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:


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.


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].”


Looking Forward to a Great Year…

My name is Laura, and I will be working as the Children’s Services Intern this year.  My background is in education and I have never worked in a library before, so I really appreciate the opportunity to learn from such a vibrant and dynamic one.  My first few days as an intern reminded me of taking my son to his first day of third grade last week.  As I walked him into the classroom, I could tell from the look on his face that he was a little overwhelmed by the new space, the new teacher, and the new faces he saw.  But it only lasted a moment–as soon as he found that his desk was near a good friend he looked at me and said, “This is going to be great!”.  Reflecting on my orientation days, I can relate to the feeling of being a little overwhelmed, but also tremendously excited about the opportunity that this experience provides.  It was great to meet and get to know the other interns and learn about their backgrounds and aspirations.  I am really looking forward to hearing about their experiences throughout the year.  Additionally, listening to staff in various departments talk about the work they do was inspiring and motivating.  Their enthusiasm for the library is truly contagious.

One of the things I most appreciated from the orientation and that I am looking forward to participating in is the culture of collaboration and learning that is fostered at the library. Through the opportunities that are presented to listen to and dialogue with patrons, other organizations in the community, and colleagues we will have the opportunity to learn from each other, share ideas and figure out ways to meet the needs that are expressed.   I love the fact that libraries are not stagnant institutions, but are continually evaluating and refining services, collections and even library spaces to best serve the community.  I am excited to be a part of it.  This is going to be a great year!


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.


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.


The Beginning of Community Engagement

So far during this internship I have learned a lot about the Skokie community and how passionate everyone in the library is about it, which is such a great thing. Skokie Library is a very diverse and welcoming part of the Skokie community, and seeing how much the library does to learn and grow to help the community is inspiring. As the Community Engagement Intern I am thrilled to be able to work closely with the Skokie community and see from the libraries standpoint what it takes to be a successful part of it. I am already amazed at all the work and time that goes into learning about the community and its changes. Through the community tour and a meeting that I went to last week it is clear Skokie Library does its research and works hard to improve things for their community. There isn’t an end in sight for them as they focus on the community that supports them and how they can do better to support them. They do this by traveling to local school, and there is a lot of them, to going to different neighborhoods and seeing how their services can be utilized/made more accessible to patrons.

I always knew how important libraries were to communities and vice versa but it is eye opening to see it for myself. I am excited to work in Community Engagement where I know wherever I end up in the library world that this information and experience will help me grow; and hopefully help me improve the community aspect of where ever I end up. Communities and libraries go hand in hand and it is never going to be something that changes. This experience will only help advance me and my career as I move forward and learn more about in the inner and outer workings of library and the inner and outer workings of a community.


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.


Storytime For All


Over the past few weeks, my storytime outreach has taken me on some wonderful new adventures.  This week alone I’ve visited four different home daycare settings and done storytimes for some adorable babies, toddlers and preschoolers.  Holly and I had a good laugh this Monday after I reported back to her that most of the kids at one of my storytimes seemed cranky and off. Well, Monday was Daylight Savings time.  Also, I scheduled the storytime too close to lunch and nap. I’d never had this as an issue before because I usually do storytimes earlier or later in the day. As a parent, of course I completely understand why the babies and toddlers were off.  Their whole schedule had been shifted thanks to DST. Of course! Note to self and to future storytime interns: don’t schedule storytimes 1) close to DST or 2) too close to lunch or nap. Poor babies! The great thing about this work is that there isn’t any judgement.  I’m just a lady trying to read and sing and dance with little kids. If there are extenuating circumstances, such as some arbitrary clock change that wreaks havoc on most of us, let’s be honest, everything is still going to be ok. I’m very comfortable shifting quickly from one activity to the next and have been able to continue to add to my bag of tricks over the course of my internship.

