Sunday, December 16, 2012

Coping with Tragedy and Giving Back

(Updated, 19 December 2012)

This post is a departure from the interviews that you will normally find here, but like many of you, the events in Newtown, Connecticut are much on my mind. 

Rather than offer my opinions, which won't fix anything, I have collated some resources that may help the young people with whom you work cope with the confusing, horrifying events there. 

Additionally, you'll find links to some sites that are providing financial and other material support to the Newtown community. 

If you know of other helpful resources, please feel free to add them in the comments section.

In great and loving thanks for all of the teachers, librarians, parents, and children I have known 


Coping Resources

Giving Resources
The Newtown School Board is requesting that all donations be directed to the Sandy Hook School Support Fund in care of the United Way at the above URL. Checks can be mailed to: 

SandyHook School Support Fund
c/o Newtown Savings Bank
39 Main St
Newtown, CT 06470

Monday, December 10, 2012

Kelly Keefer

Reading Circle (Clipart)
Being a librarian is my second career. Prior to getting my MLIS in 2006, I held business positions such as marketing manager for publishing companies, and product/project manager for an e-learning company. I earned my MLIS while working full-time, then help on-call and part-time librarian positions at local Bay Area libraries until I found a full-time position with the City of San Leandro.


Currently, I am the Senior Librarian, Youth Services, for the San Leandro Public Library, which serves a community of about 80,000. My job runs the gamut from storytime to children’s desk shifts to school outreach and planning/running the summer reading program.

What would most surprise people about your current job? 

When I tell people I work in a library, they almost always respond with something to the effect of “I wish I had a quiet job like that.” I don’t think they understand just how noisy a library is on storytime days and on weekday afternoons!

What are your top three responsibilities? 
Managing programs, services and the library’s collection for children ages 0-12 and their families. I also supervise the teen librarian who handles programs and the collections for ages 12-18.

Where do you see yourself making the biggest difference? 

I see storytimes, school tours, or anytime I work directly with children, as a great opportunity to make the library seem like a friendly place that welcomes kids and their families. Creating a positive experience goes far in getting that child or family interested in a second visit. I also love having the books and readers advisory tools that will allow kids or parents to find that great next book that will keep them interested in reading.


What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve been given? 

If you are planning to be a children’s librarian, make sure you like working with kids AND their parents, and make sure you can work evening and weekends! Many people are surprised by the hours they have to work at a public library, but evenings and weekends are often when services are most needed.

What’s something you wish you had known when you started out in this profession?

I wish I had more training in dealing with difficult patrons, including the mentally ill, or just plain angry. It can take some time before you find the right approach for working with the various types of patrons who use the library. I recommend the book “Diffusing the Angry Patron: A How To Do It Manual for Librarians, 2nd ed” for all libraries.


What fictional character would you most like to be for a day? 

Hermione Granger

Friday, December 7, 2012

Read...and share!

Original image at
Here's a challenge leading up to the new year: make this blog bigger and better!

In the (almost) three months this blog has been live, a dozen school and public librarians have shared their stories. People have clicked through to its pages more than 3,000 times! Our Facebook page has more than 200 "likes."

There are many more stories to come and I want even more people to read them. Why? Because our stories matter. It's that simple.

My challenge to you - this blog's readers - is this:

1) Tell your peers, colleagues, students, instructors, principals, and trustees about the For the Future: What Today's Youth Services Want the Next Generation to Know. Share the blog (and/or its Facebook page) via Twitter, professional listservs, e-mails, blogs, snail mail, and more. You can use this handy shortened link for the blog page,, and this one for the Facebook page, 
As I did at 200 "likes," I'll continue making a donation to a reading, literacy, or library-related cause at each 100th like. I'll also make a similar donation at the 5,000 and 10,000 page views for this blog.
2) Share your stories! Do you have advice, cool ideas, or something else about your life as a children's, teen, or school librarian that you want to share? Let me know. E-mail me and I'll work with you to share your stories. Perhaps you know other librarians whose work inspires you: share their name with me so their stories can be read too.

