Time Does Fly…

It’s true, especially when you’re having fun.  I have had a lot of fun and learning in my role as the Adult Services Intern.  This internship experience has been amazing and certainly career changing.  If I had doubts about a public libraries career path when I started, those doubts no longer exist.

My life experience has allowed me to view this time from a unique perspective.  I’ve been in enough work settings to know that this experience should not be taken for granted. No one “had to” set up this internship program, agree to be a mentor or trust in me, and the other interns, not to totally screw up.  I have great appreciation for the opportunities that the interns have been given here.

I participated in a broad spectrum of activities, within the Adult Services department and elsewhere in the library, including book discussions, pop-ups, and patron training and programs.  Everyone in this building has been supportive and helpful in finding my way.  I also learned so much from each patron interaction, project, training session, or by simply spending time on service desks with different people.  The realization that the skills I bring to this profession are relevant and will contribute to my future career success is huge, and I would not have the confidence to believe this if I hadn’t participated in this internship.

I’m saddened that the internship is coming to a close.  I’m also hopeful that the stops on my future career path will provide me the opportunities to learn and truly contribute, as I was able to do here.


Success Story to Share

I wanted to share my library success story because it makes me happy and because we all need to hear success stories.  In January, I started having one-on-one appointments with job seekers. One of my first appointments was with a woman who had requested help with her resume.  She completed her teaching degree a number of years ago, but because of family commitments, never actually worked as a professional teacher. Her goal was to get back into the education field, in efforts to eventually work her way into a full-time teaching position.

The resume she brought to our initial meeting was pretty sparse. Over the years, our job seeker had a number of temporary or part-time jobs, some of which were education or child related.  We talked pre-resume brainstorming and preparation, such as taking an inventory of what teaching related skills and experiences she could identify. We then moved on to different resume formats that might work best to tell her unique story.  Thirty minutes is not a lot of time to completely overhaul the representation of twelve years of your work life, so she left with a lot of homework.

Because she had so much work to do, I was pleasantly surprised when only two days later I received a copy of her revised resume for additional review.  The resume was very well done and I didn’t have a thing to add. To wrap up the story, we continued to email over the next couple of weeks. She got an interview with a local school district and was hired as a substitute teacher.  Hopefully, this is her first step.

My personal take away was that I loved that I was able to use by skills and experiences in a positive way, by helping one of our patrons to reach her goals.  In my past world, my help would have come into play in more negative situations, such as after I’d told an employee (and oftentimes, a friendly colleague) that  they had lost their job, or in trying to covertly nudge an employee along because I knew that it was only a matter of time until they would need an updated resume.

My library-focused takeaway from this exchange, and others that I have had over the last few weeks, is how important this service is to our patrons.  Resumes are completely intimidating for a lot of people, regardless of industry or education and income levels, and most people don’t have trusted, quality options (for free) to assist them.  If the library can help patrons overcome this one hurdle, these individuals will be positioned to move forward towards employment and career success.



New Year, New Opportunities

I returned to my internship earlier this week after spending the last two weeks on my holiday “vacation”.  It was a very much needed and appreciated break, as it allowed me to not only  participate in holiday celebrations and spend time with family, but also to relax and reflect on the past semester and plan for this new semester.  As we’ve discussed since the beginning of the internship, one of the great things about being at the Skokie Public Library, is that we are able to be here for the full academic year and actually put what we’re learning in practice.

I reflected on my experiences since late August, which I feel have been considerable and diverse.  I learned that each shift. on each of the four service desks, can be a completely new experience from the time before.  Overall, I noted where I feel most comfortable and areas that I felt could use a bit more attention.  I thought that there would be more of the latter, but when I really thought about it, I realized that I felt pretty confident working in most areas.  I took the time to break apart some of my current “roadblocks” and it dawned on me that I’m not concerned about the actual experience, but more about if I’ll be able to use the correct systems or process.  What is she talking about?  Well, I feel confident in making a book recommendation at the Readers Services desk, but need to gain confidence that I’m completing the hold or ILL request correctly for the patron.  Or, I’m not intimidated about teaching a tech class, but am intimidated about knowing how to use the computer lab at the SPL.  This realization made me feel pretty good about my current world, as learning the system or process is very achievable. It just takes time.

