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.

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