Thanks for reading and for being part of this new adventure.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Sam Sednek

I graduated from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana in August of 2011 and have since been working as the Teen Services Librarian at the Haverhill Public Library in Massachusetts. Prior to grad school, I served as a Peace Corps volunteer in the southern African country of Lesotho as an English teacher and community library developer. I'm a big fan of getting teens to create content not just consume it and I hope to continue working in libraries striving to add digital media centers to their list of services. 


My current job is a little of everything. My library is short on people and long on jobs. I do reference, help with the website, do some children's programming, all teen programming and teen collection development.

Teen Services is really a do anything, do everything job. I was hired to “handle the teens” but was given a lot of leeway on how that gets done. So, I've done rocket launches, added computers to the Teen Area, am working with teens on painting benches, can't wait until the next outdoor capture the flag game, love working with the robotics club, and hope that the upcoming Beautiful Creatures movie stirs up as much book excitement as the Twilight and Hunger Games franchises did. 

Who is your greatest ally and why?

The head of children's services, my boss, was the last Teen Services librarian in Haverhill. The assistant director of the library was the Teen Services librarian before her. I've got a lot of administrative support and it helps me get far. 

How do you stay current? 

People often forget how useful the internet is...I mean, it is full of adorable cats memes and endless flash games but if you work with teens half of that can be turned into a program. I read blogs that interest me (io9, 4YA, Lifehacker, Jezebel) and then I turn as much of that into a program or activity for my kids. It has worked pretty well so far! 

How do you measure success? 

On the last half day of school, I was working on a new booklist at my desk when five kids made their way over. “Sam! What are we going to do today?!” was the call...and I knew I had some level of success. I got kids running from school to the library to do stuff. What's better than that?


What's worth fighting for? Why? 

Money. Budget cuts are everywhere but if you can build a program that brings folks into the library and has them leave with a) library materials and b) a smile on their face, you've got it made. Apply for grants even if they're scary and time consuming because once you start getting outside funding your possibilities become endless. 

How do you respond when someone asks you, “Isn't everything online?” 

Well, it pretty much is and we're heading further in that dirction, so when I get that line the first thing out of my mouth is, “Absolutely! Have you seen our awesome new databases?” Folks think everything is on Google but if you have one or two good databases up your sleeve you can show them the one-stop shop isn't Google but your library's webpage.


What fictional character would you most like to be for a day? 

Honestly? I read a lot of dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction. Most fictional characters have really awful lives and I'd pretty much pass on all of 'em. But, I do sort of like the crazy medieval world in R.L. LaFevers' Grave Mercy so maybe I'd be Ismae...after she learns how to kill people. 

How do you hope to spend your retirement? 

Wait. What? Librarians actually retire? 

Paper or digital? 

All of the above. The more formats we have the more people we can reach. There's no losing scenario there.

Email Sam at

And if you have enjoyed this interview, please continue reading! Better yet, come join us on Facebook and you'll be the first to know when there are new interviews posted.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Dipesh Navsaria

My undergraduate majors were biology and English Literature, followed by a master’s in public health in health services. I then went to physician assistant school and practiced as a PA for a few years in outpatient pediatrics before going to medical school. It was in the midst of medical school I went to library school with the intention of learning more about children’s literature.

I am now an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin, spending about half my time in primary-care pediatrics at a community health center and the other half of my time doing a blend of advocacy training, early literacy promotion, and medical education/advising. I am the medical director of Reach Out and Read Wisconsin as well. It keeps life interesting!


Why would a physician want an MLS? (Or, why would a librarian want an MD?)

I went to library school expressly to learn about children’s literature. I did - but I also learned a lot more. I learned that information-seeking behaviors and techniques (particularly around medicine) were not unique to medical education — reference interview is not all that different from medical interviewing. In a sense (if you ignore the performing of “procedures”), medicine could be considered a highly specialized form of librarianship.

