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        

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

We're in the news!

I will not attempt to be as clever as Mo Willems, but this blog is in the news. You can read my interview with the GSLIS Communications Office here if you're interested in learning more about why I started this blog and what I hope it will accomplish. There's also a note about the blog on Indiana SLIS website. Best of all, the blog is—at the moment, anyway—front and center on the website for the Center for Children's Books

So, keep reading, keep sharing, keep learning!


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Sandy Fouts

My previous occupations: Professional ballerina, department store clerk, elementary school teacher, Jazzercise instructor.

I began my library career as a substitute clerk at the Livermore Public Library in Livermore, California. Within a few years, I became a permanent clerk at LPL, and a library assistant in another town. In 2003, I decided to go back to school, at the age of 44, and become a librarian.  I was hired by the Hayward Public Library while completing the MLIS, but have returned to my home, the Livermore Public Library, where I now serve as a Supervising Librarian of Children’s Services.


Tell us about your current position?

As a Supervising Librarian of Children’s Services, I share employee management duties with the Supervising Librarian in Adult Services.   A  few of my responsibilities include, scheduling staff, reviewing time cards, collection development, outreach to schools, collaboration with community groups, program creation and implementation, staying current, and  my favorite part, serving my staff and patrons.   

What are the best and worst parts about working with young people?

The best part about working with young people is they love to have fun.  When they’re having fun, I have fun too. 

The worst part about working with young people can be the parents that accompany them.  While most parents are engaged, friendly, and cooperative, some parents can be absolute “fun suckers” — complaining about everything, never participating with their children, or are pushy and forthright.  

Some parents enjoy using the library as a babysitting service while they chat away on their smartphones and use the computer for hours through naptime and meals.  This drives me crazy!

Where do you see yourself making the biggest difference?

Nothing is more heartbreaking than meeting children who dislike or “hate” reading.   I often wonder where we went wrong, what made this happen?  As a librarian, I can make the biggest difference by providing abundant and varied choices in reading materials that are most popular and interesting for children.  

I provide programming that will connect children with books and the library.   I have the freedom, knowledge and ability to find that perfect book that will spark a child’s love for reading and learning and turn reluctant readers into readers for life.  


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

I answer, “There’s a sea of information online, the good, the bad and the unreliable!”  I am always surprised to find out how many children, teens, adults, educators, and professionals have no idea what reliable research tools the library provides.  This ongoing problem is the reason why I go out to the schools each month to teach research skills and library website navigation.

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

An incredible former Supervising Librarian at the Livermore Public Library said to me one day, “I never go home until I’ve helped or inspired at least one person each day.”  I strive to live up to her example. 


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

Jennifer “Cam” Jansen from the Cam Jansen Super Sleuth series.   Having a photographic memory would be nice at my age.  Solving crimes would also be fun for just one a day.

How/where do you hope to spend your retirement?

I’m looking forward to spending my retirement on our Catalina 38 sailboat, visiting far away places.

E-mail Sandy at 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Kim Krueger

I started as a teen public library page, and then worked a few years in Circulation. After college I worked at the Ryerson Library at the Art Institute of Chicago in various capacities, including book conservation and archives.  When my kids were older, I earned my MSLIS through the UIUC LEEP program. During my graduate studies, I made the switch from the academic art library to youth services at a public library. Shortly after getting my degree, I was hired for my present position as the Head of Youth Services at the Brookfield Public Library in Brookfield, IL.


Tell us about your current position?

As a department head, I manage 3 FTE employees and am responsible for programming and collection development for children from birth through high school. Our small but very busy library serves a suburban population of about 19,000.

For this job, managing youth services programming, staff, and the budget are my greatest responsibilities. It's difficult to meet the needs and wants of a widely varied population. Also, our library is very small, and finding space to work and do programs so we’re not on top of each other is a challenge.

I could not function without my full-time young adult librarian. She manages the young adult programs and collection and is an invaluable sounding board.

How do you manage your time?

