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

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