Most people are surprised to learn that I was not a librarian before I went to medical school, but that I specifically intended to go to library school during my medical training.

Who is your greatest ally and why?

Public librarians. They give information away as a public good without question. The focus is always on “how can we serve our patrons best” without being unduly wrapped up in questions of profit and financing. Health care could learn a lot from public libraries.

How do literacy and librarianship fit in your current job?

A good part of my time is spent on programs which train health care providers to encourage families to share books together with their young children as a critical aspect of well-child care. It is critical to expose children to the foundational aspects of literacy early in order to build brain development so that they are “primed” for learning in preschool and beyond. As I am fond of saying, Books Build Better Brains!


What’s worth fighting for? Why?

Fight for what you know to be true. Keep repeating it. It’s taken a few years, but the notion of giving books to children as a key component of health care is finally gaining traction.

How do you help parents and other adults understand the value of sharing books with children?

In clinical practice, I give the book directly to the child and watch what they do with it. I can perform a lot of my developmental assessment just by observing. (I’ve said that I’d rather walk into a well-child visit with a young child without my stethoscope than without a book – I learn a lot more from the book!). 

I then comment on what I see to the parents and use that as a springboard to discuss home reading, bedtime, school and the like. I then print out a “prescription to read” on their after-visit summaries to highlight the point.

What can youth services librarians learn from medicine / medical practice?

What you do is critically important. I think too many librarians think that they “only do” something “nice” but not “important”. You are so much of the education and health care infrastructure that I rely on to help ensure my patients develop well. I trust and rely on your core values of public service, privacy, and being non-judgemental.

You’re a bulwark of what makes our society great, and you directly work with and influence the lives of children. Start acting like it, and start asking for what you need to fulfill that mission.


You can have any superpower; what would it be?

Almost-infinite persuasion. With careful advocacy, we collectively can accomplish virtually anything. (And I say “almost” because there should always be checks on anything.)

You can find Dipesh at

And if you have enjoyed this interview, please continue reading! Better yet, come join us on Facebook and you'll be the first to know when there are new interviews posted.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Betsy Bird

I've been a children's librarian with New York Public Library (NYPL) for the last nine years or so. I am currently NYPL's Youth Materials Specialist.

My blog A Fuse #8 Production is hosted by School Library Journal (SLJ). I review for Kirkus and sometimes the New York Times and I've written the ALA Editions title Children's Literature Gems: Choosing and Using Them in Your Library Career. My picture book Giant Dance Party is out with HarperCollins this April 23rd and I've a book with Candlewick in the Fall of 2013 on the true stories behind your favorite children's books.


What would surprise most people about your current job?

Well, in my current position, I'm one of two people who purchase all the materials for kids and teens in the NYPL system. One thing that tends to surprise folks is that a system as large as NYPL has centralized ordering, but that just makes sense when you're buying for 86 branches. Other people are unaware that Brooklyn has its own library system and Queens another. I only buy for Manhattan, Staten Island, and the Bronx, but there's more than enough to keep me busy.

What are your top three responsibilities?

I suppose those would be the actual purchasing of materials and managing requests from my librarians in the branches. I also make a lot of site visits to the aforementioned 86 branches to help with the collections, get a sense of what neighborhoods are reading, and generally support the people who work with New York's youth. Finally, I help to make the lists that make NYPL great - everything from our annual "100 Titles for Reading and Sharing" (a list we've made since 1911) to the summer reading list.

Betsy Bird (Photograph by Sonya Sones)
How do you stay current?

To keep up with pop culture I subscribe to Cynopsis Kids which is a daily media newsletter which encapsulates all the wheelings and dealings in the industry (as well as a sense of what the top watched television shows are and what future shows and movies for kids will be). 

To keep up with instruction my library system does a slambang job at providing training for all its employees. Going to library conferences also helps a great deal.

Keeping up with technology is, to a certain extent, a case of letting the folks with the new projects approach us as a library system.

