This is Circulating Ideas, I’m Steve Thomas. My guest today is Jennie Rothschild. She’s a Youth Services Librarian turned Branch Manager at Arlington, Virginia. You can find her book reviews at her blog at Bibliofile which is at jenrothschild.com.
Jennie, welcome to the show.
Thank you so much for having me today.
In our discussions leading up to the interview here, you brought up something that I didn’t ask you about, but I want you to explain. I want you to tell me and the listeners how teenagers are like zombies.
Okay, so I actually did once write and unpublished, a 1500 word piece, on zombies as the perfect metaphor for teenagers and at a basic level when you hit puberty you’re just gross. You have pus-filled boils but zits are pretty close, you don’t know where your legs and your arms are you go through this growth spurt and you get used to this new body and you have all this weird hair and new smells your ears might not be falling off but they might as well be. I think also whether you long to be part of the in-crowd or if you’re too cool for that and you sit in the back and just scoff at all the popular kids, there is this shuffling hoard mentality, I mean there’s not a huge difference between brains and Bieber. And I think also to go along with that is when you are a teenager you’re struggling for autonomy and trying to break away from that and figure out who you are and where you fit and everything, so. I think one of the reasons zombies really resonate with teens is it’s a paranormal thing that just relates a little too well to reality for them. So.
[laughs] They’re lumbering around and…
They mumble to you a lot when you try to talk to them [laughs]. So, you do a lot of work in youth services, but you’ve also made the transition recently to being in management. Have you found that to be a hard transition? An easy transition? Are you enjoying the new stuff you’ve taken on?
I’m enjoying it. I think it was easier for me just because of my situation. I was a Youth Services librarian at a very small branch and the branch was small enough that everyone at the branch does everything. So, I was the one who did story time, but everyone was helping the kids do everything else and I had to help a lot of adults do their stuff and help out with adult programming just because only four people work there so we all had to do a little bit of everything. And when I became manager I became manager of that branch and so we still have, everyone has to do a little bit of everything so it’s been a nice transition that way. And also because we currently don’t have a youth services librarian at my branch, I’m still doing some of the youth services stuff to wean myself off. Hopefully we’ll be getting a youth services librarian soon. And there are some things that I’m really going to miss about it, but it’s exciting, it’s a whole new world of programming and things that I haven’t thought about a lot, but on the other hand I get to program for me and my friends and do some of the stuff I like, oh what kind of programs do I want to see, that I want to go to. And it’s thinking about a different audience which is a fun way to grow. And I still get to keep my hand in youth services, so it’s all good.
Yeah, cause you said you also, as the manager you’re also doubling as the adult services librarian.
Yeah, because we are so small the manager is also the adult services librarian which is interesting cause there is a bit of a learning curve there and there isn’t as much support I’m finding. For youth services there’s 85 million listservs to be on and there are, there’s YALSA in ALA and there’s ALSC in ALA and there’s not like the adult services division of ALA, that’s just ALA in general. But ALA’s so big and so I’m trying to find my new people and to get the new support and figure stuff out, but it’s, I luckily work with some really great people at other branches and we meet a lot as a team and so I’m getting a lot of support from them and bouncing ideas off of people and yeah.
Well and that’s always a good thing about social media and stuff too, that you can make connections there and find, hopefully find your people soon there.
Exactly, exactly. Right now most of my social media people are youth services people. So I need to find some more adults [laughs].
[laughs] And how long were you, have you been a children’s or youth services librarians?
Nine years. I was the youth services librarian at this branch for about a year before I came acting branch manager and then I became permanent branch manager last week actually. But then I was in a different library system for eight years as. There I was a children’s librarian, but I like the teen stuff and the teen department was understaffed so I was allowed to play with them without stepping on toes, so I did a little bit of both. But yeah, nine years total, so that’s a, it’s a very different world now. Without leaving my desk.
And what is it about teens that you like? Why do you like working with them?
They’re just really fascinating people as they’re starting to make connections about the broader world around them, but they still have some of the innocence and hilarity of children, but with the much broader world view. You really start to see teens turn into the people that they’re going to come into and they have such a great outlook on things. I was talking to the kids at the middle school book club a few weeks ago and we were talking about Hunger Games and all of a sudden they were, you know what happens if you get your period in the arena. And they never talk about this in the books and I’m, how is is that going to affect everything? And they had this whole conversation about it and I never thought of that before. And I just think it’s just really, really interesting to see them grow. It’s almost like, I have a toddler, I’m a mother, and just seeing as my kid figures out things like stairs and forks and how Daniel Tiger’s name is Daniel and her dad’s name is Daniel and whoa. [laughs] And with teens it’s almost, it’s all mental, but it’s almost at that same level of development as they make these connections and click as their world really starts to expand out to the much broader society and global issues. It’s really fun to watch.
