In the Field: Meet Kendra Jones
Welcome to “In the Field”, a new blog series here on the iYouth Blog. I’m Rebecca Z Dunn, a MLIS student here at the University of Washington iSchool, and I will be interviewing successful, innovative youth services professionals from all across the country. So hold onto your hats, and get ready to be inspired by amazing individuals doing amazing things for children and teens in the library-sphere.
Our special guest today is Kendra Jones, a Children’s Librarian hailing from the Vancouver Community Library in Vancouver, Washington!
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, where you work, and what you do there?
I am a Children’s Librarian at the Vancouver Community Library in Vancouver, WA. Currently I present baby and toddler storytimes, a preschool STE(A)M program, provide storytimes and tours to groups visiting the library and a monthly parent child book group for ages 6-9. Beyond programs I work on the service desk for the children’s floor (yes, we have whole floor just for kids!) providing reference and reader’s advisory to families, maintain the collection and other tasks like updating the library’s Facebook page and requesting advertising for programs.
What project or program have you recently completed/are currently working on at work that you’re proud of?
We have just finished our first month of a preschool STE(A)M program called Explore! I’m pretty proud that not only are we getting awesome feedback from families, but it is a great collaborative effort between me and another children’s librarian in my department. The main purpose of the program is to introduce preschoolers to concepts and tools related to Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math in a fun, non-school way. We’re building their basic background knowledge of these areas without “teaching.” They’re just exploring, and hopefully asking LOTS of questions! If you’d like to see specific programs check my blog here.
When did you realize you wanted to work in libraries? And specifically with youth?
I wouldn’t say I specifically planned to work with youth, but due to my upbringing I just naturally gravitated in that direction. My mom is a special education teacher and seeing her make such a huge difference in the lives of children inspired me to follow her example.
It was while working in a community college library and working on my Associates that I decided to become a librarian. I was struggling to pin down exactly what it was I wanted to “do,” as there are so many things that interest me, and answering the variety of questions encountered every day in the library provided me the opportunity to learn about many topics instead of picking just one. Originally I wanted to be a teen librarian and though I still love working with teens it has never been as easy or natural to me as storytime, getting kids jazzed about the summer reading program, or “talking” with a 1 year old. Whenever I’ve thought about changing my focus I remember my total joy after a particularly fabulous toddler storytime or handing a desperate mom the perfect potty training book and I’m reminded that there is really nothing else in the world I’d rather do.
Looking back, what do you wish you’d learned in library school that you could utilize in your work today?
Well, for starters, I wish I had taken a cataloging class. That would have been incredibly useful in my first full time librarian job as the solo youth librarian in a small library where I was responsible for all the ordering and cataloging of youth materials. And now it’s just one of those things I constantly wish I knew more about.
I wish my school had offered courses in early literacy, storytime, or even child development. My BA was made up mostly of human development courses which have come in handy, but not everyone has that. What if my library had not offered storytime training when I was a new librarian? What If I hadn’t worked in libraries for years before getting my degree? I can’t even imagine doing storytime for the first time ever as a new graduate in a new job.
If I were queen of the world every school would require students to in some way work/volunteer in a library for a certain number of hours before graduating. What I learned working in libraries with experienced librarians before I became a librarian has been invaluable.
What advice do you have for library school students looking to… Well… Do what you do?!
Get into the libraries. Work for one, volunteer, go watch a storytime or program (I guarantee you youth librarians would love to have you sit in), talk to librarians doing what you think you want to do. If you are still feeling things out, talk to all kinds of librarians to figure out which of their jobs you’d most like to have.
Get connected: join a Facebook group (Storytime Underground, Flannel Friday) and/or get on twitter. Not only is it tons of fun you will build your network and learn WAY more than you ever thought possible from the hundreds of genius youth librarians in the world.
Join your local library organization and get involved if possible. Network like crazy! Ask questions! Be enthusiastic! Use exclamation marks! Okay, that last one isn’t necessary, but is fun.
What one skill do you think is necessary to be a successful working in youth services?
FLEXIBILITY – that’s a skill, right? Above all, being flexible in programs, with children and parents, with co-workers, is the most valuable trait to have.
Organization is also high on my list. Get organized and stay that way. Your future self will thank you.
Favorite part of being a youth services librarian?
The kids! Toddler sees you from across the library and screams “Miss/Mr_____!” and runs full speed to give you a knee hug. Doesn’t get better than that.
Well, okay, the only thing better might be when you overhear another toddler singing a song in the bathroom that you taught them.
Basically just knowing that I’ve actually made a positive difference in a child’s life.
How can we keep up with what you’re up to?
storytimeunderground.wordpress.com (I’m just one of the Joint Chiefs there)
Rebecca Zarazan Dunn is a first-year MLIS student at the University of Washington and a Youth Services Library Assistant at the Lawrence Public Library. She blogs regularly about children’s books and adventures in the library, among other things, at Sturdy for Common Things. You can follow her on twitter at @rebeccazdunn.