And keeping up with literature is a breeze when you read the best children's literary blogs out there (bookshelves of doom, 100 Scope Notes, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, etc.). I also read my SLJ and Kirkus cover to cover each month, subscribe to listservs like child_lit and ccbc-net, and when I have time I attend publisher previews provided here in NYC for the local librarians, which gives me a sense of the upcoming seasons. Plus I read and review quite a lot.


What's the best piece of professional advice you've been given?

Pick your battles. Granted, I got that advice from an episode of That 70s Show, but I figure it still stands. Generally speaking, you have to get the lay of the land before you start kvetching about things that are wrong here and there. Complain about a dinky little squabble and you may find yourself out in the cold when the real battle comes and is worth fighting.

What's worth fighting for? Why?

It comes down to two things for me: the staff and the young patrons. You fight for the staff, the ones who go above and beyond the call of duty as well as the ones who do their best and fill the necessary seats. You also have to fight for the kids, supporting them and making it clear that our child and teen patrons deserve only the rarest kind of best in their literature and the programs we provide.

What's something you wish you had known when you started out in this profession?

Find a way to remember names and faces. I had no idea it would become such a huge part of my job. Remember not only the regular patrons who come through the door, but also the other librarians, information assistants, managers, and clerks in your system. A good memory is worth its weight in gold so if you're not good at this particular skill, find ways to improve it.

How do you respond when someone asks you, "Isn't everything online?"

Oh yeah. That happened to me once. A hedge fund manager at a literary gala.

First I mentioned that even if everything was online there are huge swaths of the public that can't go there whenever they want to since they simply can't afford it. 

Then when they start to mention the death of the printed book (and they will) you point out the statistics that show that in point of fact sales of ebooks have not affected the sales of print materials any more than the arrival of television destroyed movie theaters. 

We've patrons coming into my libraries asking for library cards for the first time because they realized we had ebooks. So it's a new segment of the reading public that's benefitting the most here.

And finally, have you ever tried to read a gorgeous picture book on a tablet? Dude, until they make a juice proof bit of handheld machinery that can stand up to a sippy cup full of Welch's grape juice, children's books are in no danger of disappearing print-wise.


How do you defy the librarian stereotypes?

Be funny. Weirdly enough this is the number one way I end up surprising people. Apparently we are humorless old harridans without so much as a droplet of amusement in our bones. Crack a joke and it does wonders for the occupation's image, I tell ya.

Email Betsy at

And if you have enjoyed this interview, please continue reading! Better yet, come join us on Facebook and you'll be the first to know when there are new interviews posted.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Like and Kids Win!

As I write this post, our Facebook page is at 99 "likes." Who will be out 100th like?! Better yet, who will be our 200th like? Spread the word, get your friends to like this page, and when we reach 200 likes, I'll make a donation to Reading is Fundamental (RIF)! Ready, set, go...

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Annette Curtis Klause

Posting this interview is a special treat for me - and I hope reading it is a treat for you. Annette Curtis Klause is one of an intrepid cadre of youth services librarians who also writes for young people (other members include Beverly Cleary, Patrick Jones, and Ellen Wittlinger). Cheers!

I have worked for the Montgomery County Public Libraries in Maryland for thirty years, many of them as head of a children’s department. During that time I have also had four novels for young readers published, and various short stories.


Currently I work in Collection Management. I select the children’s fiction, picture books, DVDs, and Spanish books for 21 libraries, as well as graphic novels for the children’s, young adult, and adult collections.

What would most surprise people about your current job?

I get to keep hermit crabs in my office.

How do you manage your time?

Lots and lots of Outlook pop-up reminders. LOL. Also, a written yearly plan, divided by month.

Who is your greatest ally and why?

My co-worker who buys the other children’s materials, because she makes me laugh when things get tough, and she keeps candy in her office.

What are the most challenging aspects of your job?

Trying to please everyone on a limited budget.


What's worth fighting for?

Intellectual Freedom. Kids deserve to find the information they need without others getting in their way. Young people have the right to decide what they are ready for and find their own level. Ignorance stunts society.

