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.


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.


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.


End of Year Wrap-Up

In a thought process that will surprise no one who has spent time with me, I was having a hard time wrapping up my semester – both for the blog, as well as for Lynnanne and my semester paper for Kate. I was feeling as if I hadn’t done very much, so I forced myself to make a list of the major things I would want to reflect upon for the end of this semester and calendar year.

I’ve had the opportunity to attend some excellent programs that have made me think about future programming ideas and shown me the myriad of program types the library offers. The ESL cafe and Career Action Group were both observational opportunities that really seemed to be making a serious individual difference to our patrons.

Skokie also provided me with some excellent opportunities to attend events outside of the library. Most notably the ILA Annual Conference in Peoria, but also a book discussion about The Leavers through the ARRT. I have now joined both ILA and ARRT and hope to further my involvement with both communities. Today I have also gotten to attend a book group meeting in the morning, discuss my observations about the differences between adult and children’s book groups with Lynnanne, and finalize and schedule my own book group meeting for April.

I have also gotten to learn more deeply about the library as a whole, attending a board meeting earlier this month, riding the bookmobile and attending the EDI training with Corie Wallace which was excellent and thought-provoking.

I have gotten the opportunity to do a lot of asynchronous Reader’s Advisory work through Bookmatch/Screenmatch and making lists (one of which was featured on the main Skokie website and shared by SPL on Facebook! A nerd dream come true). I have worked on data collection for a couple of different AS initiatives and helped assess some reference websites for art appraisal.

I have also learned a lot about what makes a meeting effective. I have been really struggling with a poorly organized committee at one of my jobs and it has really been calming to see that running a meeting is a skill that should be continuously re-examined and honed. Seeing Lynnanne come up with new ideas for use in the Adult Services meetings really embodies the idea of a growth mindset that is pervasive at SPL. These are also concepts that have been illustrated in the Innovation Spaces meetings I have gotten to attend, the Lunch & Learn sessions, and all of our Dominican-Skokie reflection sessions. Within these meetings, articles and concepts are often brought up and sent around to further provoke thought and discussion. Today’s Innovation Spaces meeting will include discussion of an article Mimosa brought up in a previous Innovation Spaces meeting.

I also was able to meet with the team I am working with for my next semester project and I am so excited to delve deeply into creating a Youth Services Bookmatch system. Working with such a talented group of people on this project will teach me a great deal and having to manage the timeline/meetings/etc as well will teach me powerful lessons in leadership and teamwork.



EDI, White Privilege, and Librarianship

This is a topic that has been on my mind almost constantly since I began work on my MLIS, and more prominently lately.

Last week I read White Fragility by Robin Diangelo. It’s a fantastically well-written book and something I’d consider required reading for all white people. Yesterday I attended the EDI training with Corie Wallace (where I once again realized just how many gaps I have in my knowledge). Today I read “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McInstosh after Lynnanne mentioned it during a discussion we had this morning.

I genuinely believe that EDI and confronting my own (and others’) white privilege is the single most important part of librarianship. Librarianship is vastly populated by white women. To say that I feel a natural comfort level in an around library spaces and communities is an understatement. While much of this is due to a shared interest, there is a large (often unacknowledged) part of this that is due to the fact that, generally, the entire crowd looks like me.

One of my best friends is my same age as me, has worked in libraries for 4+ years more than me, is in library school, and has many of the same interests as me. She actively reads and researches library culture and news as I do. She is hard-working, intelligent, and actively and passionately involved in what she does. However, her experience in working in libraries differs from mine constantly because she is black. Her authority and knowledge is questioned in ways mine never is (even though for 1.5 years she was my boss) by coworkers, employees, patrons, and our bosses. When she and I attend library conferences she is frequently one of only a few POC in the room. When the library started facing considerable scrutiny about racial equity she was continuously approached by senior staff members and asked about when she was planning on starting library school (something she was seldom, if ever, asked about in the preceding 5 years of her employment).

In my position at Evanston Public Library I work significantly with children. I lead weekly storytimes and provide additional programming for kids. In September, I hosted an enthusiastic, adorable, and very diverse group of 2nd graders from the local elementary school. For the last couple of months I’ve had kids continuously see me and yell “You read us Library Lion!!” or check out one of the books I “book talked” to the group. It’s been very heartwarming and incredibly professionally and emotionally fulfilling. (Great book, by the way).

At the beginning of this month, I had a distraught parent (a regular and one of the chaperones for the aforementioned library visit) come to me with a book list and a request for any materials she could use to talk about race with her child. As I was helping her, she let me know that the principal had sent home a note to every parent after a string of racially charged incidents had occurred at the school. It immediately hit me that some of the adorable, funny second graders I had hosted two months prior may have been subjected to horrifying language unacceptable in any space. They may have been made to feel unwelcome and unsafe in spaces that should assure both welcome and safety.

I was horrified. I was angry. But most importantly, I was energized. I spent the next two hours stripping down my current book displays and putting up new ones with a focus on talking about race. I asked the parent to give my email address to the principal and had her forward the reading lists to me. I put together a list of books my library did not currently own that addressed this subject and suggested them to my boss for purchase.

As library workers, what can we do to combat racism and increase equity? So much. We can consistently work to make our collections as diverse as possible – reflecting the diverse populations we serve. We can proud accessible and diverse programming. We can choose our storytime books with intent: showcasing diverse cultures, religions, skin colors, abilities, and neurodiversity. We can work to ensure our workplaces are welcoming and safe for diverse individuals as both patrons and employees. We can hold others in our personal lives or our professional spaces accountable when they display ignorance or intolerance. We can question and assess our own actions in every patron interaction. Perhaps most importantly, we can work everyday to further understand our own privileges and internalized biases.

