Learning Experiences (formal and informal) – Gender Equity in the Workplace, part 6

Hello everyone,

As a continuing commitment to look at the YALSA Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff through the EDI lens, and my presidential theme of Striving for Equity using the same Competencies, I considered the fourth of these Competencies. I thought about how career preparation is a considerable aspect of Learning Experiences (formal and informal), and realized that a notable, ongoing issue of equity, inequity and inequality revolves around gender issues in the workplace.

Because I feel that our perspective can become myopic if we stay wholly within the library sphere, I chose to interview women in the non-library workforce and I asked them about their experiences around gender inequity and inequality, and how these elements shaped them, both as teens and during their careers. I also asked them about how they feel gender inequity and inequality has affected the teens in their own lives today.

The last interview in the series is with Erin Anderson Wenz. She is a Professional Engineer and Principal/Vice President at an environmental engineering consulting firm in Minneapolis.  She has over 20 years of experience managing stormwater and lake water quality in urban environments.  Her project work also includes the design and construction of low-impact development features such as rainwater cisterns, rain gardens, and porous pavement. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband, two sons and a daughter.

If there was one element of gender equity that you would like to see promoted in the workplace, what would it be?

Paid family leave for moms and dads so that working parents can be equally supported in taking time off from work to be with their small children, and coaching for women to consider more leadership positions in the workplace.

Considering the research that gender stereotypes are set into motion around age 10, how would you say that you worked against these stereotypes for girls, and in what ways did they become a part of your own upbringing and adolescence?

Growing up, I guess I was a little lucky – I never felt like there were things I couldn’t do.  It wasn’t until college that I realized how gender-skewed my chosen profession would be (at least it has been for a while… things are really changing!).

Can you discuss any experiences that you have had that made you feel singled out as a woman or as one of the women in your workplace or chosen career? Are there particular instances of gender inequalities that you have had to deal with? How did you handle them?

Some years into my career, I realized that I was being a bit looked over for a promotion offered to senior staff with an established clientele.  I had gone a little “off the radar” with senior leadership after reducing hours to spend more time with small children, and even though I was taking on greater responsibilities and having success at work, I realized that my colleagues may have assumed I wasn’t interested in an increased role.  It took a little catch-up effort for me to get the word out that I was ready for the challenge, with the credentials to prove my eligibility.  Maybe that experience would have been the same if I had been a man that had taken time off to be with children, maybe not. The fact is that more women tend to take that kind of time away, and have to negotiate reentry, and balance the next steps of a career along with home life. Continue reading

Learning Experiences (formal and informal) – Gender Equity in the Workplace, part 5

Hello everyone,

As a continuing commitment to look at the YALSA Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff through the EDI lens, and my presidential theme of Striving for Equity using the same Competencies, I considered the fourth of these Competencies. I thought about how career preparation is a considerable aspect of Learning Experiences (formal and informal), and realized that a notable, ongoing issue of equity, inequity and inequality revolves around gender issues in the workplace.

Because I feel that our perspective can become myopic if we stay wholly within the library sphere, I chose to interview women in the non-library workforce and I asked them about their experiences around gender inequity and inequality, and how these elements shaped them, both as teens and during their careers. I also asked them about how they feel gender inequity and inequality has affected the teens in their own lives today.

The next interview is with Kate Reigel. She most recently served as the Director for a new specialty master’s program at the University of Minnesota’s business school, the Carlson School of Management, launching the program from inception. At the Carlson School, she taught several graduate-level experiential learning courses, including the Global Business Practicum in China. Prior to the Carlson School, she served as an independent management consultant, working for executives on strategic initiatives. Prior to her independent work, Ms. Reigel was a project leader for the Boston Consulting Group. Earlier in her career, she was a platinum consultant for SAP.  She holds a B.S. in Industrial Engineering and earned her MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management.

If there was one element of gender equity that you would like to see promoted in the workplace, what would it be?

Pay. Pay and placement. I’d like to see equal pay for work being done equally, and I would like to see more women ascending to the ranks of senior management: Not only CEOs and other C-suite positions, but also VP and Director level positions, so women are experienced and prepared when entering C-level roles. I’d like to widen the pool of women candidates for C-suite consideration.

Considering the research that gender stereotypes are set into motion around age 10, how would you say that you worked against these stereotypes for girls, and in what ways did they become a part of your own upbringing and adolescence?

