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

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