Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Scholarship Opportunity for Youth Services Students

If you are pursuing a master's or advanced degree in children's librarianship, the deadline for applying for two fantastic ALSC scholarships is approaching: Bound to Stay Bound Books (Four awards of $7,000 each), and Frederic G. Melcher (two awards of $6,000 each).

Applications are due March 1, 2013. One application can put you in the running for both awards if you choose.

Application information is on the ALSC site:

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Janet Vogel

Janet Vogel and Muzzy
(P.S. Janet is the one on the right)
I graduated from the University of Illinois’ LEEP program (online MSLIS) in 2008 and was fortunate to find a professional position before graduation as a Children’s Services Supervisor for Frederick County Public Libraries, where I have worked ever since. Before that, I spent time as a library associate at a suburban Chicago library as well as in a variety of museum and academic library positions. I also have an MA in Public History, which has opened up a number of doors. In addition to my full time job, I am currently an adjunct instructor of history at Messiah College thanks to this second MA.


As a Children’s Services Supervisor, I currently work at the main branch of our library system and directly supervise 6 staff members and one Early Start Bookmobile manager. In addition, I serve as part of a 3-person Children’s Services management team to make systemwide decisions about children’s services, such as planning the Summer Reading Program.

What would most surprise people about your current job?

I am really busy, and I always have more to do than I have time for. I currently have about 1500 unread emails in my inbox (see below about managing time – obviously I haven’t quite gotten there yet!) Hopefully, by the time you get to library school, you realize that librarians don’t just read for a living, although I do occasionally page through a picture book to see whether it is suitable for storytime. 

Many children’s librarians spend time outside of work keeping up with reader’s advisory, making just one more flannelboard story, or catching up with email. So if you want a 9-5 that you can leave at the office, this might not be the job for you. 

However, I can honestly say that I love my job, and it’s because I love it that I want to spend time reading blogs or sending just one more email. You will be busy, but it will be incredibly rewarding to have a job with such a big impact on children in your community.

Oh, and I had a life-sized Justin Bieber cutout in my office for about 2 months. Before that, it was the Count from Sesame Street. (If you didn’t know, you can buy them online, or sometimes get them donated by local businesses.)

How do you manage your time? 

Online calendars are my friend! I have my work calendar synchronized with my phone and pop up reminders to tell me what I’m doing and when. I receive about 200 emails a day, and I’m still working on managing that in a smart way. So far, I have tried categories, flags, and lots of folders. 

It is important to find the right balance between things like email and the physical things like meeting with your staff and working the reference desk. As a manager, I always end up with a lot of meetings that pop up or situations to handle on the fly. I try to handle as many things with quick face-to-face chats to limit my emails.

Who is your greatest ally and why? 
My director. He may not be a children’s librarian, but he understands the importance of building a base of library users from birth. As a result, he is very supportive of our department, which trickles down through management. Knowing that the director thinks your work has value helps you when you go out into the community to build partnerships as well.

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

Best: finding the right book for that kid who “doesn’t like to read anything.” I once had a 5th grader tell me that I was the best librarian ever because he had never found a book he was excited to read. If that doesn’t make you smile, I don’t know what will.

Worst: when kids get sick. I once had a child throw up on the carpet in front of our computers. I did not enjoy cleaning that up.

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

Ask! This is two-fold advice. 

First, don’t be afraid to step up and ask your colleagues (or even someone you couldn’t imagine talking to like a “famous” librarian) for advice or to collaborate with you. I’ve yet to meet a librarian who isn’t willing to at least answer an email or spend a few minutes talking to you, even if they are busy. 

Second, if you have an idea, ask if you can implement it. I really love my current position because I am allowed to try new things and see what happens. If you don’t ask, your idea definitely won’t be implemented, but if you do, you might just get the green light to go ahead and try!

How can you get the most out of attending conferences?

It’s really hard, but you have to talk to the people around you. When you sit down, resist the urge to sit in an empty row. Sidle up next to someone who looks friendly and introduce yourself. You never know when your next big idea might come from chatting with a new colleague. 

Also, the networking opportunities are amazing. Even if you think you will never leave your current job, it is great to know librarians from other areas. I believe this is one of the greatest benefits of library school; I met dozens of wonderful people who now work across the country, and I regularly “see” them via social media where we collaborate, share ideas, share articles, and just encourage one another. You can expand this network via conferences as well!

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

Sure, there are a lot of online resources out there, but I know that no one can replicate the social experience of an in-person storytime (fuzzy puppets anyone?) or the texture of a touch and feel book. I think this is why library usage statistics continue to rise even in an online world. 

