In Which I Get Sappy

My Year in Review

My internship at Skokie Public Library has been an incredibly rewarding and beneficial experience for me. Looking back at the year as a whole, it’s challenging to sum it all up without being too cliche or sentimental. I’m sorry, but I had an amazing year, okay?

Here were some of my best experiences / biggest takeaways from the internship:

Learning about Public Libraries

Prior to my internship, I had never worked in a public library before. Working here allowed me to learn how Skokie Public Library functions day-to-day, as well as how it plans for the future and develops as an institution. Our orientation at the beginning of the year gave us a great overview of the departments, the building, and the services the library provides. Later in the year, our “operations snapshot” day gave us a chance to learn more about the behind-the-scenes jobs, such as Human Resources, IT, marketing, and budgeting. I will take my experiences at SPL into my future career, where it will be interesting to see how other public libraries are similar and different.

Attending ILA in Peoria

In October, SPL allowed us to attend the annual  Illinois Library Association conference in Peoria, IL.  I attended a number of presentations and events which were all very informative and inspiring. Over the course of the weekend, the other interns and I got to know each other better, which was an added bonus.

Working at Public Service Desks

Over the course of the year, I worked weekly shifts at the AV and Readers’ Services desks, as well as in the library’s call center. Having the opportunity to practice reference and readers’ advisory skills in a number of different settings has given me confidence in my ability to serve library patrons and has strengthened my research and information skills. Everyone I worked with throughout the year was very helpful and encouraging, and I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to learn from such talented and dedicated professionals.

Teaching Technology Classes

In addition to working at public service desks, I also taught weekly 1-on-1 tech classes. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, teaching basic computer skills is more challenging than I had imagined, but I think I grew a lot in my abilities as an instructor over the course of the year. I also had the chance to teach a group class on web browsers, which was a great learning experience for me as well. Reflecting on my strengths and weaknesses has helped me to improve as an educator, but the self-improvement process is definitely ongoing.

Completing Practicum and Independent Study Research

As part of the partnership between Skokie Public Library and Dominican University, I completed two 10-page research papers on topics related to my internship. In the fall, I learned more about best practices for writing collection management plans, and in the spring, I researched patron-driven acquisition. It was a very valuable experience to consult academic research about projects that were unfolding at SPL. I am excited to see where SPL goes with patron-driven acquisition in the upcoming months.

What comes next?

Luckily for me, I don’t have to say goodbye to SPL right away. I will be starting my new job as a school librarian in Montana at the end of August, but until I move, I’ll be staying here as a volunteer. I’m planning to continue some digitization projects that I started last fall, as well as to follow the progress of the patron-driven acquisition project. I’ll keep working at the desks and teaching 1-on-1 classes, in order to gain more experience and keep improving my skills as a librarian.

I am very grateful to both Skokie Public Library and Dominican University for providing me with this experience. I have had the opportunity to work with some of the most impressive, inspiring librarians in  the country (not an exaggeration) and I have never felt more confident in my decision to become a librarian myself. I am particularly grateful for the encouragement, advice, and support that the staff of SPL gave me in my job search this past spring. And finally,  I want to thank Laura, who was a dedicated and helpful mentor, and will continue to be one of my professional role models throughout my career.


February Update

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted, so I thought I’d catch you all up on some of my recent projects!

Web Browser Showdown

Last week, I taught my first group class, on the subject of web browsers. Even though I have a lot of experience using various  web browsers, I had to do quite a bit of research to actually teach a class about them. I found myself thinking about staff day and the speakers from Zingerman’s, who taught us about the four stages of learning a skill–“unconscious incompetence,” “conscious incompetence,” “conscious competence,” and “unconscious competence.” Before preparing for the class, I was definitely solidly in the “unconscious competence” stage, but in order to teach others, I needed to get back into the “conscious competence” mindset.

I learned a lot about web browser history and the strengths and weaknesses of different browsers in preparation for the class, but it was hard to predict exactly what the students in the class would be interested in learning. During my presentation, I stopped frequently to answer questions. Many of the questions were relevant and easy for me to answer, but others were more advanced than I was expecting, and some were outside of the realm of web browsers. Overall, it was a great learning experience for me and I enjoyed the process. I’m hoping to teach another class before the end of my internship.

If you’re interested, here is my PowerPoint: Web Browser Showdown

1-on-1 Technology Classes

I have been signed up to teach 1-on-1 tech classes for several months now, but many of the patrons have canceled at the last minute. However, I have finally had the chance to teach a handful of classes, and each has been a unique and valuable experience for me. For the most part, I feel I have been successful in helping with the patrons with their questions. Again, teaching 1-on-1 classes definitely requires me to step from my unconscious competence into conscious competence, which can be tricky, but definitely gets easier with practice.

While most of my 1-on-1 sessions have gone well, I had one experience which was particularly challenging. The patron had difficulty expressing exactly what it was that she needed help with, and it was very tough for me to explain things to her in a way which made sense to her. By the end of the hour, we had gotten through much less than I would have hoped. However, she did not seem disappointed with me, and when I suggested that she could sign up for additional classes to continue instruction, she seemed eager to do so. I will be interested to see if she does come back for more help.

Patron Driven Acquisition

My independent study this semester involves developing a patron driven acquisition (PDA) program for SPL. I have done initial research into what PDA entails and what its benefits are for library patrons and staff. Currently, it is a common purchasing model in many academic libraries, but still fairly new in public libraries. I have been analyzing purchase suggestions and ILL requests from the past year to determine if there are any areas where PDA might be a good fit for SPL. I’m looking forward to seeing where this project goes from here!