Working with so many schools and businesses in the community continues to bring me to new experiences each week.  Since my last blog post, I’ve performed three storytimes at MCC Academy, an Islamic school with pre-K through 8th grade, District 68’s Early Childhood Center which offers preschool to special education students and for English language learners ages three through five.  I’ve also been webcast from one classroom at Madison School to another so that kids of all abilities could experience the storytime where they were.  I’ve walked into a classroom ready to perform what I thought was an inclusive storytime only to realize that my repertoire to accommodate a child in a walker or stander is still limited.  Holly and I have talked about “universally designing” storytime so that as many kids as possible can participate fully in all of the physical movements. This has led me to think so much more about how I plan what we will do in storytime as I want to be able to accommodate as many children as possible.  After performing my storytime to two classes at Madison school one morning, I returned to read to the afternoon classes with a visual schedule (see image above for an example of one of the visuals) for those who may benefit from knowing when I’d be transitioning from one activity to the next. I noticed that the classrooms had such transitions and I knew that I could bring in my own.  Honestly, it’s nice to have a visual schedule for myself! Then I don’t forget what comes next after I get a little too crazy dancing the “Winter Pokey” with 25 preschoolers.

Being mindful of our community, I also try to include books in my storytime that are representative of our very diverse community.  I’m grateful to work with such experienced librarians as Holly Jin, who helped me to locate one such item after mentioning to her that I hadn’t come across one in a hurried visit to the board books the previous day.  


I read the book to a very diverse group of twos and toddlers this morning. When I read about skin, hair and eye colors the kids enthusiastically chimed in when they could identify with what the author had written.  Even at age 2!  When I stood up to leave and a two year old commented that I was “very big,” (at 6’2” I know that ‘big’ means ‘extremely tall’ – I get it).  I referred back to the book and recited “‘I have long legs’ – just like (a character) in the book!”


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.



The Start of a Digital Journey

For my independent study this semester, I’m working on two digital projects: first, to tell the story of A. Louise Klehm, Skokie’s first lady doctor, and second, to digitize and create an online exhibit around Skokie Public Library’s fantastic solar eclipse party from 2017.

The goal of the A. Louise Klehm project on a practical level is to become familiar with Omeka, the content-management tool the library uses to create digital collections. The digital ‘items’ and the metadata surrounding them already exist; it’s now a matter of organizing them into a cohesive and interesting story.  As I’ve been digging into the material and starting to shape the exhibit, here are some things I’ve been learning and thinking that will help drive what comes next.

Message – what’s the big idea? 

First and foremost, what is this about? A helpful way to begin to answer this question is to use the formula, “My story is about X, but it is really about Y.”

“My story is about A. Louise Klehm, Skokie’s first lady doctor, but it’s really about perseverance and resilience, about women breaking barriers in history.”

Audience – who cares?

Knowing who you are speaking to drives organization, design, and storytelling decisions. For example, the likely audiences for this project are:

Community members interested in local history – for them, this is primarily a storytelling mission, so it makes sense to emphasize local ties to places and people and relevance to the current day (common pain points, triumphs). What are the moments of drama?  Let’s shape the story around those(for example moments of conflict or overcoming obstacles), How will it end? In this case, we can end on a high note with an uplifting message.

Students – for example, how can we balance giving them the factual information they need without doing all the work for them? What additional resources can we include to help with further research? How can we incorporate this into what our youth librarians are doing?

Researchers (local/Illinois/country) – this isn’t our main audience, but there may be people interested in specific items as part of a larger context, like 19th century medical equipment (or is it early 20th century? shoot, I’ll have to check) or the history of female physicians. How can we present this information so it is easy to find and rich in needed detail?

Us! – How can we use this in the library? Talking through the project with Jessica and Annabelle, Annabelle suggested launching it for Women’s History Month in March and  thinking about how it could work with youth research projects and/or a Civic Lab presentation. In addition, we should think about how the Virtual Community Engagement department can help get the word out.

Narrative – what themes will guide the story you’re telling?

What will audiences learn? What will they feel? What do we want them to do at the end of all this? I’m in the process of categorizing all the items to help me find emerging themes around which to tell the story.

Design – what’s it gonna look like?

This isn’t just about colors and pictures, it’s about how the content is organized and what major principles will inform decisions. For example, the design principle of, “Show, don’t tell,” may translate into keeping the navigation simple and the text minimal, instead using imagery and interaction to communicate.

What’s next?

Now that I have a handle on the answers to some of these major questions, I am digging into all of the items in the collection in detail and starting to organize them. Thanks to Jessica, I have a articles and papers about Dr. Klehm that I can pull from for the story itself. The ultimate goal is to have this ready to go by the end of February so the library can start to promote it as part of Women’s History Month in March. Lots to do, but it’s fun, so I’m sure time will fly!

Meanwhile, I’d love to hear your thoughts about this approach so far, especially around the messaging, intended audiences, and potential for collaboration with others.