I spent a few hours today reviewing and editing my forty-page daily log of the shifts I worked this past semester at Skokie Public Library and somehow it feels like both a massive undertaking and a brief moment in time. I flip-flopped between wondering how I found the time to participate in so much and wishing I had more time to train. But speaking with so many different SPL employees and shadowing so many diverse roles really puts into perspective how endless my training could be regardless of how many hours I put in a week, and that’s coming from someone who only every really witnessed the night shift. But I mean it when I say the expertise and passion in SPL staff is palpable.
I’ve brought it up before during our intern reflection meetings, but I really feel as if working with young adults requires more hands-on experience than hypothetical training to build any sort of proficiency. Most library roles are unpredictable, but young adults are a particular kind of lovable/chaotic and I feel much more comfortable working with them in larger groups than I ever have before. When I tell people I’m training and studying to become a young adult librarian I usually brace myself for a sympathetic look or disgusted comment. It’s beyond my understanding why so many people feel adversely about a population they used to occupy, but I never felt that disconnect or aversion from SPL staff. Instead I felt a real supportive appreciation this semester for the work Laurel and Jenny and Denise and Earl and Jarrett all do to include young adults in the larger Skokie community and I’m beyond grateful for that refreshing perspective.
Speaking of refreshing, coming from a very standard for-profit office setting, I was not prepared for such a culturally competent work environment. Not only are there equitable policies and practices in place to uphold a safe staff and library culture, but SPL goes above and beyond an HR Department with your internal Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee staff training. I’m sure some of you remember how rough it is out there on the other said, but to briefly put how significant this is for me into perspective: I’ve been sexually harassed by coworkers at open-bar, no-rules office parties working for a company that very rarely recruits non-white college graduates. And let me tell you, no one gives a f***. I digress, but really witnessing first-hand how actionable equity can be in a work environment has me striving to seek out positions in libraries that share those same values when this is all said and done. I have you guys to thank for setting that bar so high.
More than anything, I’m just appreciative of all the time and effort so many SPL staff members have invested in my training these past few months. As someone who has never worked in a library, I doubt I’d be able to gain such high-level experience anywhere else and I really feel putting this practicum on my resume could be the difference between the dreaded “Thank you for your application, but we’ve decided to go with someone else…” email and landing a job I can be proud of. I don’t know who else can say they’ve managed to plan and implement STEM programming, co-facilitate young adult councils, participate in weekend science expos, and attend their first library conference while still finding time to train on desks in a matter of three or four months, but the expert guidance and planning of SPL staff made that possible for me. I can’t wait to see what I get done next semester, but I hope the time doesn’t fly by this fast.