My reflection time also allowed me to take stock in the transferable skills I have and review how I can use these skills, in conjunction to what I’ve learned through the internship, to help shape this semester.  I have the goals of getting more hands-on with what is going on with the SPL, the Skokie community and the community of librarians.  I’m looking to take a more active role in outreach this semester and already have a number of activities in the works to support this goal.  My list is pretty long, but I’m very excited about it. I feel like there are some very substantive activities, such as leading a book discussion or training class and going to more industry-focused networking groups.

Thanks again to all of those at the Skokie Public Library who are contributing to my learning and are supporting me in having this huge range of experiences.


The Secret Sauce

I was reading my undergraduate alumni magazine and had to click on the article titled, “What’s the Secret Sauce in a Great Internship?”.  The brief answer, look for the “triple X”:  exposure, exploration and experience.  Well check, check and check. I think I’m getting all of those things during my internship here at the Skokie Public Library.

This has been most evident in the areas of exposure and experience.  My time at SPL to date has exposed me, or at least given me a brief introduction, to most areas of the library and library operations.  On a very basic level, and one that I think I share with our intern cohort, is simply understanding the library “social norms”  and ways of communication.   I’ve had the opportunity to participate in a number of staff trainings covering the various reference resources used in the library, and have been able to put into context when and how these resources would be used to support the needs of the patron.  It’s also been great to learn more about the Harwood Institute and turning outward and community engagement. Lastly, I’m very interested in diversity, equity and inclusion in libraries (and everywhere else) and have enjoyed being included in the Word of the Month discussions and the diversity and cultural competence training.  My only frustration in this area is that I’m not here every day to participate in all of the sessions.

The experiences have also been many and I continue to add to the list.  Shadowing, and now actually participating, on the service desks has given me great experience in a  “real world” setting, but also has helped to build my confidence in my abilities.  I may still be figuring out procedurally how things are done, but I’m still able to help the patron.  Participating in book discussions has been amazing.  I’ve shadowed an adult book discussion and the Next Chapter book discussion (my favorite) and soaked in every minute.  I’m looking forward to shadowing the Talking Books discussion in a couple of weeks.  I’ve also experienced the great customer service focus here at SPL, including working the desks and call center and throughout my interactions at the library in general.  I think this philosophy and “vibe” is very evident in the building.  For example, when I explain to patrons that I’m an intern and it may take me a bit longer to find their answer, many of them have offered support and wished me luck in my career.  Thanks!

My journey into exploration has begun, and now that I have the basics down, I anticipate doing much more exploration through the rest of the school year.  I’d like to reach out and learn even more about different areas of the library, and continue to learn ways where my past experience and skills can be transformed and utilized.  I may be the only Intern who wants to learn more about the budget and budgeting process, but now’s my time so I want to take it!  I’d like to explore possible next steps for the bikemobile project. other community engagement initiatives, and training/learning opportunities.  So many areas to explore is a good thing, but it will keep me busy, all while developing my all around skills as a future librarian.


ILA – Good Times Had By All

Hello Blog Friends, sorry for my lack of posting over the past few weeks. I guess I’ve been too wrapped up in learning, observing and doing and need to take a bit more time to sit down and reflect. Sounds pretty consistent with my life.