Regarding my own upbringing, my mom is a vascular surgeon who has now moved into an executive position at a hospital. She waited until I was in kindergarten, age 5, to enter medical school in the 1970’s. Prior to that, she was a homemaker. My childhood and adolescence was spent watching my mom furthering her education to attain a career she found fulfilling, and observing my dad step up on the home front, along with the rest of us, to allow her to do this. This early example set a foundational belief for me that we all can reach our goals, regardless of gender.

Can you discuss any experiences that you have had that made you feel singled out as a woman or as one of the women in your workplace or chosen career? Are there particular instances of gender inequalities that you have had to deal with? How did you handle them?

Throughout my career, I have typically been surrounded by more men than women in the room. I am incredibly privileged to have been in environments where my voice has been heard as much as those of the men in the room. I enjoy spirited debate and the back and forth that comes with the vibrant sharing of ideas in conversation, which often includes interruptions. However, there was one example recently that comes to mind:  I was in a formal meeting, with many powerful people in attendance.  It was the type of meeting where each attendee thinks carefully before speaking, and each individual has minimal air time. I contributed an idea when a male attendee interrupted and redirected the conversation. The momentum of the conversation shifted to his point. Immediately after the man completed his thought, another woman present said, “Let’s go back to what Kate was talking about; I think she has an important idea that we need to act on.” The entire cadence of the meeting highlighted the importance of amplification and advocacy. I sincerely don’t think the male attendee interrupted intentionally or with malice, yet the result of my idea being glossed over would have been the same, had it not been for the intervention of a female peer (or I would have had to interject and reiterate my point myself). I became aware of the issue in a way I hadn’t before. I’d like to increase awareness across both men and women of these nuances of conversation and how these can impact women’s involvement in decision making. A Forbes article from a couple years back discusses the scourge of “manterrupting”! Continue reading

Learning Experiences (formal and informal) – Gender Equity in the Workplace, part 4

Hello everyone,

As a continuing commitment to look at the YALSA Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff through the EDI lens, and my presidential theme of Striving for Equity using the same Competencies, I considered the fourth of these Competencies. I thought about how career preparation is a considerable aspect of Learning Experiences (formal and informal), and realized that a notable, ongoing issue of equity, inequity and inequality revolves around gender issues in the workplace.

Because I feel that our perspective can become myopic if we stay wholly within the library sphere, I chose to interview women in the non-library workforce and I asked them about their experiences around gender inequity and inequality, and how these elements shaped them, both as teens and during their careers. I also asked them about how they feel gender inequity and inequality has affected the teens in their own lives today.

The next interview is with Sarita Parikh, who started her career as an engineer, with a belief that technology could improve the quality of people’s lives. She’s since learned that engineering is necessary, but not enough, and went on to do work in product design and consumer behavior. Sarita is the co-founder of jomanity, a startup focused on helping people live every day with more joy and more humanity. In her free time, Sarita hangs out with her kids, does yoga, and eats way too many donuts. She lives in Minneapolis with her family and her new puppy, Buddy.

If there was one element of gender equity that you would like to see promoted in the workplace, what would it be?

My instinctive answer is helping more people understand how the brain works and that as part of being human we all have unconscious bias. No one is immune from it and I think really understanding that is kind of liberating. If we know that, and we know that the “standard” picture of a senior executive is an older white male (this is the archetype in our minds because it’s what we see most often), it helps put context around why so many women aren’t seen as leaders. This is the “she just doesn’t ‘have’ what it takes” perspective. The most common feedback that I see women receive in leadership roles is that they are either too soft or too aggressive (the double bind.) It’s a narrow, narrow line between those two. Although that’s my instinctive answer, I also know that there is research indicating that when people learn a problem is a common problem, they can feel like they’re off the hook: see this NYT article.

Considering the research that gender stereotypes are set into motion around age 10, how would you say that you worked against these stereotypes for girls, and in what ways did they become a part of your own upbringing and adolescence?

I was a math/science kid, and oblivious in some ways, and my parents were strong supporters for those skills, so I was lucky that I didn’t feel bound by academic gender stereotypes. As a kid, I always knew I could beat the boys in math contests. (We used to have boy vs. girl math contests at school!)

