The End and the Beginning

It’s crazy to think that I’m sitting here on my final day writing my final blog post. This experience has been so overwhelming, in all senses of the word. This semester has been a real challenge. Since my last post about time management and learning to develop work/life balance I have spent most of the time sick with respiratory illnesses (and now a bonus ear infection) and grieving and burying my grandmother who recently passed.

I have also, however, had a lot of positive movement on the job front and received a lot of positive feedback from management at both of my current jobs. Things are moving onward and upward and I know that my experience at Skokie has helped me to understand how to better navigate the terrain of planning for job placement as well as how to interview and apply appropriately. I feel I’m graduating with my career on a positive trajectory and am excited for what’s to come.

Working at Skokie has made me think a lot about what it means to work as a team and how it feels when a workplace feels like a community. I definitely have this feeling at my other jobs, but it has taken more time and breaking down silos. At Skokie, I have been made to feel from the very first day that I am part of a friendly and accepting whole. I have learned a lot about effective communication and scheduling here that I will take with me to other positions.

I have had such a wonderful experience learning from all of my mentors during this program – both official and non-official. Lynnanne has obviously been a tremendous help in so many ways – Lynnanne, I have loved getting [not so] ‘off topic’ with our in-depth conversations about library values and futures. All of the discussion opportunities with the entire group have been powerful and thought-provoking. Kathy and Allyson have been excellent leaders in helping me develop deeper readers advisory skills. Shelley and Kathy have been excellent to work with in helping me explore the beginnings of youth services Bookmatch. Working on a project like that getting the experience of trying to plan and communicate on that type of project has been an excellent learning opportunity. I can’t wait to see it find its legs later this year. And Shelley, thanks for introducing me as ‘secretly one of us’ to everyone. It made me feel so included. I hope you and I will get more chances to work together in the future of Youth Services. Miguel gave me opportunities which I found challenging and really helped me push on my adult services skills that are less developed – all with a great, futures-minded attitude toward service and teamwork. Holly, I’ll miss your fantastic attitude and sitting in a bed next to yours eating fried okra (a little ILA joke). Your passion and dedication to your work is so obvious and inspiring. Laurel, you’re brilliant, thoughtful, and patient. It is so evident that you love working with teens and I’m confident that you have a positive impact on all of them daily.

EDI work is deep, pervasive, ever-present and so very necessary. As a white librarian I have to take responsibility and ownership of my whiteness and what it means. It cannot just be lip service or something that is considered at EDI meetings, it is something I have to notice and consider in every aspect of my personal and professional life. The learning opportunities I was given in this area at Skokie were thought provoking and really valuable.

The sheer number of pilots and changes the library has decided on during my short tenure is really impressive. Even this week, seeing that Youth items will be going fine free is such an excellent, patron-oriented, equity-increasing move that it makes me really proud to be able to be associated with SPL as an organization.

Getting the opportunity to do a couple of pop-ups (shout out to Bill for his help with these!) really gave me the chance to see how engaged a community can be with their library. The attitude of the individual patron walking around the lobby at Skokie feels very different to those at other buildings I have experienced. Working pop-ups has given me a lot to consider about how I can bring this feeling to other buildings in the future.

While I have lead a number of children’s book discussions, getting the opportunity to choose a book and lead a discussion on The Girl Who Smiled Beads was fantastic. The skills certainly transfer over between adults and kids but it was really interesting to be able to go so in depth about such a difficult subject with a group of adults who were really very eager to participate. I could tell how much they personally enjoyed being there and clearly looked forward to this group.

The department and committee meetings I was able to be a part of were an excellent learning experience and Harwood Method is something I will continue to use in the future. I have loved the Innovation Spaces meetings and getting to know the people in that group better. Hannah has been such a lovely person to get to know and, as we both graduate this weekend, I know she will go on to do fantastic things within our profession.

Attending board meetings and getting to interact with Richard and Laura has been a great experience that has made me more confident in approaching and starting conversations with the administration at my other buildings. Seeing Richard ‘in action’ at the board meetings has given me a better idea of which skill sets I will need to improve to eventually find myself as a library director, a goal which has only been cemented and clarified through my experience here at Skokie. Leah is truly a gem and such a good first impression of what the library wants to project and cultivate in its new employees. It is so wonderful to see how valued she is because it is so well deserved.

My fellow interns, you have taught me more than you know. I have loved getting to know you, and only wish we had even more meetings during which I could hear about the wonderful, inspiring, and impressive things you have been doing. You ladies are all amazing and I know you will have wonderful success in your future careers – please keep in touch.

Thank you to Dominican for providing this opportunity and for all of the Dominican mentors for your insights and assistance. You’ve been lovely to work with.

There truly isn’t enough time to mention and thank everyone who has made in impact on me during this experience. Somehow this goodbye post has turned into a love letter to the building, to this experience, and to all of you and I think that says a lot about how Skokie makes one feel, as I am not one for a lot of cheesiness! Thank you for this experience, thank you for everything, SPL. There’s a million reasons why your community has so much love for you.