I plan programming 2 months ahead based on our newsletter publication schedule. Most of our programs are pretty set and rotate throughout the year. I try to take care of administrative duties well in advance, because something unexpected inevitably comes up. I order materials weekly and as needed, and also do 4 to 5 information desk shifts per week, as well as 2 storytimes and an after-school program.

How do you stay current?

I subscribe to listservs, read blogs, and read the usual professional journals. Entertainment Weekly is one of my best sources for pop culture information. I talk with my colleagues and attend local meetings and national conferences whenever possible. I listen to my clients—children and their parents—and try to meet their needs. Middle school-aged boys know everything about the latest games.

Where do you see yourself making the biggest difference?

I’d like to think I am the friendly librarian who encourages kids of all ages to read whatever they want and to find new books and other media to enjoy.  I want to make the library a place they want to be. I enjoy and value children and love to hear their opinions. They are so much fun to talk to.  I take their wants and needs very seriously and try to make our youth space welcoming.

I measure success when I get a hug from one of my clients! Also, when parents tell me they love our programming and can’t believe that it’s free to the community.


What’s the best (or worst) part about working with young people? 

The best: kids are honest. There are no hidden agendas, and I really appreciate that 

The worst: kids are honest! They have little or no filter, and that can be challenging, especially in a small space that is shared with all age groups.
Kim Krueger

What's a battle you wish you hadn't fought?

I don’t know if it’s a battle or not, but worrying about how many kids are on one computer at the same time is dumb. Who cares?  Kids do things in packs; it’s their nature. Library policies and procedures need to accept reality.

What's worth fighting for?

 A free and open collection filled with materials that children enjoy, and programs that appeal to kids and families – hence, a decent youth services budget.  Kids grow up, and their library experiences in youth will influence whether or not they support their local library when they become tax-paying adults.  My goal is to give them positive experiences that they will remember fondly.

How do you decide what's important?

If we’re talking about programs, I’d say what’s important is having fun programs that kids want to attend. You’ve got to give them what they want, or they won’t come.  Having food always helps. If we’re talking about collections, my opinion is the same. I do try to provide well-written books for them, but they want their superheroes, princesses and video games too, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

What's something you wish you had known when you were starting out in the profession?

 I think graduate school should offer a course in coping with compassion fatigue and burnout. So much of public librarianship is listening. It’s not just about giving people the materials or information they want. It’s a combination of counseling/consoling/cajoling/commiserating—it can be really exhausting. Public service employees really need strong boundaries.

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

Fortunately this hasn’t happened to me, but I’d offer to let them sit at the public service desk for 4 hours, then do a storytime, run an after-school program, and attend a department head meeting and see what they had to say after that.  I’ve certainly learned a great deal through experience, but the degree provided the foundation for my work.

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

Again, I haven’t experienced this directly, but I might say something like: “How long will it take you to sift through Google’s 785,000 possible answers to your question? How will you know which answer is reliable?”  I have seen people’s eyes pop when I tell them the Library pays for databases that offer current, reliable information. They love that!


How do you defy the librarian stereotypes?

Actually, when I was a kid, my favorite librarian wore glasses on a chain and a bun with a pencil stuck in it. I loved her!  I guess I don’t worry much about it. I laugh a lot and I’m not much of a “shush-er”. I may well be a stereotype myself—I do wear comfortable shoes!

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

I always admired Jane Eyre

Where do you hope to spend your retirement?

I will be in Wisconsin on Lake Michigan. I could see volunteering to work with children, either at a library or elsewhere, or making digital and print art—or both!

Paper or digital?

My preference is paper.  No doubt my years of book conservation have biased me, but for me, nothing will replace the experience of turning the pages of a book. The art of a picture book is not the same when viewed on a screen; the change of media changes the experience. That being said, I do value digital materials for their versatility, and I absolutely love playing with Photoshop.

E-mail Kim at

Friday, October 5, 2012

Linda Diekman

What's your current job?

I am a National Board Certified school librarian at Roosevelt Elementary School in Park Ridge, Illinois. After over twenty years in the business world, I received my Masters Degree and a Certificate of Advanced Studies in Library and Information Science from GSLIS at the University of Illinois. I also obtained my teaching certificate through their K-12 program. 

