Endings and Beginnings

Can you believe another semester is coming to a close?! I sure can’t. For me, this means not only the end of the spring semester, but also the end of my internship at Skokie Public Library. It is bittersweet. I am excited to move on, taking the skills gained from the internship experience into my final semester at Dominican and into my career. However, I am sad to leave my Skokie friends, and the community that I grew up in and had the chance to reconnect with. 

This semester was like no other. It started like usual. However, after only 9 weeks, the whole world shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At the beginning in March, when this all started, I had hoped to be able to get back to the library to wrap up and say goodbye. Unfortunately, we’ve had to stay closed. We had to miss our intern career days, and I had to miss a storytime visit at Tot Learning Center where my niece Hannah attends. Although during this difficult time, I’ve found myself wanting to succumb to negative thoughts, I’ve also found it doesn’t help my wellbeing or mental health to wallow. 

Very cool screen print I got to make with Jay Ryan of The Bird Machine at Staff Day.

So, I’m not going to focus on what’s been missed, but what’s been gained. While working from home, I got to try my hand at remote programming, and creating e-book lists. I’ve gotten more comfortable with Zoom, with Slack, and with Basecamp. I’ve gotten to cut my commute time down from 30 minutes to 1 minute, and have gotten to eat lunch with my husband every day. There are silver linings.

One thing I will definitely miss about Skokie Library is the culture. Open door policies, warm and inclusive staff, and a true commitment to the public all make this library a great place to be a patron and staff member. Another testament to the outstanding culture is the excellent response to the pandemic. I will use these examples as a beacon when finding the right fit for my career.

Thank you to Skokie Library and to my mentor, Holly, for this invaluable opportunity! And, I know I will be back to say hi, and because I have a huge stack of books to return!


2020 Vision

New year, new blog post! Holiday break meant no homework, time with my family, and, let’s be real, a chance to catch up on Netflix! This short vacation has left me feeling energized and ready for what’s ahead–exactly what a vacation should do.

One of the classes I’m taking this spring is Storytelling. I chose to enroll because of high recommendations from Dominican alums here at SPL, and because I could definitely gain more confidence in my public speaking! Our first story is meant to be told to preschoolers. Great! I’m a pro! Storytimes from first semester have left me totally prepared! Where’s my flannel board?! The only caveat is…no props in class. I think it will go well, and I know I always have my trusty animal noises to fall back on.

The other class I’m taking this semester is an online class about social media. While I’m not an active social media user personally, I know how important it is to be aware of the different platforms and comfortable using them. So far, the class has given me ideas of how to incorporate social media in youth programming for my future career. It’s also gotten me out of my comfort zone technology-wise, and encouraged me to try new things, which are helpful skills to have both personally and professionally!

This semester at SPL has already started off well, with a preschool visit, desk time, and lots of pulling resources for teachers. I look forward to what’s next!


New decade

The beginning of a new decade! Looking back at the past 10 years, it is amazing how all the different choices I’ve made have lead me here to Skokie. 10 years ago I was still in middle school, with absolutely no clue about what I wanted to do when I grew up. Honestly, I didn’t know what I wanted to do until about 3 years ago. Two moments stand out as being life changing. One, was moving to Chicago a little over 5 years ago. The second, strangely, was watching A Grand Night In The Story of Aardman 3 years ago. Laying on the couch with my family during the holidays, I remember watching this documentary and having something click in my head. They touched on fire that happened in one of their archival libraries, which resulted in them losing loads of original footage. I wanted to learn more about libraries and all that they do. After doing a deep dive into learning about everything libraries, I came out knowing that I wanted to be a librarian. And I haven’t looked back since.

And here I am! In my last semester at Dominican, applying for jobs. Time went by so quickly it’s hard to keep up. I am excited about the ways in which the classes I am taking (collection management and digital humanities) will intersect with the work I do here. I imagine that the collection management class will have more relevance to my work here, but time will tell about whether or not the digital humanities class has any bearing on my work here. I have found my fig, and with it I will plant a new tree that will open up even more wonderful and interesting paths for me to take.


The Saddest Story Ever Told

Okay, the title may be a little dramatic but it is still a sad story!

It’s with the deepest of regrets that I have to announce my leave of the Skokie Internship Program. Life has a funny way of throwing unexpected curveballs your way and while sometimes you get lucky with a homerun, more often than not it’ll strike you out.

My time here at Skokie Public Library is one I will cherish forever. As my first library experience, I couldn’t have picked a more welcoming, professional, and inclusive group of people if I tried. I would like to thank everyone in the Community Engagement office for treating me as part of the team since day one, and everyone else at SPL for being so open to questions and curiosities.