It’s kind of like your development professionally, whereas you’re becoming a manager, you happen to become a much, having to see the big picture a lot more and see how things fit together more than you do in larger things and the kids are the same way. I mean as they get older they have to see how different things fit together and things like that that you don’t, you’re not going to go into that necessarily in a book, but that is a real world thing that what happened that you would have to deal with.
If you have a bunch of teenage girls running around killing each other.
Yeah, there’s a whole other issue.
So right now you said you’re still doing a little bit of the youth services stuff until you get a new person. What kind of stuff do you guys regularly do for your teens?
So, for teens I am at a very, very small branch and so regularly though it’s actually really cool. Our library system and our school system have a really awesome arrangement for our TAB group and so the TAB groups meet at each of the middle schools and a public librarian works with the school librarian, so we do it over lunch at the middle schools which is great to get people there because, they don’t have to go anywhere. And what they do, so the public librarians and the school librarians work together to see what the big books of the year are going to be. We look at which ones are getting a lot of buzz, we look at which popular series are going to have new books coming out. We look at the best fiction for young adults nominations and those sort of things and we come up with this list of books. The public library buys a set for each of the middle schools and then the middle schools have them in their libraries, but only the kids involved with TAB can check those books out and read them for that year. So it’s an extra incentive, you know, oh only the TAB kids can read Allegiance and that sort of thing. And then after the year’s done, the schools can put them in their library and then the way it works, I know with the middle school I work with, the kids are reading off the cart all the time but we get together every other week and a lot times they just talk about what they’re reading in general which is sometimes a TAB book and sometimes something completely different. But it’s a really interesting program and I know it’s a fairly rare program to have that wonderful partnership with this schools and the money to be able to do that too. We do have, we are well funded which is very, very nice.
So, we do that at my branch. I actually go every week because I meet with different grades. The kids meet every other week, but I’m there every week cause it’s different grades each week and then during the summer we do more programming as part of the summer reading, we have fun programs. A perennial favorite is button making. We have a button machine and we come up with all sorts of small pictures of whoever is the big music and TV and movie stars and pop culture things and the kids get to make buttons and magnets which is great. A really fun program we did this year was Cupcake Wars and that got turned out, I was not prepared for, we actually had to do a team round for the second round because we didn’t have enough cupcakes. I was, wow, I thought I was going to be swimming in cupcakes for three weeks, yes. Because cupcake decorating has always been popular in my system. We took it to the next level where I had different themes of how to decorate your cupcake and I had them written down in a cup and I drew a theme and everyone had a cupcake and had to decorate their cupcake on the theme and everyone went around and explained and displayed their cupcake and then we had to vote on who had the most awesome cupcake. What I loved, it was really, really popular, the kids loved it, it was messy and great and delicious, but what I really loved about it was when they were going around talking about their cupcakes, they all had these really elaborate stories. Like we had an outer space theme and they were like, and here is the volcano of molten lava and these are the people running away and this gummy bear that fell over is someone who was killed by the alien overlord over here and it wasn’t always like the prettiest or best decorated cupcake that won, but rather whoever had the most insane story explaining what was going on with the massive frosting.
Most creative [laughs].
Exactly [laughs] like for one of the cupcakes, for the second round, it was a team round and the theme was meadow or forest, or something, I can’t remember. And one of the kids, their cupcake fell apart. They tried to cut it and it just was like this pile of crumbs and they were like can we just eat it now and forfeit? And I channeled my inner Tim Gunn and I told them just to make it work and just to work with it and make it work. And so they had this story about a tornado coming through and they built around it with this scene of destruction and a tornado had come through and destroyed their cupcake and they ended up winning [laughs]. It wasn’t pretty cause it was just this pile of crumbs [laughs], something else gone wrong, but and they really liked they had these great stories. But also that their peers appreciated the story because it was always the best story that won, not the best cupcake, which was an interesting development I hadn’t been expecting.
Right, well, and that seems like that’s the best way to engage, especially with teens, is to make it a fun program and make the library seem like a fun place to come, because we are a fun place to come.
