community gets to know them, and they're involved in a lot of different areas.  People are used to their practices in terms of programming, caring for the collection, and outreach.

Not all of your patrons will love you right away.  Learning the names of lots of new kids and parents can be overwhelming, but it's overwhelming for them too.  Having a new children's librarian means the entire department has a whole different vibe.  Storytime is an adjustment period for some of them.  Likewise, some families may visit sporadically, so it'll take time to get to know them.

It's okay to retire the past and be your own person.  Even when you arrive at a new position, traces of the past might still linger.  In my case, George the monkey puppet lingered.  He was a darling monkey used often by my predecessor, and every time kids saw him, they'd expect me to use him.  But I wanted to be my own person, and I'll just be getting the nerve up to use puppets later this month.  I eventually retired George to a quiet place in my office.  He'll come out now and again for a round of 5 Little Monkeys, but he mostly stays on vacation. Putting him away lets the kids know that things are different, reminds me that I can do things my way, and let's us all know that things have changed and that's okay.

Be intentional.  Parents and caregivers will ask questions.  "Why do you sing so many songs in storytime?" "Do the kids get a snack today?" "Why does my child earn x amount of fake money for reading a certain book as part of summer reading?"  Always have a solid reason, but don't just say what parents need to hear.  If you say "We aren't having as many snacks because we've decided to devote a larger part of our budget to craft supplies," be sure you are in fact using that budget on craft supplies.

Everyone wants to know what you're doing. Okay, this isn't entirely true, but news can travel swiftly in a small town.  Be aware that in a small town, people may gossip, and news may travel in a path you didn't see coming.

Other people will tell you how to do your job. Listen actively, but stick with your gut.  This is by no means exclusive to librarianship. Some people who tell you how to do your job will have better ideas than others.  Whether they are right or wrong, be nice.  Listen to them.  Let you know that you hear them.  And then do whatever is right for you, your patrons, and your community.

Just because another library does certain things does not mean you must do them.  Sometimes I see other people's blogs or look at other people's blogs and wonder where they find the time and resources to do what they do.  Then I remember that we don't all have the same staff, budget, time, or resources.  The best way to get things done at your library is to move at your own pace.

You do not need the approval of others to be great at your job.  I love how many awesome opportunities there are to network online.  There are tons of great blogs to read and librarians to follow on Twitter.  I've been really blown away by some of the people I've met this year.  Sometimes, you really want the great people you meet to acknowledge how awesome you are, because it feels like getting admittance to a secret club.  Whether or not that happens, you are still great at your job.  It is what you are made of that makes you awesome, not what people think of your substance.

Grow your network.  Have support.  Having a professional network is vital. I heard about this job because Kelly sent me a link to it! And you also need your network for days when the kids are crazy in storytime or you cannot remember that one song. But don't forget your personal network.  You need people who you can talk to other parts of your life about, people to enjoy hobbies with, people who will sit and talk with you if personal problems try to take over your brain.

Kids want to be heard.  At the end of the day, it's about them.  Whether it's a regular patron or a kid you only see during classroom visits every few months, you'll never run short on kids who want to share something with you.  It could be an anecdote, them telling you about a book they read, talking about a toy, or asking you if you can have a certain program at the library.  Listen to the kids. Let them know that they are wanted and welcome.