I did, however, feel a strong need to be deferential to people with strong confidence, and I still grapple with that. I innately believed that people who spoke with confidence “knew” more than I did, and they tended to be boys. Side note: I had a real ‘aha’ moment when reading How Women Rise. I don’t have the exact quote, but it was essentially this: Women are more likely to be communal in their leadership and feel like luck and the people around them are the reason for their success. Men are more likely to feel that their success is preordained, that they will be successful irrespective of the people around them. That was a serious epiphany. I had never understood that idea, and after reading it, so many events from the past made sense to me. Finally, I always felt uncomfortable with the idea of having ambition. It felt embarrassing and aggressive and I rarely spoke of it. Now, I feel proud of having ambition: It no longer feels unseemly.

Can you discuss any experiences that you have had that made you feel singled out as a woman or as one of the women in your workplace or chosen career? Are there particular instances of gender inequalities that you have had to deal with? How did you handle them?

I’m often the only person of color in the conference room. I’m petite, I’m brown, I have a high pitched voice, and I’m female. For many years, I worked in technology and I knew people discounted me from the moment they saw me. It didn’t bother me that much because I knew that I had strong skills and that my professional value would become evident quickly. However, as I moved into leadership roles, being immediately discounted really bothered me. When other people underestimated me, it undermined my ability to lead. It made me nervous and question myself and that’s a bad combination for “presence.” Now, I have enough experience and confidence that I can project a warm gravitas. But it took a lot of intentional practice and mindset shifts to develop the confidence. Continue reading

New Issue of YALSA’s Journal of Research on Libraries & Young Adults: Vol. 10 N. 3

Volume 10, Issue 3 of of YALSA’s Journal of Research on Libraries & Young Adults (JRLYA) is now available online at http://www.yalsa.ala.org/jrlya/. This issue features research papers relating to library digital services and peritextual elements.

In their study, “‘Getting Basic Information Isn’t as Helpful as the Nuanced Advice We Can Give Each Other’: Teens with Autism on Digital Citizenship Education,” Amelia Anderson and  Abigail Phillips surveyed teens with autism to better understand their experiences with online bullying and the extent to which they wish to engage with digital citizenship programming at their local public libraries.

Rachel M. Magee and Margaret H. Buck worked with teen researchers Juliana Kitzmann, Nathaniel Morris, Dylan Petrimoulx, Matthew Rich, Joshua Sensiba, Eyan Tiemann, and Aidan Wempe to examine teen social media practices in their article, “Teen Social Media Practices and Perceptions of Peers: Implications for Youth Services Providers and Researchers.” The researchers discuss their analysis of survey results, which suggest that teens have a complex relationship with technology and prioritizing learning while online.

JRLYA is YALSA’s open-access, peer-reviewed research journal, located at: http://www.yalsa.ala.org/jrlya. Its purpose is to enhance the development of theory, research, and practice to support young adult library services. JRLYA presents original research concerning: 1) the informational and developmental needs of teens; 2) the management, implementation, and evaluation of young adult library services; and 3) other critical issues relevant to librarians who work with teens. Writer’s guidelines are located at http://www.yalsa.ala.org/jrlya/author-guidelines/.

Robin A. Moeller, editor, JRLYA

Learning Experiences (formal and informal) – Gender Equity in the Workplace, part 3

Hello everyone,

As a continuing commitment to look at the YALSA Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff through the EDI lens, and my presidential theme of Striving for Equity using the same Competencies, I considered the fourth of these Competencies. I thought about how career preparation is a considerable aspect of Learning Experiences (formal and informal), and realized that a notable, ongoing issue of equity, inequity and inequality revolves around gender issues in the workplace.

Because I feel that our perspective can become myopic if we stay wholly within the library sphere, I chose to interview women in the non-library workforce and I asked them about their experiences around gender inequity and inequality, and how these elements shaped them, both as teens and during their careers. I also asked them about how they feel gender inequity and inequality has affected the teens in their own lives today.

The next interview is with Wendy Volkman, currently a Minneapolis-based UX Content Strategist in the financial industry. She has also been a Digital Marketing Manager, Webmaster, Compensation & Classification Analyst, Institutional Researcher in higher ed, and a Welfare Policy Analyst.

If there was one element of gender equity that you would like to see promoted in the workplace, what would it be?

There are two – pay equity and broadening the idea of what leadership looks like to include more women leaders and female leadership styles in the workplace. I think it is very circular – more women in leadership roles will diversify what leadership looks like in the workplace, which allows more females to imagine themselves as leaders, which will hopefully lead to more women seeking leadership positions.