Very, very fun place. I have a slight issue and I’m trying to figure out ways and I’ve been working on this for a while, but we have a loft area, our second story is not actually a story, it’s just a loft and there aren’t books or anything up there, but it’s just tables and it’s where people go to study and work and there’s an entrance up there too and I have a lot of teens who come after school and they never come downstairs. They just come to the loft and do their homework and do their group study and then they leave and they use the upper doors so we never see them. There’s all these people who come into my library that we never actually see [laughs] because they never actually come downstairs to where the actual library is.
Which is interesting and the other thing I work with with the teens is the middle school I work with is a magnet school and so we’re not necessarily the neighborhood library for the students that I work with. A lot of them live closer to other branches because it draws students from all over the county and so I’m not their neighborhood librarian. So I’m trying to convince them to come and visit me anyway at my branch.
Right. You’re right across, you said you were right across the Potomac from DC. Do you have, so there are probably a lot of people who work in DC that live there. Do you have, are there a lot that live there year round? Or do you have a lot of turnover from people coming in and out for various political postings and things like that? Or.
For the 2030 something it’s a very transitional group of people and it’s hard, I mean just as a resident it’s hard cause my friends keep moving. People come in and we make friends and then three weeks later they leave again and that’s something that’s kind of fun now that I’m on the adult side is we’ve started a new committee called Lit Up and it’s to reach, the county calls them the metro renters and it is that 2030 something crowd and they come in for a year intern, work for an NGO, or to work for the government before going to grad school, or right after grad school. They’re pretty cash-poor but they’re going to be very financially successful later in life. So it’s this weird demographic that we haven’t been reaching out to and we’re starting to do new things to try to reach them which is really funny. We had a ball, an actual ball this fall which was super fun. The theme was Gatsby, everyone dressed up in their flapper dresses and seersucker suits. The guy who won the costume contest actually came as Al Capone. It was at the Art Museum. There was a, I think 15 piece jazz band and we had a dance troupe come in to lead the Charleston dancing and displayed some really fancy footwork and flipping. And it was really, really fun and so successful with this age group and it’s actually a fundraiser for our 1,000 books before kindergarten program which targets a completely different age group and that’s going to happen again this fall. Except this time the theme is James Bond From Russia With Love so that will be exciting. I’m thinking so what will the specialty cocktails be, obviously martini, maybe a Moscow Mule, thinking of what else.
Oh yeah. Shaken, not stirred. [laughs] And we’re also doing some other things to reach that group. We have a commuter book club, so it’s one that doesn’t meet at the library, it actually meets at a restaurant and it’s after work and then they tweet out the book discussion as well. So that if you can’t quite, if you’re still on the bus, or on the metro on your way back out of town, you can still participate in the book discussion group.
And they have another, they have a monthly one called Books On Tap which meets at this fun beer garden every month and they don’t read a specific book, they do a, more of a theme like the five books that you’ve, the five best books you’ve never actually read but keep pretending you do. Or the five worst books you’ve ever read and want your time back [laughs]. Or the book where you just watch the movie and you pretend you read it. So like a general themes which is more fun cause I think also with a lot of it, this age group committing to reading a book every month is more than a lot of people want to do. [laughs] So I think you just come and talk about books in general and not having to talk about a specific title, we’ve actually been getting pretty good turnout with that. And we have some fun things that we’re thinking of like doing an after-hours game night, or I’m trying to organize a bad poetry reading for national poetry month which is something, we actually used to do it in college, where we’d just pulled out all this super angsty poetry we wrote when we were teens and read it with all of the angst that used to be in our hearts. So much hilarity.
So emo and such tortured, tortured rhyme schemes [laughs]. So I’m thinking I’m working on trying to maybe do something like that on a broader scale. Hopefully for national poetry month so we’ll see if a partner with a local business that probably sells adult beverages to help everything. So it’s kind of fun, we’re trying to reach that group and find ways to bring them in and also find ways to meet them where they are.
Well I think it’s really important to reach out to that group because it seems like a lot of times, I mean we’ve talked about this with people in the past on the show. You know where you have all these great children’s programs, these great teen programs and then people kind of drop of until they have kids and then they come back to the library again. But you have this period of the 20s and especially those people waiting longer and longer in life to have kids, 20s and 30s where they don’t ever come to the library because they don’t see why it’s important. So I think it’s really important to do programs like you guys are doing to keep it, keep them knowing why the library’s important.
Yeah, yeah and we’re doing, we do outreach at coffee shops when the weather’s nice. We have a table outside Starbucks and our laptop and hotspots where we can sign you up for a library card and check books out for you, right there at Starbucks.
So you, do you bring a mini collection with you that they can check out right away?