In this post I’d like to address my experiences and observations after attending my first ILA conference. My conference was kicked off by attending the opening session led by Verna Myers on the topic of the equity lens. This was especially timely as just the week before, I had participated in SPL’s word of the month discussion on the same topic. Beyond being in entertaining presenter, Meyers gave valuable insights into “naming” my own lens, recognizing unconscious bias, and ways to expand my comfort zone. I found her point about the need for all to be actively anti-biased especially true. However, a huge take away for me occurred during the questions section at the end of the presentation. It became apparent from the questions being asked that there was a true desire to fight bias and offer programming that offered a variety of viewpoints and was helpful in educating community members, but there was also fear in doing so. The participants were fearful of doing the wrong thing or, maybe simply based on lack of knowledge, offending others. It made me realize, once again, how grateful I am to be part of the Skokie Public Library and the community of Skokie. The library is already taking steps, maybe even painful steps at times, to address controversial or unpleasant topics to advance the community. Additionally, with a diverse community like Skokie, there are members of different represented groups that can be used as resources to learn more about the viewpoints and experiences of that group. Other communities that don’t have this amount of diversity also don’t have the opportunity to gather that type of insight.

Additionally, I attended some very informative programs including one on pop-up libraries, which prompted me to think of a few additional ideas for our bikemobile needs analysis, as well as additional ways to “go where the patrons are” in general. I also got some great outreach ideas from learning what the Chicago Public Libraries are doing regarding diversity and diversability and programming for all. And to add to my love of surveys and assessment, I attended the program on the customer satisfaction survey conducted by the Palatine Public Library and was in awe of their 6,000+ responses.

I must end this post with a very blatant, SPL Adult Services plug. Although I knew that I could talk with Allyson and Kathy at any time regarding their topic of inclusive readers’ advisory, I really wanted to hear their “official” presentation, especially since I’ve been gathering the data on the titles suggested for the summer Book Matches. They expressed the goals (completely my summary, not theirs) of expanding the reader’s exposure to the experiences of others or challenging them to read out of their traditional comfort zones and go-to genres. During their presentation, it dawned on me that this philosophy has already rubbed off on me. I would not classify myself as a reader of celebrity memoirs, as I don’t usually find celebrities to be all that interesting. However, I realized that I had just finished reading Alan Cumming’s biography, a title that I had selected off of the Book Match list, and I loved it. Here’s to a new genre for me!


How Did I Get So Lucky??

Hi, I’m Colleen and I’m so incredibly thrilled to have been given the opportunity to intern at the Skokie Public Library.  When I heard about the program before beginning at Dominican, I thought that the internship would be a perfect bridge for me in going from the business world to the public library world, and would enable me to see how things, in a then mysterious world, actually happened.   It sounded great but I never would have dreamed that I would be granted one of the scholarships, and now, here I am.

These past two days of orientation have been amazing, and overwhelming.  Amazing in a way that I’ve been able to meet and connect with the four other great interns, who each bring their own unique experiences and viewpoints to the table.  Also amazing is just the structure of the orientation itself.  It is clear that this program is of importance to the team and our introductory training reflects this.  The team members who have taken the time to meet and share with us are true professionals and I can only aspire to be such a developed librarian.

Witnessing such developed professional skills is also a bit overwhelming.  Making the decision to completely switch careers was a big leap for me and I realize, even clearer now, how much I still need to learn.  I think this will be a very supportive and open environment to learn and grow, and face new experiences.  The library seems to have such a thoughtful approach to decision making and implementation, also keeping the well-being or best outcome for the stakeholders  in mind.  I’m so pleased to be learning under this model and hope to use it as the basis for my actions as I begin my career in librarianship.

Having lived near Skokie for many years, I was aware of the great reputation of the library and how it served its patrons.  However, it wasn’t until this orientation that I realized  the commitment of the library to its culture statement for the library staff.  The fact that this purposefully developed statement exists is a good thing, but the fact that it is supported and practiced at all levels is… amazing.  This type of culture doesn’t just happen.  It takes a lot of hard work by all parties.  Not only is the Skokie Public Library a great place to work as a library professional, but any company in any industry that had a culture like this would be an employer of choice in a heartbeat.

Thanks for letting me tag along.