I grew up using a card catalog, and I would never go back (online catalogs and databases are incredibly useful!). There are many facets of the online world that I appreciate, and it definitely makes research across the country much more useful. 

Our role as librarians is changing in some ways, but the fundamental tenants stay the same: we still try to get you the information you need from a reliable source; we still provide reader’s advisory; we still provide community programs. Some of them are just online!


You can have any superpower; what would it be? 

I have always wanted to fly. I am always on the go, and I would really like to get everywhere more quickly. My colleagues can attest to the fact that I never move slowly! I also commute about an hour to my current job, and I like to imagine that flying would be a good way to get there.

Email Janet at janetevogel@gmail.com

And if you haven't liked/followed the Blog over at our Facebook page, I hope you'll take a moment to do that too! 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Andy Plemmons

[A note. I asked Andy to share his insights with you after reading an article he authored recently for Knowledge Quest. The article, "Opening the Space: Making the School Library a Site of Participatory Culture" (September/October 2012), highlights Andy's child- and learning-centered approach to school librarianship. I hope you'll seek out the article to read, as Andy's doing terrific work and more people need to know about it. You can also learn more from the related webinar notes.]

I am currently in my 12th year of teaching. I began as a 3rd grade teacher at Colham Ferry Elementary School for 7 years. Then, I transitioned into my role as the school library media specialist at David C. Barrow Elementary for the past 5 years. I hold a Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education, a Master’s in Children’s Literature and Language Arts, and a Specialist in Instructional Technology/School Library Media.


I am currently the School Library Media Specialist at David C. Barrow Elementary in Athens, GA. I serve students PreK-5th grade on a flexible schedule as well as lead the use of technology in my school. 

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

I love the fearless nature of students. When teachers are afraid of trying new technology, students show them that when they are given the space to play and explore, they can discover ways that technology and information can be used in education. 

I love the excitement generated by students when they are able to create information and then push those new creations out to a global audience

Andy Plemmons

How do you stay current? 

New technology, literature, etc. are created every day so it’s impossible to keep up with everything. Instead, I try to constantly model what it’s like to be a lifelong learner by talking aloud with students and teachers about what I’m doing to answer questions I have. I, of course, attend professional conferences, but I also read multiple blogs & journals as well as connect with other educators on Twitter. Developing a professional learning network is the best way to individualize my professional learning rather than rely only on what is offered at conferences. 

Who is your greatest ally and why?

I can’t just name one. First, my principal. I’ve been blessed to have two wonderful principals while I’ve been at my current school. They understand the importance of flexible schedules, collaboration with teachers, the role of the school library/librarian, and constantly look to me for leadership in technology and information. 

Families are also a big ally. I’ve learned that by presenting at PTA and inviting families to volunteer in the library that families begin to understand the many roles that I play in the school, which in turn develops families into big advocates of our program. 

Finally, I think students are becoming a big ally. I’ve worked to be more transparent with students about my hopes for our library and I think they are beginning to realize that a library is more than books. When they fully understand this, I think students can be the most powerful of allies. 


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

To really decide what matters most and devote my time to those areas. This advice has been very important this year because I no longer have a library paraprofessional. We also don’t have a dedicated instructional technology specialist at our school, so the demands for my time are constant and hard to manage. I constantly have to step back and make decisions about what gets my time so that it doesn’t affect the most important thing, which is my students and their learning experiences.

What’s worth fighting for? Why? 

Anything that involves student learning and their equal access to resources. I like to talk about barriers and bridges. When I see a barrier to students accessing what they really need in order to do their best learning, I think about what bridge I can help build to get over that barrier. I think being very public about the kinds of learning that takes place in our library is a great way to build a foundation for courageous conversations about internet filtering and access to updated technology. 

How can you get the most out of attending conferences? 

Being an active participant is crucial. So often, you attend a conference and the sessions don’t necessarily match what you need as a learner. However, when I attended my first AASL conference, I saw how using Twitter to connect with attendees helped me experience the entire conference without physically being in every space. The unconference feel of a learning commons at a conference allows multiple people to present their expertise without the formality of proposals and approvals. 


How do you defy the librarian stereotypes?

I try to do the opposite of every one of those stereotypes. Just by being a librarian, I’m already defying the stereotypes because I’m certainly not a shushing little old lady with glasses and my hair in a bun. Seriously, though, I hope that by modeling what a librarian SHOULD be and making our library program public through my blog that I’m slowly challenging people’s past experience with librarians. I hope my students will be the generation that grows up to understand librarians and libraries as something completely different than what their parents experienced. 

On a side note, this April I plan to crowdsource a poem with my students tentatively called “Our Library is not a Quiet Place” because I have heard the phrase “remember.....the library is a quiet place” way too many times this year from teachers and substitutes!