Yep and we’re doing more outreach like that which is a, outreaches are really, really fun to talk to people, at different neighborhood festivals and at different places. I’m hoping. I want to get into the gyms next to be like, hey, you’re all watching stuff on your iPad, or your smartphone while you work out, did you know that you can stream independent movies for free from the library? Or check out e-books, check out e-audio books.
Yeah I was going to say, audiobooks, that while you are exercising. Just listen, that’s what I’ve done, that’s what I’ve done a lot. I mean I’m not currently a gym member, but back when I was I would listen to, I will listen to podcasts or audio books and stuff like that while I was doing it.
And you probably get that a lot with you, if you have a large commuter culture too, of the audio books too cause you can listen in the car.
Yeah and also it’s, our community culture it’s, luckily it’s more public transport and it’s okay for where we are just because parking in DC is insane. I think, like a lot of places, a lot of office buildings, it’s $25 a day to park.
Yeah I forget that sometimes cause I’m in Atlanta where there’s, we have very bad mass transit, so.
It exists, but it’s not very good. Doesn’t take you where you wanted to go, so I forget those places that actually have good mass transit.
Yeah, but it is a lot of audiobooks, a lot of e-books. DC reads a lot, I mean the metro areas regularly up there with the most literate cities and it’s very fun cause you do take the metro into town during rush hour and everyone has a book. And everyone’s reading.
So, that’s, you just try and tap into that and let them know you can get this stuff for free at the library and if you do the e-books, you can keep, and the e-audio books, it will return itself so you don’t have to worry about late fines, which is very helpful. Yeah, but it’s also interesting because inner DC and its multiple state lines so there’s a lot of public libraries, all within a 20 mile radius of each other because each county has its own system and then DC has its own system and then there’s a few other weird municipalities that have systems within the larger county system just because that’s how everything developed over time. And the other hands, if you’re an avid reader you can game that pretty well. Like, oh the holds list for this book is 18 miles long at this library, but if I go over here it’s on the shelf.
Do you guys, do a lot of the systems have reciprocal borrowing kind of agreements of working with each other?
We don’t, I mean you can’t, like the ILL stuff is weird. You can, if you return a book in the wrong system it will eventually get back to this system, but it’s gonna be a few weeks or more. But, all of the systems do have, you can get a library card as long as you live within the greater metro area and most of the systems see themselves as serving the great metro area.
So you don’t have to live in your specific city to get a library card?
No, as long as you live in the DC area, will give you a card and most of the systems are like that. I have cards in, I have four or five cards for the area. I was on a YALSA selection list committee this past year and I needed it as I tried to get all of these books and some systems had it and some systems didn’t. The holds list thing and so, driving all the city visiting eight libraries on my day off.
Well, that’s a good transition because I didn’t want to ask you about that. You were on the committee for the Outstanding Books For The College Bound and Lifelong Learners.
Can you tell me about, basically if you can tell about what that list is for, so the listeners can know what the list is and then how you got involved in it and how it works.
Sure. So the Outstanding Books For The College Bound and Lifelong Learners is a different sort of list than the ones that YALSA usually puts out. This is a book, this is a list that is revised every five years so only comes out every five years and most of the lists only look at things that published for young adults within the last publication year. This list doesn’t have any restrictions on what you can put on it. It’s pretty much any book that’s widely available is eligible to be on the list. So, it doesn’t have to be a new book, it doesn’t have to be an old book, it doesn’t even have to be in print any more, as long as a lot of libraries still carry it and people can access it. Which on one hand is really nice as you try to pull the list together and the other hand is insanely daunting because anything and everything is technically eligible. We did narrow it down that it had to be wide available and in English just so the committee could read it and understand it [laughs]. But, the list, it’s up to 125 books, it’s divided into five subcategories and those categories can change depending on the committee. We kept the same categories that have been on all of the lists in the 21st Century which are arts and humanities, history and cultures, literature and languages, science and technology and social science and each list can have up to 25 titles on it. And we were just really looking for books, not necessarily The Canon or here are the books that everyone should have read before they go to college because they think those lists are already out there and it wasn’t worth anyone’s time just to recreate The Canon. But books that are going to open up new avenues, a study, or have you look at things different ways. Issues maybe you should know about, not necessarily works of literature, but great issues that people should be thinking about and knowing about and those sorts of things. It’s a really fascinating list, I’m really, really proud of the list that the committee put together. It’s great and I got involved with it. I am an active YALSA member and last year I was on the committee for the YALSA Award For Excellence In Non-Fiction For Young Adults, which is an award that needs a catchier name. That’s a redundant mouthful of a title.