Looking to the Future

Even though it’s only mid-February, it feels like the end of the semester is approaching quickly. I’ve really appreciated the career advice I’ve gotten while working here, and I’ve begun really considering what I will be doing when I graduate and the internship is over. This internship has solidified my goal of working in a public library, and even though it can be scary, it’s exciting to think of the opportunities that lie ahead.



A Library State of Mind

I just returned from my first Illinois Library Association conference, which took place in Peoria, Illinois. The weekend was packed full of interesting, inspiring, thought-provoking, fun, and useful information and activities. I had a great time getting to know my fellow interns better and networking with other library professionals. I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to attend the conference!

Skokie Public Library Interns in Peoria, IL

                                                                                     The Interns Take Peoria

The is so much I could say about the conference, so I thought it might be helpful for me to break down my top five highlights.

1. Working as a Conference Intern

Skokie Public Library encouraged the other interns and me to apply to work as conference interns, meaning that we would work for four hours during the conference in exchange for free registration. It was a great deal, and I would encourage all students to do the same whenever possible.

I was scheduled to work for the first four hours of the conference, where I worked at the registration desk. It was fun to meet so many conference attendees, and I learned a lot about special events and services the conference had to offer. Though I had to miss the opening keynote speaker, I think working at the beginning of the conference was one of the best slots I could have gotten, because it was so busy and high-energy.

2. Hearing from Chris Raschka, Miranda Paul, B.A. Binns, and Laura Park

One of the most exciting parts of any library conference is getting to see famous authors and illustrators in person and hear them speak about why libraries are important to them and the work that they do. The first author / illustrator I got to hear was Chris Raschka, who has won Caldecott medals for his picture books The Hello, Goodbye Window (2006) and A Ball for Daisy (2012). It was fascinating to hear about the books that influenced  him as a child and what led him to become an author and illustrator himself. I bought a copy of A Ball for Daisy and got it signed after his speech.

I heard from Chris Raschka again later that day, when he sat on a panel with three other authors and illustrators. The panel, titled “Voices and Images:  Diversity and Children’s Books,” was one of my favorite sessions I attended. Chris Raschka, B.A. Binns, Miranda Paul, and Laura Park spoke about the importance of diversity in children’s literature and what librarians can do to promote diverse books. All four contributors were insightful and well-spoken, and it was refreshing to hear their perspectives.

3. Attending the Public Library Forum Luncheon featuring Scott Bonner

One of the special events I attended was the Public Library Forum Luncheon, which featured Scott Bonner of Ferguson Public Library as the guest speaker. I heard Scott Bonner speak at the ALA Midwinter Meeting in Chicago last January, at which he gave a nearly identical presentation. However, even though I had heard the presentation before, I was riveted and moved once again.

Bonner spoke about ways in which he and his library served the Ferguson community in the time following Michael Brown’s shooting. He was incredibly straightforward, admitting decisions he regrets as well as moments he is particularly proud of. He was unbelievably modest, stating that any librarian would have acted with the same grace, fortitude, and tenacity as he did. The presentation was inspiring, overwhelming, and powerful. It was an honor to hear from a true hero and outstanding library advocate. I will attend any lecture of Scott’s that I can in the future.

4. Expanding Knowledge and Growing Ideas

In addition to the special events I attended, I also had the opportunity to attend many other presentations on a very wide range of topics. It was difficult to choose which events to attend, because so many were of interest to me. I ended up choosing some topics because they sounded fun, and others because I didn’t know much about them. I tried to attend something during each session, and I ended up attending the following presentations:

  • A Young Adult Book Club for Adults
  • Stretching Your Library’s Reach:  Expanding Community Partners and Audiences Through Programming
  • Youth Services Author Breakfast featuring Chris Raschka
  • Todos Para Uno:  Serving Non-Native Speaking Youth
  • Public Library Forum Luncheon featuring Scott Bonner
  • Voices and Images:  Diversity and Children’s Books Panel
  • Moving to Outcomes for Advocacy and Management
  • Librarians in Space:  How to Make Space, Find Courage, and Take Risks in Your Life and Library
  • Chit Chat & Chew:  A Reader’s Advisory Rap Session
  • Poster Sessions (including one by my fellow intern, Rachel!)
  • Library Use of Social Media — Navigating the Legal Landscape
  • STEAM State of Mind
  • Closing Session with Daniel Handler

It was a busy weekend, but I got so many new ideas and learned so much that it flew by! I liked every presentation, but one of my favorites was “Chit Chat & Chew.” In that particular session, we sat at round tables and discussed readers’ advisory issues. I was at a table with quite a few seasoned librarians, so I was able to take home a lot of tips that I am eager to try out at the Reader’s Services Desk!

5. Meeting Daniel Handler, AKA Lemony Snicket!

The weekend ended on a high note for me, when I got to hear one of my favorite childhood authors of all time, Daniel Handler. I was a bit apprehensive going into his speech, because I had such high hopes, but ultimately, he exceeded even my expectations. His speech was hilariously witty and simultaneously deep and inspiring. I came away from his speech more impressed than ever, and determinedly stood in line for almost an hour to meet him and have my book signed. It was worth it!

Signed copy of The Bad Beginning

Lemony Snicket signed my personal copy of The Bad Beginning, which I got for Christmas in fifth grade.

Me with Daniel Handler, AKA Lemony Snicket

I wouldn’t expect him to make any other face!