Although I may not be able to commit the time for an internship, I would love the opportunity to stay involved and volunteer whenever I am able to! If you’re looking for an extra set of hands (or eyes, or ears, or just someone along for the ride) please do not hesitate to reach out to me at LMontemayor@my.dom.edu. It is my sincerest hope that today is not the last day you’ll see me walking through the stacks and talking to strangers (a natural tendency passed down from my mother).

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!


Feeling Educated

“An Education is not so much about making a living as making a person”

– Tara Westover, “Educated”

My first official Senior Services interaction and I have to say…WOW. What an experience!

In today’s Talking Books session, we discussion Tara Westover’s memoir, Educated. Westover tells the story of her survivalist upbringing in rural Idaho and the strength it took to overcome her abusive upbringing to embark on a journey of education – worldly and scholarly.

With 17 patrons, and 3 staff members (Matt, Judy, and myself), the conversation was stimulating and endless. It is said that it’s rude to talk about politics and religion (you never know who you’re going to offend), but todays crowd was anything but shy on either topic! Varying opinions, judgements, and curiosities filled the air with enthusiasm and passion. Though at times that enthusiasm and passion could be derailing, setting the group back on course and my structuring the conversation was well received.

What was perhaps the most interesting and rewarding aspect of leading today’s Talking Book was listening to the different perspectives, feelings, and reactions to the memoir based on each individuals background and experiences. (It is important to note that the group was of various ages – not all “seniors.”) Patrons shared personal anecdotes, parallel readings related to the topic, and even brought their own expertise and language into the conversation.

I wish my grandfather could have been there to join in. He would have loved it.

I’m very excited and hopeful to join in on next month’s reading, Forces of Nature, by Jane Harper, to hear what the group has to say next! Hopefully we’ll see them all again at Savvy Skokie Seniors!


Love from the Rockies

For Thanksgiving I went back home to Denver, where I revisited some of my favorite libraries and bookstores. Walking into the Central Library downtown, I realized that I was seeing the library with new eyes. I stood there, under a giant chicken skeleton, in awe of my home library buzzing with questions.

Image result for central library denver
Colorado Public Radio (CPR) News, German artist Andreas Greiner’s “Monument for the 308” at the Denver Central Library

Curiosity about the inner workings of the library filled my head as I walked around the children’s area, “Do they have a closet full of puppets hidden away somewhere like Skokie? How does a library system with multiple branches differ from one with only one branch? How do they plan their programs and displays? etc…” It’s amazing how much my time here at Skokie has shaped how I look at libraries; how it has strengthened my passion for all things library. I found that my desire to help and give back to my communities ran even deeper than I had thought.

The highlight of my visit to the library was when someone mistook me for a librarian and asked for book recommendations for their daughter. From what I learned here at Skokie and at Dominican, I was actually able to help her! This happened again later at a local bookstore; it made me reflect on what it was about me that made people think that I was a librarian/bookseller. At first I chalked it up to appearance (glasses, cardigan, hair in a bun), but it felt like it had to be more than that. Perhaps all the things I have learned at Dominican and Skokie shined through me like a beacon, drawing people to me. Or maybe they heard me recommend books to my brother and assumed that I worked at the respective locations as a result. Who can say! Either way, I’m thankful for everything I have learned so far at Skokie and Dominican and I am so grateful that I can put my new skills to practice even outside the library.


Thankful for…

Thanksgiving was last week, but there’s no wrong time to count our blessings and reflect on the things were grateful for, especially during this season of giving! Here’s a short list of some of the things I’m thankful for during the first half of my Skokie internship:

  • The welcoming nature of the librarians I work with in the cozy CE office! There’s always carts of books, puppets, backpacks, book bags, and other wonderful youth materials coming in and out, and no one blinks an eye. Everyone’s open for a quick question or feedback, and that has made me really feel like a part of the team.
  • The patrons that I get to meet when working at the Youth Services desk! With each question, I learn a little more about how the library is organized and how it operates–even if it’s just about whether the craft room door stays unlocked or not.
  • The inclusive and diverse youth collection! One of the things I strive for when picking materials for my preschool storytime, booklists, and book bags for teachers is to have an array of authors and characters. This is rarely even an issue at SPL. The youth collection is so thoughtfully put together that choosing diverse materials is a given. We are lucky to be immersed in this early in our careers, so it’s definitely something we can carry along with us.
  • That my classes at Dominican align with the things I’m working on at SPL! One of my classes is about YA materials, so it’s a breeze to check out everything I need while I’m already in the library. My other class is about serving children and youth, so I get to learn about topics, current issues, and program ideas in class, and get to apply them to my work here, and vice versa!
  • The excitement and joy of the preschool classes I’ve visited so far! When I worked in a daycare classroom, it was so special to have visitors. The kids loved it, and I always walked away with something new to try with the kids. I love that now I get to be that visitor! It’s been fun to travel around Skokie, and see the differences in each school building and school culture, and even more fun to share with the students. One class even made me this cute poster!
  • That my work here reaffirms that I’m making the right decision to start a library career. I feel like my path has been a little winding, but it’s led me to the right place. Working with other people who care about learning, education, creativity, inclusivity, and community is comforting and energizing at the same time.

