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

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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

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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!