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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The Meaning of Being Fearless

I received my first hug from one of the patrons in the JHZ today, so it feels like a fitting place to begin my final post of the semester. Between trying to learn everyone’s names and getting absolutely schooled in Uno by a group of vivacious girls (and lovely YA staff), the weeks have passed by without much pause.

I want to take a moment to truly celebrate the incredible people that work at Skokie Public Library. Being great at what you do and loving what you do are two entirely different things. Everyone that I have had the pleasure of encountering/working beside unequivocally fall into both categories.

Being a YA librarian is no easy feat. Day in and day out I see YA staff striving to spark the kinds of conversations and thoughtful dialog each young adult they interact with will carry weightlessly, but consciously, with them. I see them asking, seeking, and researching ways to help the patrons that are a little harder to reach. I see librarians being fearless, and I think that is a grand takeaway for me. As Katy mentioned in her notes from ILA, you have to treat each patron as an individual, because they are. No two are the same.

My time at SPL so far has been dedicated to learning and finding my bearings within the library, specifically in the junior high and teen spaces. During my second semester, I hope to take a more actionable approach. Helping to facilitate Under the Covers with Laurel and sitting in on Write Stuff, a program run by Mandy, have been great. I hope to take what I have learned from both programs and perhaps create a sister program that merges the two. I also hope to take cues from Jenny’s special knack of coming up with spontaneous activities and pop-up programming for the junior high and teen spaces. For the many moments I have sat observantly by while YA staff have implemented and wholly embraced behavioral interventions and I-ESCAPE, I hope to be a part of that, too.

Half way into this internship and I can say undoubtedly that I am truly getting invaluable experience. I can confidently say that yes, I still want to be a YA librarian. And like the people here, I hope to not only love what I do, but to one day be great at it, too.

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Leaving the Comfort Zone

Piggybacking off of Katy’s recent post, I’d like to delve into my own observations about my strengths and weaknesses.

I am such an introvert, that it’s a bit debilitating at times. Which makes the fact that I’m trying to crawl out of what my sister refers to as my “writerly hermit ways,” to be public facing at a library, somewhat peculiar. Whenever I think about getting out of my comfort zone, this image comes to mind:

comfortzone

Attempting to engage teenagers in conversation, especially when they don’t know you, is like walking out of your comfort zone. I have spent the last month hanging out primarily in the Junior High Zone and had a nice conversation with Laurel about my habits when I’m there. Something that is a strength of mine is my ability to reach out to teens who are more introverted like myself. Generally, they’ll be the ones sitting alone at a table or closer to the YA librarians. I’m happy to be at a point where I know many of the teen’s names and they feel comfortable enough to chat with me about their aspirations and what they’re working on in class or at home.

The area in which I lack is reaching out to the teens in larger groups, who are more vocal and engrossed in their own bubble. I found myself wondering what the best way was for me to get to know them. After touching base with Laurel, we thought it would be good for me come up with a few questions that I can ask the group to break the ice, just so we can get to know each other. I am learning that being genuinely curious and asking questions is something teens respond to really well.

Teens have called us nosy more than a couple of times. It’s easy to misinterpret good intentions at that age. But I can see that all the librarians genuinely care about their patrons and in my opinion, that is a young adult librarian’s biggest strength.

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Learning Experiences and Looking Outward

I’m Mahjabeen, the Learning Experiences intern. I am still in the preliminary phase of getting myself acclimated to the mere idea of interning at Skokie Public Library. As someone with no prior experience working in a library, I am incredibly grateful to have been provided with this opportunity and appreciate the warm and welcoming environment.

To be completely candid, everything that I have learned thus far during the two days of orientation have been beneficial and I am positive that every subsequent day that I will spend here will be nothing short of that. Getting hands-on experience working in a library of this caliber that provides such a wide array of programming in addition to all their services supplemented by dedicated staff, is invaluable.

A concept that has really stayed with with me–and is something I mentioned in our reflection session earlier–is that SPL is not simply a sedentary organization. This was made evident when we went on the community tour and we stopped in a neighborhood with many apartment complexes that is known to have a high immigrant and refugee population. In addition to it being one of the stops the bookmobile makes, SPL had also identified that not many of the resident were English speakers, so the newsletters/flyers that were being sent to this particular area wouldn’t be very helpful if people didn’t understand them. Beyond going into the community to find better ways to reach their different populations, SPL also works with daycare centers to bring them storytime and even works with neighboring school districts. It’s amazing to defy the somewhat common notion of libraries as hubs for lifelong learning that people need to reach to instead, shed light on how SPL makes an active effort to reach out to its patrons as well to back up their emphasis on equity, diversity, and inclusion.

When thinking specifically about what I hope to take away as a young adult/learning experiences intern, I would love to learn about the development of teen programming and the metrics used to gauge what works and what doesn’t. How can I help SPL reach a larger populations of teens and better yet, appeal to them in a way that they want to come back and invite their friends, too? How can I become better equipped to suggest other materials they may like? What can I do to go the extra mile?

I remember my first day here, being told that if we have ideas for anything we should not shy away from them because if it doesn’t work, at least we’ll know we tried and there is always the opportunity to learn from the mistakes or the areas where we fell short. I’m not into Hockey or sports, but one of my favorite quotes is by Wayne Gretzky, and it is one I try to apply to all aspects of my life: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” I look forward to welcoming the learning opportunities coming my way at SPL.

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