Or at least it needs a good acronym or something.
I know, I call it ENYA, a lot of people on the committee do call it the ENYA, but that’s not necessarily the best name for it either. [laughs] That’s what it gets called and I filled out a volunteer form to do another committee. I was actually hoping to be on the ALEX committee which is adult books with high teen appeal and they actually asked me to chair the Outstanding Books For The College Bound committee and I was sure, I’ll do that, and it was really fun. It was interesting, I read a lot of books I never would have picked up which was great because now I have new favorite authors that I never would have picked up had I not had to read it for the committee and I did, I learned a lot of interesting things and I read a lot of interesting things and I. The list is up and fully annotated on the YALSA website and I highly, highly recommend everyone check it out and find some new reading material.
And so I’ve asked a few people, I’ve had a few teen services people on the show recently and I have asking everybody this. What is it about YA lit that appeals to you as an adult to read? Why do you enjoy reading and not so much of just to find something good for readers advisory, but what appeals to, what appeals about that to you personally?
I think cause everything’s so new and over, not over the top, but teens in general feel just really, really strongly about things, even their cynicism’s overdone sometimes in a way. I think a lot of adult books are just, adults are bored as they try to figure stuff out and they have this very long view lens on life and I have that when I look at my life too cause I have the experience and I think teens, it’s like that first love, it’s your first kiss and everything’s new and exciting and you’re trying to figure it out and there’s an immediacy and a passion and just an over the top emotional response to everything which draws you in more as a reader. That exuberance for everything, even when it’s an exuberance of depression which is an abject supposition, a way to put it, just draws you in more as reader and sucks you more into the character and into the plot in a way that adult books don’t necessarily do. Especially when you’re looking at realistic fiction because as an adult you’re taking a different long view as you look at areas and problems in your life. Which is good, I mean I love adult books because there’s characters dealing with the same issues I deal with and things that can relate to my own life, but it doesn’t have that exuberant passion for every little detail. On the other hand that same exuberant passion for every little detail can be a little overdone and a little over the top [laughs] like, oh teens, come on, it’s just a kiss, chill out, chill out.
Well, that’s what’s nice about having these lists sometimes is to call out some of those sometimes and get the ones that aren’t quite as overly.
But, I mean, but on the other hand I mean that’s just realistic teenagedom.
That’s why we love them.
But even with real teens I’m, all right guys, just chill out. Just chill. I need to go talk to some grown ups for a while.
Yeah I, I’ve never been a youth services librarian so I’ve never. I mean I’ve done little things here and there. I’ve run the teen program in my library a couple of times, but yeah, I would imagine it just, it almost drains you [laughs] as an adult to work with. Some people I know get really jazzed up about it and that really energizes them, especially people like Justin Hoenke in Chattanooga, it just energizes him and it energizes other people to be what, around teens so much, but it tires me out [laughs] for longer periods of time. I love having them in the library, but I’m happy to have some of my other staff work with them regularly.
I think that’s one of the great parts about working at a smaller branch where I get to help and do a little bit of everything for all age groups is because I don’t focus solely on one age group, I get to play with everyone and so I, I can take a break if a certain age group is just exhausting me. But then I can always go back to them which is really helpful.
Right and I should say that’s not specifically on teens, I get worn out by toddlers too. I have a toddler too so they wear me out at home much like at work [laughs]. But it’s also yeah, you get that joy of, the teens everything’s all new and of course with toddlers everything’s all new of course too and I mean everything literally is all new for them, so. And you did used to do children’s services with the younger kids before your current library. Did you, you made a note to me of something that I wanted to hear more about your spreadsheet that you used to help plan out your story times.
Oh yeah and this is what I think put me in management, is because I do everything via color-coded spreadsheet, including story time. But one of the things and I love my storytime spreadsheet, is that actually put all of my rhymes, like my action rhymes and my songs and my clapping rhymes and my knee bounces for the babies into a spreadsheet and I have it so the rhymes are in one cell and then in the next column is whether it’s Mother Goose, or clapping, or knee bouncing and different pages are for different age groups because there are rhymes that are used with my 0-12 month babies are not the rhymes that you use with my 3-5 year olds. But, it’s great cause I can sort it by type of rhyme, cause it’s, it’s Excel and you just click and sort the data by type of rhyme, so when I’m planning my story time, I’m, oh I need another action rhyme here to break it up, I don’t know what I want to use, I can just go to the spreadsheet, sort by type of rhyme and then just look at all my action rhymes and just copy and paste it into my story time plan. And then I have another one that tells me all the books that I’ve used in story time because I do have my favorites and if I didn’t track when I used certain titles, then I read Diary Of Sue every single week if I had my way. So then I have the book and the author and then the date that I last used it so I can sort and know when it’s okay to read a book again. Oh it’s been a year, I can totally do that one. And I also, one of the ways, when I have a smaller group I can write down the names of the kids in the spreadsheet every week and have, it’s not really attendance, but then right before story time I can go back and read the names of the last few weeks of kids and everyone thinks wow you remember names so well.
