Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Life Behind the Reference Desk featuring Julia K. Riley
Welcome to another edition of Life Behind the Reference Desk! I am excited today to bring you librarian and blogger, Julia K. Riley, who blogs at Spine Label (and isn't that an apropos library blog name?). You can also find her on Twitter @JuliaKRiley. I only recently "met" Julia but I loved hearing about her job and what she does for her community. And I am truly enjoying her blog so I definitely hope you will visit, she has some great things to say about the books she is reading. Julia lives in Austin, Texas, so I feel bereft that I did not ask her some awesome Texas questions during this interview, but alas, instead I asked her other things. Enjoy and definitely check out her blog!
I love working with teens! Teens are so creative and passionate about their interests. I hung out at the public library quite a bit as a young teen and the books I discovered there (namely, Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block) really influenced me. I know first hand what a difference a public library with a well-curated YA collection can make, and I love knowing that I'm creating that for teens in the community I serve.
2. What types of programs or outreach do you do at your library?
For teens, I coordinate the teen advisory group that meets once a month. It's still a fledgling group, so I don't do a ton of other specialized teen programming. During the summer reading program, I do a weekly teen program (usually something crafty). And I always try to do something for Teen Read Week and Teen Tech Week. For younger kids, I coordinate a kids-reading-to-dogs program with the Austin Dog Alliance, and I recently started doing family storytime occasionally (I share this program with two other staff members). During the month of November, our library participates in National Novel Writing Month, which is actually all-ages but ends up mostly being adults, and I share those programs with the adult services coordinator.
3. What has been your path to librarianship? Have you always wanted to be a librarian?
I studied mass communication in undergrad, with an emphasis on print journalism. I was a couple of semesters away from graduation when I realized I cared more about how people access information rather than creating it. I truly wish I could remember the "aha!" moment where I decided to look into library science, but I can't. The more I read about librarianship, the more I was convinced it was the career path for me. I completed my undergraduate degree in December 2006 and started library school the next semester.
Growing up (even though high school), I was always praised for my writing ability. It seemed natural to pursue a career that depended on the strength of my writing skills, but I was never as passionate about journalism as I am about library science. Fortunately, I feel like I make good use of my undergraduate degree on a daily basis. Being able to write clearly and concisely is a good skill to have!
4. Can you talk about your role in your library? You have your MLS but are not working in a traditional “librarian” position. As anyone working in a library knows, the paraprofessional staff is essential to a smooth work environment. Do you feel you are making good use of your degree?
I was hired for my current position during my first year of library school. I started around the same time as the director, so my position (which was initially just working the circulation desk) really became what I was interested in (and capable of) doing. The library didn't (and doesn't) have a children's librarian, and I eventually became responsible for selecting and cataloging all of the youth materials. The reference librarian had already set the wheels in motion for starting a teen advisory group, so I took over that project, too. I still do my time on the circulation desk, though. I do feel like I make good use of my degree, because my day-to-day responsibilities are are the same as most youth services librarians. It's frustrating, because I'm not being compensated (though the city does pay me for having degrees my position doesn't require... but it's not much!) near the amount of being in an librarian position. Still, I'm gaining experience every day and I have health insurance, so I can't complain too much!
5. Do you have any advice for librarians interested in starting a blog?
I think of the best things about our field is how willingly people share information (it seems only natural!). It's great to read a lot of library blogs but it's even better to be a part of the conversation. If you're thinking about starting a blog, my advice would be to just go for it. Everyone has something to say, and only good things can come from it (well, assuming you don't use it to dump all over your boss or other coworkers).
6. You recently just finished up serving on the Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults selection committee and wrote a really great post about it. Do you have any advice for YALSA members excited to work on a selection committee?
Any words of wisdom? It's a lot of work, but also a lot of fun. Don't hold off on applying because you think you won't be appointed to a committee-- you might be surprised!
7. What has been a recent favorite program or event at your library?
We did a family program, just before the holidays, for making snowglobes. It was supposed to be a two-hour program, but we ran out of supplies in the first 15 minutes or so. It was probably the craziest program I've ever been a part of, but it was one of my favorites because so often I have programs where only a handful of people show up (or worse, none at all!). It's great to see the community get a little over-excited about a program.
8. What is one website you find useful in your work?
Definitely the blogs of all the other fabulous librarians who have been a part of your "Life Behind the Reference Desk" series! But besides the obvious, yalit.com is a great resource for keeping up with what books are coming out when. I like to browse craft sites like Craftster and Cut Out and Keep for teen craft ideas, and I skim Mashable's social media section, too.
9. Do you have any advice for students interesting in pursuing an MLS degree?
Be prepared for a long job hunt, especially if you are limited geographically (as I am). Diversify your skills as much as possible (without being too all over the place), but find a way to be a rock star in one particular area. Volunteer or intern in a variety of places-- even if you know you want to work in a public library, see if you can get some experience at a special library of some type. The experience will come in handy when the public library has a hiring freeze. Go to as many conferences as possible and network, network, network. And definitely read Rethinking Information Work by G. Kim Dority.
10. And everyone wants to know, what are you reading?
Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters by Natalie Standiford
Life Behind the Reference Desk featuring Julia K. Riley
Life Behind the Reference Desk|