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I’m Bad at Goodbyes

Next week will be our last at SPL and for me, it’s a bit bittersweet. I am sad to be leaving the library but beyond grateful to have had the opportunity to work here with dedicated staff and often equally dedicated patrons. I can confidently say that if it were not for the two semesters I spent at SPL, I would be at home quietly freaking out, uncertain as to what I was getting myself into. Instead, I am confident that I would like to work with teens, open to the idea of working with adults or teens, willing to start anywhere at a library (well, almost) to work my way up, entertaining the idea of working in a school library if not a public one, and have some very necessary experience under my proverbial belt.

What can I really say but thank you and don’t make me go? In a very sentimental fashion, Skokie Public Library will always be my first adult library love so naturally, I will remember this forever. Ok, I’m going to go now before I cry in front of small children at the YS desk.

Thank you to everyone, especially Richard, Leah, Laurel and the entire LE department. You have been so welcoming and have spoiled me silly with your hospitality and immense knowledge. It’s been a pleasure, maybe you’ll see me here again as an employee in the near future.

 

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Patience is a Virtue (Just not necessarily one that I have…)

I spoke at our recent session about the stress I have been feeling about finding gainful employment post-graduation. I was feeling very frustrated at putting in applications and going to interviews and not getting called or getting rejections.

During this time it’s been valuable to know that a lot of excellent Skokie employees I look up to dealt with a large amount of rejection before ending up here. My father, who is a several times published author, used to keep a wall of his office covered in rejection letters. It’s been helpful to think of all of the people I respect who have not gotten to where they are without facing consistent rejection as well as success.

As much as the career day highlighted my lack of control over the job market, it did give me a lot of tools to work with. I have already had a mentor at Evanston give me feedback about my resume and will now have the opportunity to have others from Skokie look at it as well.

In the past few days I’ve gotten a lot of good feedback on the job front, however. One library, at which I had applied and interviewed for a summer position, called and told me my interview was excellent and instead asked me to apply for a permanent position they are posting. I received an incredibly complimentary rejection email from a full time position for which I had interviewed but which was highly competitive. Yesterday I interviewed for a promotion at one of my current libraries. And today I received a call to schedule an interview at another library.

As stressful as the last several months have been with finishing up school, working at two other libraries, working my internship, and applying and interviewing for jobs I know that if I just keep a positive attitude and keep working hard I will find a great job. My experience here in the internship program has made it much easier for me to confront my concerns about my job search head on.

As a side note: we all know I loved seeing the results of my strengthsfinder test. In general I don’t tend to buy into personality tests unless I’ve done some research on them and deemed them worthwhile. I heard Gretchen Rubin on a marathon running podcast I enjoy and was really intrigued with her book The Four Tendencies. I was able to get it from the library and took the test to find that I am a Questioner. This was not at all surprising to me, but it gives me even more insight into how I can motivate myself. Questioners are internally motivated and not externally motivated. This can become tricky when I need to complete tasks in which I see no value. Knowing this about myself can help me develop techniques to reframe external requests in a way that makes sense to me internally.

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Thinking about Picture Books

I have been spending a lot of time recently hanging out at other libraries and checking out how they organize picture books.  Many libraries are grouping at least a portion of their picture book collection into topics because it makes it so much easier for the library’s smallest patrons to browse for books by subject (Example: I want a book about Dinosaurs!).  There’s also been a lot of research done on how grouping books into genres or topics aids literacy because it allows readers to find more books about what they’re interested in–so they are more likely to read more.  The overall goal of arranging books in this way is to improve access to materials and save the patron’s time. Additionally, for the youngest readers, arranging the books face-out as opposed to spine-out presents picture books in a way that is visual–which is exactly how they’re supposed to be presented.

I went to talk to the librarians at Des Plaines Public Library about their experience reorganizing the picture book collection. One of the most interesting things they told me was that circulation rates for their picture books increased significantly after they reorganized.  I began to think about Ranganathan’s 5 laws of library science and how they apply to a project like this: Books are for use; Every person his or her book; Every book its reader; Save the time of the reader; A library is a growing organism.  A picture book reorganization project touches on each of these laws.

It makes a lot of sense to me to arrange at least part of the collection into topics that will showcase the books, while making it easier and more efficient for patrons to browse and find what they’re looking for.  The hard part comes in deciding precisely which categories would be most beneficial to the community, and then physically rearranging everything, but the benefits to patrons make reorganization worth researching.  I appreciate the way that libraries as institutions, particularly SPL, are constantly evaluating services and are willing to evolve when necessary in order to find ways that best serve patrons and all of their diverse needs.  It makes it an exciting profession to be part of!

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Exploring Career Possibilities

Last Tuesday was my first time leading a Write Stuff program/workshop and I went in not knowing exactly what to expect. I had sat in on a previous program Mandy had facilitated a couple months ago and because I have a background in writing, Mandy and I thought it would be fun and a good learning experience for me to lead a future program. To prepare, I had created a short PowerPoint featuring brief examples of and information on memoirs, the topic we would be focusing on for that session.