Opportunities like yesterday’s EDI training are pivotal to offer again and again and again. Equity cannot be achieved in a 3 hour training session, but it can be combated by continuous work to ask ourselves and our communities difficult questions that challenge our beliefs and open our minds.


ILA 2018

Last week I got the fantastic experience of attending ILA as an intern. I absolutely love library conferences and have attended Reaching Forward and ALA in the past couple of years – every time with my best friend who is also pursuing her MLIS.

Being without my conference buddy was something I was anxious about, but it ended up being a really valuable experience. Logically, when you go to a conference with someone, you’re going to spend time talking to them and not networking. Additionally, the smaller atmosphere of ILA (versus ALA) and the social events made it much easier to feel comfortable talking to people.

An added (and surprising) benefit of being at ILA was getting the chance to network with coworkers from Northbrook Public Library. I have been shelving there for almost a year, but don’t have a lot of opportunities in which I get to talk to the desk staff there. Getting the chance to talk more in depth about librarianship with these people I already know was very valuable.

Because I was an intern through ILA I worked the registration desk on Thursday morning. Getting to work with ILA staff gave me the opportunity to meet some of ILA’s organizers as well as several presenters.

I also have never been to campus for Dominican (I have done all of my coursework online), so this internship, the mixer event on Tuesday, their booth in the exhibition hall, and meeting Diane Foote (who is now the ILA Exective Director and previously worked for Dominican) actually provided me with more of an opportunity to feel connected to Dominican than I have been able to experience prior to this fall.

A couple of great organizations I’m looking forward to exploring further as I continue my career are iREADARRT, and the various ILA forums. I’m also looking forward to assisting at ILA next year, as they invited us to come back as Intern Leaders.

I’ve attached my session notes as well, in case anyone is interested. This kind of professional development opportunity is such an invigorating experience and gave me tons of ideas to use at all of the library locations I work for! For my fellow interns, I found the session about landing the job you want to be a pretty helpful refresher.

My ILA session notes!


Gallup StrengthsFinder, or “I feel so called-out right now.”

Today I had the opportunity to take the Gallup StrengthsFinder assessment. I am a fairly introspective person, so I consider myself to be well aware of the strengths (and weaknesses) of my personality. I was looking forward to taking this assessment, as I love finding new ways of looking toward becoming an improved version of myself.

Even just answering the questions (before receiving the results) was really illuminating: analyzing which questions were harder versus easier for me to answer and having to answer questions in ways that don’t reflect positively on who I am as a person.

My breakdown of my top 5 is below:


While none of these things were completely shocking, it was really interesting to see that I do have a fairly good understanding of my leadership strengths and subsequent weaknesses (“They are often impatient” couldn’t be closer to the truth).

A couple of fun/interesting things that stuck out to me where the fact that my “Futuristic” analysis included a direction to work with those who have the “Activator” trait. This idea feeds directly into the fact that I tend to enjoy working independently.

It was hard to see “Significance” in my top 5 although I’m well aware of the fact that this is incredibly accurate. To me, this is one of the worst parts of my personality – I dominate conversation or discussions and really enjoy receiving positive feedback and acknowledgement to a point that is almost embarrassing, probably because I tend to outwardly showcase my positive traits but spend a lot of time internally focused on my more negative one.

What I am most excited about is the Application section in the Action-Planning Guide. Being able to have solid suggestions for using my personality to lead to greater future successes is so appealing and I can’t wait to get started.

Even this whole post cements that feedback I got in my assessment that I ” rarely avoid telling people about [myself], [my] experiences, or even [my] shortcomings. [I] reflect on what [I] should do better, more completely, or more perfectly. [I am] comfortable admitting all sorts of things about [myself].”


Always Assume Best Intentions

Having grown up in Skokie, I already grew up loving the library. I remember the renovation in 2001, biking over to checkout books and attend programs as a teen, checking out DVDs to fuel my obsession for Hindi cinema during my days at OCC, and picking up audiobooks as an adult. Approaching the library as a budding information professional gave me a whole new appreciation for SPL as a community.

One of the first ideas that stuck with me during our two-day training was the concept of always assuming best intentions – from coworkers, from community members as a whole, and from patrons. Far from being just lip service, this attitude was pervasive to the entire orientation experience. It is hard to imagine any library being so inclusive and welcoming toward a group of interns. The amount of empowerment I feel at immediately being given the benefit of the doubt is difficult to put into words. Someone who has always experienced the kind of work atmosphere that Skokie provides (a lucky individual indeed), may find it strange that I would be so affected by such a simple idea. However, few work environments place enough value on trusting their employees, which gives them room to think, grow, be brave, and surprise even themselves.

This also shines through in Skokie’s commitment to redefining their strategic plan every three years. Not only this, but the conversation through which this is created every three years seem to be very open to staff input and conversation. I am nearing the end of my coursework through Dominican, and one of the major points made throughout my courses is the idea of the library as a community service (listening first to what the community needs), as a ‘third space,’ and as a constantly adapting profession. SPL truly seems to embody these ideas in a way I had not yet seen in real world libraries. Our mentors seemed just as interested in learning from us and each other as they were in teaching.

This attitude of consistent self-improvement and assumption of good intentions in others lead to a level of ease between all of the interns and mentors that I have never experienced in a work setting before – despite our differences in experience, age, etc. I am overwhelmed by this incredible opportunity, which has already made me feel empowered and excited rather than nervous, and cannot wait to become a better information professional as well as a better listener, collaborator, coworker, and person.