I have been an elementary school librarian since 2006 and previously worked in Lake Bluff and Glenview, Illinois. I have taught as an adjunct faculty member in National Louis University’s school library endorsement program concentrating on collection development and research methods. In addition, I have taught the non-fiction literature course at GSLIS.

I have recently started a blog concentrating on reviews of intermediate grade books. Check it out at

How do you manage your time?

At Roosevelt School, I work with an amazing group of students and educators. There are almost 700 K-5th grade students passing through the library each week. The most challenging part of my job is, with a flexible schedule, to get books in reader’s hands while I work with teachers to plan and deliver collaborative lessons. With almost 700 students, there are just not enough hours in the week. In order to stretch the time available, I’m in the process of reinventing the LRC website so that tutorials and book recommendations are available 24/7. While I can’t clone myself, “going virtual” with my lessons, plans, and programs may help move the library beyond its physical walls.

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

Linda Diekman
The best piece of professional advice I’ve been given came from Vi Harada at the University of Hawaii. When attending a conference session on assessment, she encouraged us to “start small and start friendly.” I think of that every day as I reach out to teachers initiating conversations that, I hope, will lead to collaborative opportunities. I incorporate that advice into my own presentations, hoping to spread that sentiment.

You can have any superpower, what would it be?

I’ve been thinking long and hard about what superpower I would like to have and I think I’d like to be a super-speed reader.  I’d like to just pick up a book, whiz through it, and still get the beauty of the writing, characters, and plot along with instant recall to be able to present a booktalk. That would take care of the problem of “too many books and too little time.”

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Angela Dubinger

What’s your current job?
I am the new Youth Services Manager at the New Castle-Henry County Public Library in New Castle, Indiana.  Previously, I worked 10 years as the Adult Fiction/AV/Teen Services manager at the same library, and received my MLS from SLIS at IUPUI in 2007.  Our 2004-6 new building project allowed for a sorely-needed teen space and shelving room - taking the teen books out of the adult collection and into it’s own designated space.  My old position - formerly a paraprofessional job - is morphing into Public Services manager, and I am now in a new role as well, managing both the children and teen services.
How do you manage your time?
I’ve been responsible for lots of collection development over the years - adult fiction, audiovisual materials and teen materials.  In that time, I could spend all day holed up in the office and doing order entry, reading journals, scheduling staff, emailing.  I think it really comes down to making time to be out on the floor and in the collection, talking with kids and promoting reading and our services.  Especially if, for instance, I’ve just read Legends of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke and want to share Zita’s latest adventures with someone!
How do you stay current?
I read blogs like John Schumacher’s Watch. Connect. Read. and Joyce Valenza’s NeverEnding Search to keep me focused on new technology and to inspire me, for instance, to take that plunge with a new presentation on Prezi.  I also take time to read School Library Journal, The Horn Book, many more blogs, and I follow library associations, authors, journals and librarians on Twitter.  I am also grateful for the storytime programming and early literacy practices shared by Abby the Librarian and Mel’s Desk, who are ALSC members and share conference information when I don’t have time to attend.
What’s worth fighting for?
The rights of kids!  Bending the rules for a child who needs a printout for a report but who had no pocket change.  Advocating for and supporting the teen who just got the evil eye from another employer even though s/he was not breaking rules or disrupting the library.
How do you measure success?
Making connections - I can justify programs with my director and crunch numbers all day, but when a former library Teen Animanga club member stops in on college break to bring me a present from her recent trip to Prague, it’s all worth it.  Or, heck, even when a preschooler tells me during storytime that she has new pants.  
How do you defy the librarian stereotypes?
I must say that I do rock a bun now and then but I never shush.  I tell all the adults who whisper to their kids “shhhh, you’re in a library” that they can most certainly talk above a whisper and - if I’m feeling snarky and the timing is right - that we are not the library of yore.
Angela Dubinger
Twitter - adubinger