Considering the research that gender stereotypes are set into motion around age 10, how would you say that you worked against these stereotypes for girls, and in what ways did they become a part of your own upbringing and adolescence?

I guess I felt from a young age that my intelligence was valued the most. I don’t recall feeling overpraised for my appearance, cleanliness or politeness. I’m not sure I felt like I was treated any differently than my brother who is two years older than me. Though I was very good at math and science, I don’t recall ever being encouraged to continue studying it after high school. I do recall telling my HS guidance counselor that I thought that engineering was for guys, and I don’t remember being corrected. I knew that appearance could be disproportionately rewarded in women, but I guess I never really felt like going down that path. Continue reading

Learning Experiences (formal and informal) – Gender Equity in the Workforce, part 2

Hello everyone,

As a continuing commitment to look at the YALSA Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff through the EDI lens, and my presidential theme of Striving for Equity using the same Competencies, I considered the fourth of these Competencies. I thought about how career preparation is a considerable aspect of Learning Experiences (formal and informal), and realized that a notable, ongoing issue of equity, inequity and inequality revolves around gender issues in the workplace.

Because I feel that our perspective can become myopic if we stay wholly within the library sphere, I chose to interview women in the non-library workforce and I asked them about their experiences around gender inequity and inequality, and how these elements shaped them, both as teens and during their careers. I also asked them about how they feel gender inequity and inequality has affected the teens in their own lives today.

The next interview is with Bianka Pineda. She was was born in Guatemala but has lived in the United States for most of her life. She has a master’s degree in counseling and student personnel psychology from the University of Minnesota, and has been a school counselor in St. Paul Public Schools for several years. Her role as a school counselor is to advocate on behalf of her students and ensure their needs are being met so they can be successful at school. She helps students develop their skills in the academic, social/emotional, and college/career domains.

If there was one element of gender equity that you would like to see promoted in the workplace, what would it be?

I have two “elements” that I would highlight in my field of work. First, in the elementary and secondary education settings, women staff outnumber men significantly. Therefore, in general, education is considered “women’s work” and I would argue not only underpaid but extremely under-valued in our society. The second element of gender equity to note in our current educational system is that teaching is much more geared towards our female students. The qualities that we promote in girls, being able to sit and to please, are rewarded heavily and in large part account for the number of girls graduating and going onto post-secondary options at a higher rate than boys.

Considering the research that gender stereotypes are set into motion around age 10, how would you say that you worked against these stereotypes for girls, and in what ways did they become a part of your own upbringing and adolescence?

Based on my own personal experience and the population I serve at work, this question cannot be answered without including a cultural lens. Speaking as a first-generation Latinx woman, I benefited from parents that supported all my educational and vocational aspirations and often highlighted high-achieving women of color. Although many of my students of color have parents who support them this way, they also still saddle them with domestic expectations related to their gender. For example, many of these girls are expected to do more house chores and the taking care of younger siblings than their male siblings and which often conflicts with their ability to get their homework done. They also have stringent social rules that do not mirror what their male siblings are allowed to do, something I also experienced and can create feelings of self-doubt and resentment. Therefore, I am often coaching my students on how to communicate these conflicting demands to their parents. We focus on the chores in particular and how they take away time from studying. And when the opportunity presents itself, and I can communicate with parents, I will advocate similarly on my students’ behalf. Continue reading

Learning Experiences (formal and informal) – Gender Equity in the Workplace, part 1

Hello everyone,

As a continuing commitment to look at the YALSA Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff through the EDI lens, and my presidential theme of Striving for Equity using the same Competencies, I considered the fourth of these Competencies. I thought about how career preparation is a considerable aspect of Learning Experiences (formal and informal), and realized that a notable, ongoing issue of equity, inequity and inequality revolves around gender issues in the workplace.

Because I feel that our perspective can become myopic if we stay wholly within the library sphere, I chose to interview women in the non-library workforce and I asked them about their experiences around gender inequity and inequality, and how these elements shaped them, both as teens and during their careers. I also asked them about how they feel gender inequity and inequality has affected the teens in their own lives today.

The first interview is with Laura McNeill, who works as a youth mentor in a nature immersion-based camp for kids ages 7-16. She teaches fire by friction, tracking, shelter building, plant identification, foraging, song singing, gratitude and peacemaking. Through these activities and others she strives to strengthen connections to nature, self and others. Her non-paid work includes racial justice organizing and education for Groundwork in Madison, Wisconsin, leading anti-racist workshops for white people, rooted in the resilient leadership of people of color both locally and nationally. She is also a parent to two incredible young people.