That’s like when I was a kid and then we would take our cat to the vet and the vet would walk in and say, “Oh how’s Samantha?” And I was, “Oh, you remember my cat!” No, you just looked at the record right before you. [laughs]
[laughs] Yes, I’m not as good with names any more just because, in my old library we had a story time room and that only 24 including the librarian could be in the storytime room, so it was a much smaller group and we just did a lot more programs to accommodate everyone. Whereas in this branch it’s a very small branch so I don’t have a special, I guess separate programming space. We just do story time in the loft area which can seat a few hundred cause it’s just this big, open space. And so story time’s a lot larger, I went from having 24 people including me to upwards of 50 to 75 on a regular basis so sadly I’m not as good with the names any more, just cause there’s so many kids every week. And I don’t even get to catch their names, but.
You, and I’m going to get you to explain what you meant, you said something about the MLIS as useful professional hazing. What do you mean by that?
So, I am not a fan of the MLIS as I don’t think it’s a good indicator of what library work is actually like. I don’t think it necessarily prepares you well on a practical level for the field and it is, it’s an offhanded comment I made years ago to a friend who was thinking about going to library institutes, going to take a library science course but it didn’t really correspond with what she thought a library work was like. And I was like it’s not, I mean the MLIS is just like professional hazing, it’s just something, it’s just a hoop that you have to go through. And this was really apparent to me because when, I mean I have my MLIS, I spent a lot of money and I got it from, I went to Maryland which is a very good program and, but at the time I was working full-time as a librarian. My old system had a level and I know many systems have this cull library associate which is basically you do all of the librarian work but you don’t have your degree so you can’t really advance, but your day-to-day is doing the same thing as the librarians do. And, so I was doing that full-time and then going part-time to get my degree and I was, there were some things that were interesting, but everything that was actually useful I already knew. A coworker and I actually were told to just pass notes quietly back and forth to each other during cataloging class.
[laughs] Cause you already knew it.
We already knew it. They were talking about Dewey and she’s, and the question was what Dewey range do you think fairy tales would fall into and the answer she was looking for was the 300s and we were in the back and we were 398.2.
Yep, that’s what I was just thinking [laughs].
Yeah. What about this books and it was 600s and I was oh, the 640s and she was, you guys are ruining it. Just, you’re not allowed to answer any more questions, just sit quietly in the back and not do anything.
It’s like yeah I can give you the Dewey for Southern BBQ cooking [laughs].
Exactly, exactly and I was, I’m paying how much money to be told not to do anything because I know all of this because I work in the field? And I think a lot of degree programs that are going to where they have, you have to have an internship, you have to have work experience, but at the same time they’re not letting you do that at a place you already work. It’s, when I was in library school a lot of my classmates had, we all, most of us had a day job, I mean a lot of Maryland’s classes were in the evenings because most of us had a day job and most of us had a day job in the field and we’re supposed to somehow come up with an internship or work experience in addition to the 40 hours a week we already work in a library, but no that doesn’t count. And our classes. And there’s a lot of it’s, I had a few classes that were really, really good and really, really interesting, but to have 2 or 3 classes I really enjoyed out of an entire degree program [laughs], I’m not sure. It was worth the money because I needed the letters after my name to do what I wanted to do professionally.
So what would you do differently? I mean do you think it is deserving of a Master’s degree even? Or do you think it should be an undergraduate degree? Or the things you could change to make it better?
You know actually I think a lot of it could just be on the job training. I mean a lot of this stuff I knew going into library school. The most useful things I’ve ever done for training and learning how to be a librarian was stuff that I learned on the job, or mini classes that I’ve taken for professional development. It wasn’t the formal schooling and I think partly also because librarianship is just so vast as a profession, what’s going to be useful to a public youth services librarian and what’s going to be useful to a law librarian and what’s going to be useful to a database cataloger, there’s not a lot of common ground there and there’s and there’s definitely not an entire Master’s degree worth of common ground. And what you have for common ground isn’t the practical day-to-day knowledge that anyone actually needs to do their job and do it well. And especially with things that are changing so much, I really do think that just a more focus on, almost like an apprenticeship program as you go in and just learn on the field and on the job and then doing a lot of the professional development stuff outside of a more formal schooling program. It’s just a lot more useful to people.
