In January of 2017, I took on the exciting challenge of becoming the first Youth Services Librarian for Eastern Shore Public Library, where we have 2 branch libraries and 2 affiliate libraries serving a rural community that includes the counties of Accomack and Northampton. I have never regretted it for a moment and find priceless daily rewards in my hours working with and for young people at the libraries.
The library system works hard to compensate for having a very small staff, so we were very excited to learn we had received the Teen Intern grant from YALSA and the Dollar General Literacy Foundation! We posted the positions online and created a press release which led to an ample number of applications for our two positions. We hired two teen interns, Anna and Jenninyah, for the summer (one for each of the branch libraries) to help with all of our Summer Reading Program events, Lunch at the Library programs, and our Garden Club at our Northampton Free Library in Nassawadox. In the early stages of implementing the Teen Intern Program, there were times when it felt as if the unexpected grant might be adding more to my workload rather than the hoped-for opposite. However, at this point, I can truly say I do not know how I would have managed without the support of my wonderful Teen Interns.
This summer we had programs four days a week (two days at each branch location) and we included a No Kids Hungry lunch at every program. To assist with this Summer Food Program, my interns helped prep meals, did much of the record keeping, and did almost all of the clean-up. They ate with the kids, helped them open their food packages, and encouraged them to try new foods. One day when we served a meal that happened to be especially well received by the kids, one of the young boys gave Anna a big smile and said, “This is the best day ever!” Several of the children referred to Jenniyah as their extra “Mom.”
Our Summer Reading Program theme was “Reading Takes You Everywhere.” Through our summer reading events, we traveled deep into our soil, flew with pollinators, explored the early days of colonial Virginia and our own Hog Island, followed fossils back to the days of dinosaurs, entered the world of turtles and other local wildlife, flew rockets into the sky, beachcombed our seashores, discovered the wonders of science (electricity and slime), took a trip as a drop of water, experienced the mysteries of mime and magic, and relaxed in the beauty of music. Our Teen Interns embraced their own inner children and climbed aboard for the wonderful “journeys” through reading and exploration. They helped the kids with their crafts, helped me with promotional flyers, took pictures of our activities, became excellent role models for the younger children, and always did whatever we asked of them with a big smile (even playing the role of a turtle for one of our presenters).
Our Teen Interns are also in the process of tackling the task of helping me develop a new Teen Advisory Board. Our library system is in the process of planning for a new regional library and we want to include input from our teen community. After having such a great experience working with Anna and Jenniyah, I am very hopeful that we will be able to find more local teens who will enjoy getting involved with and supporting their local public library. It is something to which I look forward with enthusiastic anticipation.
Janice Felker, MSLS, is the Youth Services Librarian for Eastern Shore Public Library. Janice Felker received her Masters of Science in Library Science from Catholic University of America in 1998. She received her Bachelor of Science in Accounting from the University of Virginia in 1978. Originally from Highland Springs, Virginia, she has lived in Charlottesville, Hampton, Suffolk, and Eastville, Virginia. Her past work experience includes working for Suffolk Public Library System and serving as a school Librarian at two different schools. Janice and her husband are the co-owners of an organic farm in Eastville, Virginia. She serves on workgroups with Smart Beginnings Eastern Shore and Eastern Shore Healthy Communities. Janice enjoys farming, cooking, reading, and spending time with her family.