Accustomed to creating presentations for classes, it became apparent quickly that I had to change my methods in order to appeal to 4th and 5th graders, so keeping them to a handful of slides with lots of evocative images and few words was key. I don’t have much experience working with youth, so I am beyond thankful for Skokie Public Library for providing me with the opportunity to work with different age groups because they behave differently, both within a group and as individuals. Interacting with people of different ages not only teaches you about them but about yourself as well. During the Write Stuff session, I learned that kids learn in different ways, just as we do as adults.

I used some tips for helping kids write about a moment in their lives from Scholastic’s website, which provided interesting prompts and exercises to jog the memory. At the last minute, Mandy and I decided to include an exercise in which the more visual learners could draw their memories to help them flesh out the details. While it helped some, others poked holes with their pencils to release stress, which, in its own way, helped, too. Each of the kids had great memories to share, from one girl and how she got her bunny Dott, to when one boy fell off a ski lift as he was reaching down.

It takes patience to work with youth at any age. Yes, 9 to 13 year olds can be scatter-brained, but they’re so much fun to be around. Their energy is infectious and someone is bound to say or ask something that momentarily stumps you. I realize I only spent an hour with those kids, but on my drive home, I had a smile on my face and I am able to entertain the possibility of working in a school library with elementary or middle schoolers. This just reaffirms what most librarians have been saying, which is to do a little bit of everything to really figure out what you want to do. I still want to work with teens, but I am open to starting anywhere, because everything provides invaluable experience.

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Story Time!

On a recent Saturday morning, I presented my first story time here at the library.  It was jungle themed and I had an absolute blast. There were about 20 kids in attendance who ranged in age from 1-5 years old.  The kids seemed to be engaged throughout the program and I kind of liked being the center of their attention. It was a great opportunity for me to learn about what works in a story time for this age group and also a chance to identify things I can work on and adjust based on the crowd on any particular day.  One thing I think worked well with the first story, “Oh No” by Candace Fleming (love this book), was to make a sign that said “Oh No” and hold it up at the appropriate point in the story so they could help me “read” the story.  Even though most of them couldn’t actually read, I think having them associate the words we were saying with the printed text was important–and they seemed to enjoy shouting “Oh No!”.

Something that this experience reinforced is that kids this age want to be up and moving around. Incorporating action into the program is a natural way to help foster early literacy skills and it’s fun when parents get in on the action too!  This group responded really well to the song, “if you’re an elephant/monkey/crocodile and you know it”.  They really got into performing the motion for each animal–especially the snapping jaws of the crocodile.  I think it was helpful that the tune was familiar to them and also that we practiced the motions before we began to sing.  We also did an action rhyme that asked them to stop and listen to different animal sounds.  I played the sounds on a speaker and they really enjoyed guessing what animal they were hearing.

Something that realize I need to work on is to find strategies to help the kids refocus after an active portion of the story time.  I also want to learn some additional techniques for the kids who get  excited and have trouble sitting in one place.  I love the enthusiasm, but I want to make sure the other kids aren’t distracted.  I’m sure I will learn something new every time I do one of these programs. Overall, I had a lot of fun and I look forward to continuing to refine my skills and grow as I have more practice.

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Reference Anxiety

Reference, to be quite frank, terrifies me. I hate not knowing the answer, and even more so trying to find information on a subject that I don’t fully understand. Every time I shadow on the reference desk it seems to go from empty to extremely busy and I inevitably end up flying by the seat of my pants.

However, when I think back to when I first started doing reader’s advisory work I felt much the same kind of anxiety. Any situation in which you’re helping someone who is [sometimes not-so] patiently waiting for an answer or a suggestion can be fraught with uncertainty and pressure – even more so when you feel you are not experienced or prepared enough to answer this question.

I have a decent amount of desk experience doing reader’s advisory and ready reference, and even some finding non-fiction resources, but almost always for children. Adults, however, know exactly what they are looking for (whether or not it’s something you have in the catalog) and can be very unforgiving about a lack of access to said resource. On top of this is the feeling that I am constantly in someone’s way or creating a more difficult situation for an employee to deal with than they otherwise would have had were I not present.

This also makes me very aware of the challenges faced by the staff when trying to combine two desks into one. While I may be there to specifically train for reference skills and learn how to be a better researcher, a large amount of the questions I’ve had to field (and forward on) are tech related. Of course, the patrons look at the Info desk and do not see any differentiation between job titles or expectations, nor do they realize I am intern. All they see is someone who is available to help them and all I see is someone who needs my help – and feeling like I am unable/unequipped to immediately and effectively do so is beyond frustrating to me.

At the end of today’s shadowing shift I feel completely overwhelmed, but I know this discomfort will allow me to grow and challenge myself to become more comfortable with an important skill for my profession.

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