Well and I think the continuing education part of it is really important too, because things are changing so quickly, we have to keep up so it’s sort of, I mean I got, I graduated in 2004 and so things were a lot different in, when I was going to school in 2002, 2003. So it, you really have to keep up in the field, I mean there were no e-books basically back then, so that whole thing is new since, so they didn’t cover that at all in my grad, they were still talking about telling us what the internet was back then.
Well, I mean, I graduated in December of 08 and I had to take an information technology course and the whole first chapter was about there’s this thing called the email and this thing called instant messaging and I’m reading my chapter IMing my friend going oh my god. [laughs]. Did you know this is a thing that exists?
Yeah I think that’s part of the problem too, a lot of it, I mean there are some good programs that are keeping up better, but a lot of the programs I think are falling behind and I know ALA is, does have a, currently has a committee going to look at the standards, that will help some as well if they update the standards cause I don’t think the standards have been updated for a while, on what it takes to be accredited.
Yeah, but I think also part of the problem is, and I know after I graduated, Maryland did this big shift and then Michigan did it a while ago and a lot of the programs are shifting away from the more practical advice and they’re moving to a purely academic program. I know, one of the things I actually did like about my program was that most of my professors were adjuncts or lecturers, you know, they actually worked full time in the field at the national archives, or at the Smithsonian, or the national libraries of Health and Medicine, or one of the universities. They were librarians and their day job was doing what they were teaching and then they taught a class every other semester or something. But, I know Maryland is really moving away from that, moving towards the all academics side of things and, which got a lot more theoretical and a lot more academic and just a lot less useful and I think a lot of library programs are moving that way and they’re trying to get people to go in for their PhD in information science which is great because I think that’s where a lot of new software, new innovations are coming from, but at the same time, that’s not where new librarians are coming from. And it’s, I think the people who think about information science and information architecture on a broader level are useful for programming and services and new software things, but that’s not useful for librarians and having a Masters program that’s really just set up to create new PhDs, they’re not creating new librarians and I think a lot of the information science programs are going in that direction which is unfortunate for people on the ground.
Right, getting away from the, cause a lot of the work that we’re doing is more practical kind of stuff. I mean it’s, it’s nice to, nice to take the time to think about that stuff sometimes, but it’s not necessarily what you’re going to use in your day-to-day job. And there are people who will, but the vast majority of us are in branches and schools and universities, checking books out and cataloging books and doing stuff, not just being able to think in a broader sense.
Exactly, I need to know how to search a database. I need to know different ways of searching a database, I don’t need to know how to build a database. I mean people do, people need to build databases, I don’t. I need to use a database, I don’t need to build a database.
I don’t need to build a new ILS system, I don’t need that kind of programming knowledge. I need the knowledge to ask intelligent questions and to use an ILS system. And they’re different things and they’re related, but they are very different and I think a lot of them are practical stuff that makes you actually good at being a librarian is the stuff that happens on the ground in training, in professional development working with other librarians and not necessarily in a classroom with students who haven’t been on the other side of the reference desk before.
Yeah it always seems odd when you go to library school with people who have never worked in a library before and they, you don’t know what you’re even getting into at this point and you’re not really going to find out here necessarily what you’re going to be getting into. I mean you learn how to, you learn how to do a reference maybe, but you’re not really getting the full experience unless you can. I mean, even the way it is, like you said, you really have to have those internships and things like that because, I mean, you can’t go just straight from library school to working in a library and really understand what you’re getting into.
Exactly and this steep learning curve I think that happens when you got from library school to working in a library is the same steep learning curve you have, just if you skip the library school stuff.
And that’s where you’re going to learn the practical information and I think, you know reference is usually an intro class, it’s one of the things you take in your first semester, but you’re not going to do a reference interview for another two years? If you’re lucky enough to find a job right after graduation. How much of reference do you really remember? [laughs]
Yeah, I was working in libraries when I was in library school too and that’s, that seems to be the easiest way to, I did learn a lot more on the job than, it was sort of the library school was supplementing a little bit of what I was learning, but most of what I learned. And then if you make a switch, like I was working at university libraries when I was in library school and then I ended up in public libraries and so when I was in school I actually thought I was going to be in academic libraries and so I didn’t take those public library classes, so I didn’t actually even learn what I am currently doing.