If there was one element of gender equity that you would like to see promoted in the workplace, what would it be?

One element would be the racial wage gap. Looking at how race intersects with pay. On average, women of color earn less on the dollar, than white women for the same education background, job experiences and position, with African American women and American Indian women earning the least overall. This gap widens as women advance upwardly into different positions. I’d love to see white women (and white men) address this in the big picture when working towards advancement for equal pay for all genders.

Considering the research that gender stereotypes are set into motion around age 10, how would you say that you worked against these stereotypes for girls, and in what ways did they become a part of your own upbringing and adolescence?

My Dad was working on his college degree when we were in elementary school. He had joined the military right after high school, so worked at nights with the benefit of the GI bill towards his degree. He was often doing homework right beside us at the kitchen table, encouraging us in our studies. I was good at math and was always encouraged to continue to work hard both at school and at home. My parents had three girls right in a row and wanted us to have the same opportunities as anyone else. My mom stayed at home with us, but we often heard stories of her independence, travels and job with IBM. My parents talked about saving money for us to go to college – we always knew that was part of our story.

Raising two white sons, but having close relationships with many young girls through friends and family, this is always on my mind and I am constantly learning. When one of my sons was in 4th grade, the white teacher recommended that he join an advanced math group. Excited to have the teacher recognize that he needed to be more challenged, but also knowing about (sometimes unconscious) early tracking, I asked her if two friends of his, two African American girls, had also been included in this invitation. Having had the privilege of volunteering in the classrooms over several previous years, and having close relationships with these families, I was aware that these girls had always been side by side with my son in learning progress and work efforts. The teacher responded that the girls had not been invited to the higher math group, because their test scores had been low enough not to be in the range required for recommendation. When I asked about the test score difference, it did not seem to warrant not inviting them, based on their history, excitement about math and strong work ethic. I asked my son what he thought about this, and he said that his two friends were just as good as he was in math. I both reached out to the parents with this information and also to the teacher to reconsider, challenging an education system that often leaves kids of color and girls behind when it comes to advanced math. The flip side of this equation is that advanced classes are often pushed by privileged white families, who then keep quiet about this privilege. So speaking up about this ‘silence’ is also important, exposing privilege and making all families aware of what opportunities exist. Reframing and valuing high expectations in education for all of ‘our’ kids, not just our own families. Reminding and encouraging educators to look at a bigger picture than test scores when recommending kids for advanced courses. Continue reading

NEW Board of Directors ex-officio position – Advocacy seat

Hello everyone,

YALSA members voted in the spring 2019 elections to change the number of directors-at-large from seven to six and to create an Ex-Officio Advocacy position. This position will be held by someone who is not yet a YALSA member, but advocates for teens in their role working for an institution, a non-profit, a for-profit venture, or as a volunteer, among other capacities. Current or former employment in a library is neither required nor is it a disqualification; however, the intent is to encourage a person with a perspective outside the library realm to join the Board. At the 2019 Annual meeting in Washington DC, the Board decided to fill this seat by an application process followed by Board appointment, similar to that of the ALA Liaison and Board Fellow processes.

Some of the rationale in creating this position included:

● The inclusion of an advocate who works beyond the library teen services space can bring a unique perspective and help broaden the organization’s outlook on serving youth
● A more diverse Board can strengthen its capacity by bringing in relevant skills or knowledge from beyond the library community
● By including advocates on the Board, YALSA is modeling the behavior it wants members to adopt at the local level in terms of reaching out into the community to forge partnerships that increase their ability to meet teen needs

This ex-officio Board member will serve a 1-year term, with the potential to renew for a second 1-year term. This person would begin service after the ALA Annual 2020 Conference in Chicago. A focus we are considering for this position is to be a point person for National Library Legislative Day (from 2021 on). No prior library experience or familiarity with libraries or YALSA is required for this position.

If you are interested in applying, or know of an excellent candidate for this position, please contact Letitia Smith in the YALSA office. If you have any questions about what this position may entail, eligibility or other procedural questions, feel free to contact me. While not exactly aligned, a template for service in this role can be found on the YALSA Board Fellow program page.

Thanks!