What's something you wish you had known when you started out in this profession?

There’s a lot more to working in a public library than what you learn in Library School. Coping with difficult people (both the public and staff) should be a core curriculum class.

How do you respond when someone asks you, “You need a degree for that?”

I have a certain little gesture. Well, okay, I’m politer than that, but I do have a look that can stun.

How do you respond when someone asks you, “Isn’t everything online?”

I tell them no it isn’t and explain what the library can help them find in our databases and from the services we subscribe to.


What fictional character would you most like to be for a day?

Lucy when she was one of the queens of Narnia. I always wanted to go there and meet Reepicheep among others.

Email Annette at

Monday, November 12, 2012

Ben Waymouth

I graduated from Taylor University in ‘96 with a BS in Social Studies Education and then taught every subject I was licensed for at various levels, grades 7-12.  I completed my MLS from IU SLIS program in 2007.  I left the classroom in 2006 to work as Media Specialist for grades 9-12.

Due to attrition I served grades 5-12 as Media Specialist - 3 buildings - during ‘10-’11 school year.  This is my second year as K-12 Director for the entire corporation.  A strained budget and 1:1 implementation in my district has created my current position.


I manage all seven libraries in our district with help from a staff of seven hourly assistants.  My duties revolve around information literacy, purchasing of print and electronic resources, 1:1 circulation, inventory, and tech support, library and reading program administration, managing a staff, and the daunting task of collection development at all buildings.

What would most surprise people about your current job?

The variety that each day brings: never boring, dull, or mundane!  The degree to which I have to know, use, implement, and leverage technology surprises people constantly.  

How do you manage your time?

I operate off a monthly calender that I share with admins and my assistants so they can see where I’m working, if I’m away from my office.  I work out of the high school library where my “original” office has been since I started in the library.  It’s the best environment for me as it allows me to get the most accomplished.  I schedule visits to each building to meet with my assistants face to face about every 2-3 weeks.

Who is your greatest ally and why?

English teachers and Social Studies teachers.  Those content areas are more apt to need research and require reading as part of a grade in their coursework.  Math people have very few curriculum connections to the library.  Science people in my district seek their resources elsewhere (not for my lack of trying!!)  

Also, students who are voracious readers. I bust my buns trying to connect and develop relationships with students as they’re THE reason our libraries do what we do!

How do you stay current?

Twitter is a GREAT tool to share and aggregate resources; both for staff and students.  I subscribe to several magazines to stay current in trends, tech, and practices.  SLJ, LMC, Teacher Librarian, School Library Monthly, Kirkus Reviews just to name a few.  Finding time to read each one is often a challenge.  Attending conferences is something I’ve been unable to do lately with my K-12 position.  I need and want to attend more conferences but worry about the value versus the time away from school.  

What are the most challenging aspects of your job?

Having to relinquish / delegate duties that a certified media specialist should be handling is tough on the soul.  It devalues my degree and the profession.  They [the paraprofessionals] are great, experienced, and mean well, however only one of my assistants has library professional training.  Their fixed schedules don’t allow them much flexibility to conquer tasks outside of clerical duties, and consequently I’m left to pick up what they run out of time to do that I’ve delegated to them.  Being spread so thin and being unable to perform deep rich work at each building makes me feel many days I’ve accomplished little if anything at all.  Disillusionment is a problem that plagues me as director.  Collection development is a challenge that I don’t feel I can truly tackle; I do the best I can relying on the help I have.


How can you get the most out of attending conferences?

Avoid vendors at conferences unless you have a specific need.  Attend as many breakout sessions as possible, that’s where mentors present, where ideas flow, where you gather insights.  Most beneficial is the confirmation that what your doing for your patrons is ahead of others in the room (pat on the back).

Map out multiple sessions for each time slot.  Some sessions are a bust; description doesn’t fit what’s presented in the first 15 minutes.  Jump to your second or third choice.

Ask about Twitter official hashtags at conference registration tables to gather quotes or links to resources; especially from people who attended sessions you didn’t attend.

