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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