I can’t believe this semester is almost over! It feels like just yesterday that we had our orientation. It’s also hard to believe how much I’ve learned in such a short time. It’s been a whirlwind!

Until next time,
Lydia R.


Get Ready Savvy Seniors!

I am so excited (and incredibly nervous) to be leading the Savvy Skokie Seniors program for the second half of my internship here at SPL!

After researching trends in Senior Services in the US and putting together report with my findings, it was very interesting to see what libraries currently offer the seniors in their communities and the general consensus of what seniors want the library to offer.

While seniors are grateful and receptive to senior programming there is one detail that typically holds them back – they don’t want to be reminded that they are old. Seniors are more inclined to join in adult programming than senior programming.

Given this information, how do libraries find the common ground between being helpful and encouraging lifelong learning without the unintentional, “you’re outdated,” context? Librarian Kathleen Mayo proposes that libraries approach senior services the same as they do children, teens, and adults: identify services based off of their interests and abilities rather than age.

Such a simple concept!

This is what I have tried to keep in mind for Savvy Skokie Seniors. Our first session in January I am most excited for – we are having a story telling session (inspired by The Moth) on the topic of Gumption:

Description: Join us for a story sharing session inspired by The Moth organization. Prepare a story about go-getting. A moment of courageousness, spirit, or spunk. Tackling large obstacles, admitting mistakes, and times of nervousness. “Tell us about your gutsiest gamble and the mettle that forged them. You’ve got moxie, kid!”

I can’t wait to share with you all the successes (and not to successful aspects) of the program! Stay tuned!


Preschoolers and their Pets

October has been a busy month for the Skokie interns! Earlier this month, I made my first solo trip to the British Infant School for storytime. I was lucky enough to observe Miss Laura do her storytime at the same preschool, so I felt comfortable that morning. I was just as excited to present my storytime, as the kids were to hear it. The theme is “pets,” because 1. I am an overenthusiastic dog mom to my own dog, Daisy and 2. Having kids make animal sounds is so fun! I tried to keep the energy in the room up and positive. The kids were responsive to the books I brought, to the counting activity we did, and to the puppet “pets” that came along with me. However, their favorite activity was “walking the dog,” with scarves. We walked them around the rug, then did tricks like sit, jump, and roll over! With all the fun we had, I think everyone needed an afternoon nap—including myself!

Last week, Quetzalli, Lydia M., and I travelled to Tinley Park to the ILA Conference. We got to meet librarians and see what’s going on with libraries all over the state. I attended mostly Youth Services-focused sessions, which reaffirmed things I’ve already been trying to work on—like including diverse characters and authors in early childhood programming—and added some new ideas—like having adaptive and accessible resources in storytime for young patrons with special needs. My favorite session was one about getting ideas for programming from unique sources, which has sparked my creativity. I’ve been looking for ideas wherever I go now! 

In addition to collecting resources for preschool teachers, and working at the Youth Services desk, things have really been ramping up. I have been excited about the work I’ve been doing, and have been trying to soak up everything I can!


First Preschool Visit

How exhilarating to read, sing, and dance with such an engaged audience! Any nervousness that I felt before going to the British Infants school melted away once I actually began my storytime. Having seem some of the staff here at Skokie do their storytimes–all of whom did it so naturally and passionately–I knew I had a lot to live up to when I did my own storytime. Each person’s personality shines through their storytimes. I hope that with more practice that storytime will come as naturally to me as our Skokie staff; and then I can shine too. The children a the school were all excited to tell me about their day, about all the bird facts that they knew (since birds was the topic of our storytime), and anything else that popped into their heads. Admittedly, I was not the best at getting them to calm down and listen to the story. I was just as excited as them and wanted to listen to everything they had to say to me. After storytime, some of the children cam up to me and shyly asked if they could hug me and my puppets. That moment reaffirmed my desire to become a Youth Services librarian.