Todd Krueger, YALSA President 2019-2020 | Twitter: @toddbcpl

2019 Teen Summer Intern Program: Jefferson City Public Library

When entering into our Teen Internship Program, I was prepared to mentor our teens in critical job skills to equip them for their futures. I wanted them to learn to work as a team, to gain confidence in their natural abilities, and to see that they are unique and important contributors to their communities. But my experience with our internship program taught me – once again – that the relationship between a teen and their librarian is different from any other. And I discovered that the most important lessons teens learn with us aren’t necessarily those we plan.

Because teens are still growing up and learning to handle an array of life skills, they bring all their learning needs with them to whatever they do. We think they are coming to an internship just to learn job skills, but they have more needs than that. And they might just turn to us for help. I don’t know exactly what it is about librarians that makes us more accessible than others. Perhaps it’s because we’re adults who are respected, but not authority figures. Perhaps it’s because we stand by the gates of knowledge (holding them open) and they instinctively associate us with the ancient figure of the “priestly advisor.” 

Whatever the reason, I’ve found this special role requires being emotionally sensitive and available to our teen patrons. This summer, I discovered it to be crucial for our teen interns. Being the intern coordinator required a balance of being a job-skills mentor – directing events, guiding projects, and showing the ins and outs of the library – and being a life-skills mentor – a confidant, comforter, and encourager. My job was not just to teach things like how to successfully manage a program, but also to be keenly sensitive to any personal struggles. For one teen in particular, I had to understand the affect her struggles had on her performance and be patient so as to allow her time to regain her equilibrium. I mentored her through life lessons that were not related to job skills.

In some ways, I doubted our success in fulfilling the purpose of the grant because the most important skills learned were not career centered. Then I realized that success in the job world requires more than just a set of technical skills and job-centered ideals. A person must have certain personal qualities. I remembered the idea of emotional intelligence and did a quick search. I discovered that according to Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences, there is “Intrapersonal Intelligence.” This intelligence is the “capacity to be self-aware and in tune with inner feelings, values, beliefs and thinking processes.” These are the qualities the teen intern developed over the summer. Qualities she will need in her work life as well as her personal life. And –wait – it sounds very much like the goal “to gain confidence in their natural abilities.” So in the end, being an “accidental” life-skills mentor was being a job-skills mentor.

Teen interns lead a storytime.

Teen interns lead a storytime.

 

Emily L. Shade is a Library Assistant at Jefferson City Public Library.

2019 Teen Summer Intern Program: Jeudevine Memorial Library

When I was in elementary school, I grew up in a tiny town, a little over 800 people. The community library was right next to the elementary school. The library hosted pizza party book clubs, author events, and a public community space. The school had a partnership with the community library, kids would have class there and the school would buy children’s books. It was one of my first experiences with computers, the large bulky Apple iMacs that moved slower than molasses, were such a monumental experience for me. Hiding in the shelves, my eyes taking in every word I could at my tiny little library. When we moved to a slightly larger town (now 3000 people), the Jeudevine Library became a safe haven. During the summers in middle school I would spend hours at the Jeudevine, picking books upon books to take home. The library during Halloween was my favorite, hosting a ‘haunted library’ scavenger hunt with the librarians dressing up as famous literature characters, (this year, they were Alice in Wonderland characters!) While I can’t spend hours at the library like I used to, I see that spark of reading and curiosity in younger kids in my town. Even if they’re not reading, the boys in my town get together once the library is open to all play computer games together. Diane, the children’s librarian, gives them snacks. The regular visitors bring the 8 or more books from the past week, and check out another dozen books. The people who stop in once in a while, and those I can always count on seeing. I wouldn’t have met this community had I not been given the opportunity of being a teen intern at the Jeudevine Library. 

I started volunteering my time at the library in January 2019. I taught a drop-in beginners knitting class for children after school. We would get regular kids coming back regularly and knitting. Community members donated piles of yarn and needles for children to use. As the summer started, the number of kids dropped, but one woman kept coming in and talking and knitting with me. She lived in Wolcott, a nearby town. She loved the Jeudevine Library and would keep coming back with her husband. She taught me about the ‘Shawl in a ball’ knitting pattern, knitting a shawl with one ball of yarn. She showed me jewelry she made, her pottery classes and her experiences going to college. (I’m a rising senior, she gave me some very good advice!) Having the hour each week to talk to library patrons and knit, allowing myself space to relax and recharge by doing something I love. 