[laughs] Yeah, it was and it was interesting cause I was in library school, I was actually majoring in archives and record management. I [laughs], the only really public service I took was young adult literature and I took that mostly just cause I wanted to [laughs]. And then my professor was why do, you do archives? And you’re in this class? And I was, well, I do archives at school, but I do teens at work [laughs].
Yeah it’s more, I mean, at the time I liked the job that I had, I thought I was going to do all that, but public service is really more, now that I’m, especially once I got into it, I mean I’ve been in it now 7 plus years now, but I mean this is really more what I got into the field for in the first place and.
Yeah, I was, I initially, when I went into libraries I wanted to be an archivist or a research librarian, probably within e-station collection because I minored in Chinese in college and I worked in the archives, I worked in the college archives when I was an undergrad and I really like the job and that’s what I wanted to do, I wanted to be an archivist or a reference librarian for a special collection and when we moved to DC, I just applied for any and every library job I could find and I just fell into children’s services and everyone thought oh, that’s such a bad fit. And I was, well, it will pay the rent until I can get done with school and then I can get a “real job.” And by the time I started school I ended up just falling in love with youth services which no-one saw coming, least of all myself [laughs]. And then I was really torn when I started the school and I was do I want to do a youth services track? Or do I want to continue to do archives? And what a lot of people don’t realize is the bulk of the national archives, the main building of national archives isn’t the one downtown in the mall where you can see the constitution and the declaration, but most of the archives are actually on the University of Maryland campus and so a lot of the professors were very high-level professionals at the national archives and one of my friends was, well if you ever want to do archives, you should really take this chance and study with these people because you have the work experience for youth services, everyone’s going to look at your resume and know that you’re fine for youth services. And so that’s why I studied archives, but it’s nothing I’m ever really going to do because I’m going to stay in public libraries because that’s what I really enjoy doing and that’s what I really like. And I think that’s where I found my spot. But I have this degree in archives because obviously it was super, super necessary for my public library career [laughs].
Well having that MLIS at the end of your name will, allowed you to get your current job, so [laughs].
Exactly, exactly. And some of the things I learned are good and there were some really interesting conversations and interesting things, but really, they’re probably, there were two classes that were just super interesting and I really enjoy and two classes that were super practical and actually useful and there’s actually an overlap of one of the classes actually falls into both categories, so three classes out of an entire Master’s program that I don’t think were a waste of money. And I know I’m not alone in this, every time I saw it, well the MLIS is just professional hazing, a lot of people smile and nod and agree with me.
Yeah I know, the discussion never ends on that.
Well, Jennie, where can people go to find out more about you online?
Okay. Well I am on Twitter as @kidsilkhaze which is a type of yarn that I really enjoy. I blog, I have a review blog called Bibliofile and the URL for that is jenrothschild.com and last year I did a project, it was just a year long project so I’m not updating it any more, but I think it’s still really useful. It was called YA Reading List and that was every day I had a themed reading list of books that people might enjoy, like on Super Bowl Sunday it was just football books and on Charles Schultz birthday it was YA books that were retelling fairy tales. January was blood donor month so I had a lot of vampire books, that sort of thing, so [laughs] you can find me there. But I’m on Twitter a lot so you can look me up on Twitter.
All right, well, Jennie, thank you so much for joining me today and everybody can go there and find out more about you and converse with you on Twitter.
Excellent, thank you so much for having me.
Right, bye, bye.
So I’m confused about the economic structure and government structure of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. So they have a king, you know King Friday is the ruler but according to his son, Prince Wednesday, he is just the boss of castle stuff, that is his job is to be the boss of castle stuff. So, I’m not sure how much and then there was an episode where he helps the kids to vote on whether or not they can have a new swing set, or a new slide for the playground. But they can’t afford both. So, I’m wondering here, but also, Prince Tuesday, the older prince, has a few odd jobs. He’s not only Daniel Tiger’s babysitter, but he’s also a waiter at a restaurant and I’m kind of interested [laughs] to know what kind of kingdom where it’s you, you know does your prince have to be a waiter and do you have to spend extra money for a protection detail if you’re just going to be waiting on people? Are you allowed to accept tips?
Maybe that’s the Make Believe Village version of where Prince William and everything had to be in the military.
Exactly [laughs]. But interestingly enough, even when he’s waiting, like he has his waiter apron on and his cape and crown and sash with his waiter apron [laughs].
[laughs] You just, yeah I guess you just have to know who he is.
Yeah, I just [laughs]. I watch way too much Daniel Tiger.