What’s something you wish you had known when you started out in this profession?

Library staffing is first to cut when budgets get lean.  My two colleagues didn’t retire; their positions were ended forever.  I had to assume more and more duties back to back years while fearing for my own longevity.  Hard to complain when those around you are loosing their jobs.  

I wish I would’ve taken cataloging first.  Data is the hinge for library catalogs / automation systems.  Knowing how to properly add acquisitions early in your career is essential.  If you don’t know how the catalog works you can’t teach students or lead folks to your resources.

I also wish I would’ve taken collection development towards the end of my MLS course work.  I would’ve gotten more practical use out of the class I feel.  What was being offered and what fit my academic schedule was at fault.

What should you look for in a mentor?

Vision, experience, and wisdom.  Someone who shows the ability to conquer accurately many tasks in the framework of given amount of time.  Someone who sees the admin perspective and the classroom person perspective; balances those viewpoints and can advise what’s best for “kids” not what’s best for programs.  
How do you respond when someone asks you, “Isn’t everything online?”

Agree with them...then make the do you trust that info for authority and fidelity?  How do you get multiple sources of information that corroborate the same opinion and or perspective?  Print resources often provide a checks and balances on digital sources due to the editing process.  However, authority and information fidelity reign supreme...regardless of the venue, platform, or format.


You can have any superpower; what would it be?

Would love to time travel - backward and forward in time - love the mystique of the Back to the Future films!

Paper or digital?

I’m having a hard time holding a book because I enjoy my single sided Nook Glowlight and iPad.  Having to jockey the book around is proving a small but big annoyance.  My fingers like to tap to flip pages - smaller motor skills.  Also I’m finding I’m highlighting and looking up words in the books I’m reading.  The fact I can push my Kindle highlights to my Evernote account for sharing with others has proven beneficial lately professionally.
Email Ben at

Monday, November 5, 2012

Kate Kite

I started at Wood River Public Library as a page in 2002 while pursuing my B.S. in English at SIUE. After a couple years at the library, I realized I was much better suited to a career in Library Science than in High School English education. I graduated from SIUE in 2005 with a B.S. in English, and from GSLIS at UIUC with a MSLIS in 2007. I was an on-campus GSLIS student, and through fortuitous timing I was able to return to Wood River Public Library after graduating. I was the Youth Services Librarian for both Wood River and neighboring East Alton Library until May 2008, when I became a full-time staff member at Wood River.


I am the Assistant Director/Youth Services Librarian for Wood River Public Library. My responsibilities include all programming for youth, collection development for books in the Juvenile and Young Adult sections, cataloging all print and nonprint materials for the library, coordinating Homebound services, and numerous other duties. I am currently a member of the Illinois Library Association's Youth Services Forum, the iRead Summer Reading Program Committee, and an active member of my regional Southwest Advocates for Youth Services (SWAYS) group. No two days are ever the same!

Who is your greatest ally and why?

Wood River Public Library's Director, Diane Steele. She aided me in my pursuit of a Library Science degree, and her values of collaboration, cooperation, and involvement in the library community have shaped my views as a professional. Diane's support of new ideas and programs at the library challenges us to grow as an organization and staff. She welcomes outreach relationships within the community, encourages staff to be active in regional and state committees, and her guidance in pursuing grants has been indispensible.

How do you measure success?

When measuring success, I opt for qualitative rather quantitative. Every time I have a positive interaction with a patron, that is a success. Every time a child or teen has a great time at a program, that is a success. Every time I am able to find the answer to a patron's question, or connect a patron with a book or author, or provide a service to our community, I consider that a success. By measuring accomplishments in these terms, I almost always feel like a day has been successful!

What's the best part about working with young people?
The best part about working with young people is their honesty and creativity. If they are enthused, you'll know it, and if something isn't grabbing their attention, you'll know that, too! I try to choose crafts and activities that allow children and teens to express themselves creatively, and I am constantly amazed at what they come up with.


How do you decide what's important?

