Category Archives: library life

Finding balance in library world

When I was a kid, I always dreamed of doing something creative with my life.  I wanted to be an artist, or a writer, or a Lego sculpture maker.  I wound up in library world, which is a perfect fit for me and allows for creativity, but my job definitely isn’t as “right-brained” as I would have imagined.

Image from:

Image from:

Thinking about my job, I’m lucky to have the opportunity to exercise both halves of my brain.  Even in school this semester, I’ve written papers and shared my thoughts about books for youth and then flipped the switch in my brain to work on cataloging records.  Thankfully, we have a wonderful cataloger, so cataloging is not my responsibility at work, but it is fun and interesting to learn about another dimension of the profession.  At the circulation desk, I use my left brain for using exact match systems to search the catalog or a database, but then I get to be creative and design a bulletin board or a poster.

I’ve been reading the book Quiet by Susan Cain, and this has sparked a lot of thoughts about extroverts and introverts.  In some ways, my job requires me to demonstrate both qualities in different situations.  Programs and working on desk can demand an extroverted style, but I probably wouldn’t have my interest in books if I weren’t a true introvert at heart.  Both are crucial.

Librarians, do you feel the same sense of balance from your job?  Please share in the comments!


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Crazy Hair Day

The kids have read 1250 books so far this summer.  Today was Crazy Hair Day at the Ellsworth Public Library to celebrate this accomplishment!  Here’s my take on a bird’s nest:

DSC04886To be honest,  I was surprised that more patrons didn’t comment on or mention our crazy hair.  Maybe they thought this was our usual look at and didn’t want to offend us…


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Interview with Jessica Rollerson pt. 3

Happy New Year and welcome to the third and final part of my interview with Jessica Rollerson.  Today, Jessica will share her tips for dealing with challenging patrons.

Interview with Jessica Rollerson pt. 3

As a specialist in Behavior Management, do you have any tips for dealing with difficult people in the library, either staff members or problem patrons?
When I worked in larger library we had many mentally ill patrons. Many of these people did not appear to have disabilities but presented themselves in a challenging way. One woman in particular was very difficult to please. She always seemed very angry with us and we noticed she was usually using our computers to write letters of complaint to one senator or another. I offered to work with her whenever she came in and I approached her the same way I have asked people I supervised to approach their least favorite clients: love them! If you approach any person as if you absolutely love them and can’t wait to find out more about them, you start putting out fires. Allow yourself to become fascinated by them. Often, they have a story to tell and the service you provide as a librarian is thatyou hear their story. This allows you to better understand what library services they need. This woman had lost her children due to schizophrenia. She was heartbroken and did not
understand why she had lost them. She was writing letters to senators to ask for help. I offered her a word processor away from the busy first floor. This helped her feel less agitated. I then helped her find the phone numbers for some mental health services in our town. Her anger at the library dissolved and she fell in love with us! You never know what the patron needs until you can find a way to listen to them.

What do you feel is the most common behavioral problem in libraries?
Overly nervous librarians! Oh- did you mean the kids? Honestly, whenever I start seeing the behaviors from kids as “problems” I’m already in trouble. That’s my sign that I need a cup of tea and some chocolate! Behaviors from kids are directions for me. When I see kids arguing over a computer it might be a sign that I need more laptops or a better sign-up system. Kids running through the building might be telling me they need a dance party or for me to help them set up their own school where they are the teachers and the stuffed animals are the students. I always try to see behaviors as instructions for me.

What are some tricks you use when you are starting to lose your patience with a difficult young patron?
I am pretty honest with the kids. If I find myself feeling crabby, I tell the kids that. “Andy, I’m actually kind of crabby today and your yelling is really making it worse. Will you help me?” Because I have a good relationship with these kids and they care about me, they tend to try pretty hard to help me just as I help them. Another trick I use is to keep my enemies close. If a kid is having a particularly tough time, I pull them in and invite them to do something with me. Maybe they will help me shelve books, mend a stuffed animal or make a card for their mom. If a child is asking for attention, I give it to them. Finally, I schedule my day so I won’t be trying to answer emails at 2pm when the school children arrive. I know that from 2-4 in the afternoon is my time to be present with my patrons. That way, I’m having fun along with them.

Jessica, thank you so much for your insights!  It was so much fun to talk with you 🙂

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Interview with Jessica Rollerson pt. 2

Sydney. Fireworks Newyear 2006. Opera House an...

Sydney. Fireworks Newyear 2006. Opera House and Harbour. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Happy New Year’s Eve and welcome to part 2 of my interview with Jessica Rollerson.  Yesterday, we got to know a little about Jessica and her reading preferences, and today she will share her thoughts about programming at the library.

Interview with Jessica Rollerson pt. 2

How can libraries create a “low-tech” makerspace for their young patrons?
Open the closets and ask for donations! Our kids know that they are welcome to anything in the closet. They also know (I don’t know how because I didn’t teach them this on purpose) that they have to ask me to get it. And we ask for donations. Yarn, fabric, hinges, springs; these are all things people are willing to donate and kids know how to use.