Before school was over, Diane told me about a grant she received. The grant was to hire a local teenager to help with events and marketing. She offered the grant to me if I wanted it, and of course I did. I hadn’t spent this much time in the Jeudevine because of high school, and the knitting class showed me the gem I had forgotten about. I immediately said yes, we worked out the details and my hours. I was so excited to continue the work I had started. 

This year’s library theme was ‘A Universe of Stories’, all centered around space. Diane set up events around space, and I helped in any way I could. I helped manage Ed Pop Magic Show, Wall-E Movie Night, Story Walk on the Hardwick Trails, Story Time with Headstart, writing workshops, and puppet shows and a stargazing party hosted with a NASA volunteer. We’d also host Jeudevine Library story times at the Hardwick Farmers’ Market, reading books or hosting arts and crafts at the weekly markets. I would put up posters, post stuff online, and spread the word around to get more people involved and excited about the libraries’ events as I was. One of my favorite events to help was the Story Walk at the Hardwick Trails. I helped cut up ‘The Darkest Dark’ by Chris Hadfield, and tape them to stakes on the Hardwick Trails behind my high school. The mosquitoes on the Wednesday morning were fierce, and Diane and I had to tape 35 pages to the stakes quickly but thoroughly while getting massacred by bugs. We were giggling the entire time, running from post to post trying to not get bitten. We had bug spray on, but those bugs were relentless. Right before the story walk was supposed to start, only one family was there. These two little boys playing on the large rocks. They were so excited to be outside in the sun, climbing like little monkeys, impatient to start the walk. 

Diane and I spent so much time making this a fun event. I had read the book to prepare, and knew to read quickly to move the group along, but not slow enough that it dragged. More than 30 adults and children showed up to the story walk, some students from the Hazen Summer School program came just to have some fun outside. We started the book, children running to the next post to look at the pictures. They were so excited to listen to this story, that no one noticed the bugs. After half an hour and one book later, we were at the end of the trail. A family visiting their grandparents from out of state had come on the storywalk. The grandfather complimented Diane and I, saying how much he enjoyed the event and that he was glad he could have a nice morning with his grandchildren. It absolutely made my day, even as Diane and I had to go back through the trail to pick up all the stakes. 

I live right next to the field where the farmers’ markets are hosted. Growing up, I would spend the hot Friday afternoons eating yummy food with my parents as they bought groceries. My favorite thing was getting my face painted. A local bakery sells these over-sized cinnamon buns that my grandmother would always buy for us, and I remember getting a cinnamon bun painted on my cheek. When Diane mentioned that she was buying face paint for the farmers’ markets I was so excited! She bought some paints online, it came with a little booklet and face glitter. Listen, I’m not an artist and don’t claim to be. I do enjoy painting but I wouldn’t call myself an artist. I did a genuine job painting, and all of the kids had a great time. 

One day Diane asked me to find some “space” arts and crafts to bring to the farmers’ market. Something with materials we already had, and would be simple for me to make. I found the perfect craft: little aliens using pompoms, plastic cups and bowls, and googly eyes! These little aliens were so fun and easy to make, I immediately made one to test out the process. The little alien floated around the library as a little friend! I even made him a book to read on his flight. I underestimated the amount of kids who wanted an alien buddy, and ended up running out of supplies right at the end to the farmers’ market. Every kid had an alien by the end of the night, and we used yarn we had been given for the knitting class. 

This internship opened my eyes to both the magic I already knew, and some that I had yet to discover. I connected to more adults and kids in my community. I worked the front desk, shelved books, taught knitting, made aliens, put up posters, and sold raffle tickets all for my town’s little library. This building and the people it serves are more important to me now than ever before, learning more about myself and its culture than I ever thought I could. I grew as a person and community member as the summer went on. 

The library is hosting a puppet show as I write this with a local comedy couple, two people I work for on their other projects. Knowing them, knowing other talented patrons and supporters, knowing friends and visitors to the library is comforting, a family that comes together for more than just books. The town I live in is a family, a quirky odd family. Without the library, there’s not much to do in Hardwick for children and families, adults and visitors. There are few places to go that will print things for you, free wifi and computer services. This internship taught me how to give back. For all the library does, there’s 20 people giving right back, either checking out books or coming to events, making donations or volunteering. Hardwick is full of giving, loving, exciting, creative, genuine people. I wouldn’t have known that without the Jeudevine Library. 

 

Diane Grenkow is the Children’s Librarian at Jeudevine Memorial Library.