Anything that directly affects the patrons is important - programming, new materials, outreach, services.  Providing these things to the best of your staff's ability should be the highest priority at your library.

How can you get the most out of attending conferences?

Get social! One of the best things about going to conferences is the face-to-face time you get with colleagues. Take advantage of the social events and mixers and don't be afraid to take the initiative in talking to people. Also, learn the watch words in the program descriptions to find what will be beneficial to you. For example, sessions that advertise innovative programming using "creative staffing" may not be beneficial if you're the only staff member in the Youth Services department. 


What fictional character would you most like to be for a day?

Harriet M. Welch from Harriet the Spy, BEFORE everyone finds her notebook. I've always wanted to ride in a dumbwaiter, and wouldn't mind living on the Upper East Side in New York City.

How do you hope to spend your retirement?

I hope to purchase an RV and spend my retirement travelling around the country and world with my husband. That's a long way off, though!

E-mail Kate at

Friday, November 2, 2012

What does it take to be a youth services librarian?

Let's face it: working with young people in libraries can be fun and rewarding, but it is hard work. The major professional associations allied with youth services librarianship have developed sets of competencies to help practitioners, library and school administrators, students, and the public better understand the skills, knowledge, and dispositions necessary to be successful. 

Take a look at these competencies. If you are a current or retired youth services librarian, what's missing? How would you change these lists? If you are a pre-professional youth services librarian, in what areas do you need assistance?

And if you're curious, see what you would have been learning had you been a student at the Carnegie [Library] Training School a hundred years ago!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Taliah Abdullah

My first professional library position was as a librarian/media specialist in an elementary school.  Librarianship was a career I was introduced to later in life, despite being a lifelong library user.  While I was student teaching as undergrad in Elementary Education, I met a school librarian who was African American and this was my first time meeting an African American librarian.  This encounter sparked an interest and set me on the path to becoming a youth services librarian.  While completing my MLS at University of Illinois, I worked at the University of Illinois-Urbana Graduate Library, and at Grainger Engineering Library Information Center.


I am a Senior Librarian with the Denver Public Library, managing a branch, in which programming and the collection has a youth focus.  My top responsibilities are the daily management of staff, budget, and resources of a medium-size branch, community outreach to schools and organizations serving youth and families, and serving as the chair for the afterschool program committee.

How do you measure success?

For me, success is measured by the lasting connections that are made.  This includes:  teachers who call at the beginning of each school year regarding my availability to visit classes; adults patrons who seek out my assistance based on the patient and non-judgmental service they receive; teens who apply for the youth assistant position, after having attended the afterschool programs and reached the hiring age; and staff that enjoy and are interested in working with and for me based on my reputation for fairness, appreciation of diversity, and ability to provide a great working environment. 

What are the most challenging aspects of your job?

The most challenging aspect is inconsistent funding which results in reduced hours, programming, and staff.  In the past, it has been supervising inherited employees who are resistant to change.  Fortunately, I do not currently have staff that falls into this category.
Taliah Abdullah

What’s something you wish you had known when you started out in this profession?

The myth of equal access.  Early in my career, naively, I assumed that all libraries provided users with equal services and access to technology and information. I have learned that it is the responsibility of librarians to advocate for comparable access to information, services, and equipment regardless of the income level of a community.                                

How do you respond when someone asks you, “You need a degree for that?”

I ask “What is it that you think librarians do?”  Usually the response is check out books and put books back on the shelves.  At this time, I take the time to explain the varied responsibilities of librarians from programming to budget management to staff supervision to serving on committees and also explaining there are different responsibilities depending on the setting in which you are a librarian (i.e. school, public, academic, corporate)


What fictional character would you most like to be for a day?

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor is my favorite book of all time.  As crazy as it sounds due to the blatant racism experienced by African Americans during this time period, I would select Cassie as the character to be for a day.  I love Cassie’s outspokenness, her loyalty to friends and family, her sense of adventure, and her need to seek justice in her own way.

E-mail Taliah at