What are some of the benefits of giving kids control during programs?                                                                                                                                                    

The benefit of giving kids control of a program is that you automatically are providing each patron with the program they need. That said, I think the kids here know that I’m the boss and that I allow them a lot of freedom…on my terms. It seems chaotic down here but most of the time I know what each child is working on. If they are not engaged in a project that belongs at the library, I work with them to get them there. I’m great with busy, messy, loud and exciting. I’m not into chaos at all.

What is your take on the concept of “unprogramming”?
Unprogramming is a great approach.I read about it on, “The Show Me Librarian.”  They have a great guide to Unprogramming.

It’s really about letting the kids lead and moving away from telling them what’s good for them. It’s sort of akin to unschooling- an approach in which one allows her children to naturally acquire education as they naturally would as curious little creatures. It requires some faith on our part!

Thank you, Jessica!  Please join us tomorrow for the final part of the interview, when Jessica will discuss tips for dealing with challenging patrons.

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Interview with Jessica Rollerson pt. 1

It’s almost the end of 2013, and like many people, I am considering my resolutions for the new year.  I thought of many specific goals before settling on John Green’s all-purpose acronym DFTBA (Don’t Forget To Be Awesome).  The beauty of this phrase is its versatility.  “Awesome” is extremely subjective, but I think everyone knows when they are being awesome, whatever their definition of the word may be.

What does “awesome” look like to a librarian?  For me, being an awesome librarian means really listening to patrons, finding out what they need, and then finding a way to provide it.  I think it can be easy to get swept up in trying to stay current and we forget that the people who come to us asking for technical assistance also need personal assistance.

Working in a public library can be challenging.  Public librarians interact with everyone from babies to teenagers to retirees.  Creating and maintaining good relationships with a wide variety of people requires excellent people skills.

On my DFTBA quest to be more understanding of patrons’ needs and behaviors, I had the pleasure of talking with an awesome librarian named Jessica Rollerson.  She has studied Behavioral Management, in addition to Library Science, which is a powerful combination.

Here is part 1 of the interview.  The second and third parts will be posted tomorrow and Wednesday.  Speaking of being awesome in 2014, I plan to do a MUCH better job of posting next year.  My goal is three posts a week (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday).

Without further ado, let’s get to know Jessica.

Interview with Jessica Rollerson pt. 1

What is your favorite picture book? Why?
Right now it’s I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen. I like the ending where the older kids are certain the bear sat on that no-good rabbit and the younger kids still think it’s a happy ending where the bear got his hat back! The adults can choose their ending and it’s different according to what they need the ending to be! Grown-ups are so weird!

What is your favorite juvenile chapter book? Why?
Oh- The Grimm Legacy By Polly Shulman. I love books that take place in a library and this one is in a repository for things. Everything is catalogued and there is a special collection called the Grimm Collection that has items that are associated with the Grimm Fairytales. It’s really fun!

Cover of "The Book Whisperer: Awakening t...

Cover via Amazon

Where is your favorite spot to read?
I take Donalyn Miller’s (The Book Whisperer) advice and carry at least one book with me wherever I go. But I really love to slink away and get cozy in my bed. My family finds me there all the time with a guilty expression and a book.

What are some of your favorite reading snacks?
Reading snacks? I don’t eat when I read. I’m so focused on the food when I’m eating, there’s no room for books!

Please check back in tomorrow, when Jessica will share her ideas on library programs!

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Banned Children’s Books

Stumbling across this list of banned children’s books made me wonder about the intent behind banning books.  Some of the reasons behind banning these books include: the book is “a bad example for children” (Harriet the Spy), the book features “an elaborate fantasy world that might lead to confusion” (The Bridge to Terabithia), and the book “has no value for children of today” (The Wizard of Oz).  Apparently, The Diary of Anne Frank was deemed “too depressing.”  Hmmm.

Who has the right to limit a child’s mental and emotional growth and development by banning these books?  The reasons seem ridiculous (and in the case of Green Eggs and Ham, completely ludicrous).

The only upside to banned books?  As “forbidden fruit” they will seem all the more appealing to kids 🙂

What’s your favorite banned book?


June 29, 2013 · 9:23 pm

The Reading Pros Recap: The Penderwicks

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The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall has everything I’m looking for in a juvenile fiction book.  It is well-written and features a cast of characters who may sometimes do or say the wrong thing, but their hearts are in the right place.  The book harkens back to the classics…I’ve heard that Jeanne Birdsall was inspired to write about four sisters from Little Women.  It’s a story about everything that can happen in a summer and I’m sure that most kids will relate to the crazy situations that Rosalind, Skye, Jane and Batty find themselves in.

It was definitely a good choice for book club this month because the story takes place during the summer (who wants to read a school based story during vacation, right?).  We had a great time in book club today, and as usual, the snack was everyone’s mind from the beginning of the meeting.

I had sent out an email reminder about book club and told the members that today’s snack would be something that was featured in the book.  Here were some guesses:


Cold blueberry pancakes

Burned cookies

Rabbit (they were pets in the book, and no one eats them!)

The answer was none of the above.  We had gingerbread (which was delicious) with whipped cream and strawberries.  Here’s what we did with the leftover whipped cream:

Laurel was our librarian guest (she’s the one on whipped cream duty).  Thanks for stopping by today, Laurel!

In other news, I had a very special flower delivery:

A beautiful summer bouquet.

Hope everyone has a lovely weekend!


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