More Than Accessible

Libraries strive to be inclusive spaces across North America, but are they? What is the difference between being accessible and being inclusive? More often than not, libraries find themselves as accessible places in an effort to adhere to the Americans with Disabilities Act or Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act that we have here in my home province. Ramps that allow patrons with mobility issues to enter their local branches and modified collections for those with a visual impairment are ideal examples of how libraries can act as accessible spaces. The challenge is in making those same spaces inclusive to those who are different, specifically regarding programming and services normally available to the average patron.

Think of the last storytime you ran at your library. Perhaps it was a bit loud, active, got children out of their seats and was an all-around great time. Now ask yourself: would someone with autism feel comfortable in that environment? What about your teen programs? It took a long time before I even got close to offering inclusive programs because it is definitely a challenge. There are factors you normally don’t consider that can be major obstacles for those living with a disability.

I want to encourage you to make the effort, regardless of how daunting of a challenge it may seem, because the potential outcome will be more rewarding for you, your library, and your community than you can imagine. Getting starting is often the most challenging part of any project so I want to share a recent success regarding special-needs programming in the hope that it will inspire you to identify a need in your community and work with your local partners to address it.  You might also check out the resources on YALSA’s wiki.

Through focus groups, surveys, and community outreach, we identified a significant lack of support in our city for teens and young adults with special needs. We listened to parents talk about the lack of meaningful opportunities available for their children once they were phased out of school, and what was available had a significant price tag attached to it. Parents spoke about the desire to see their child learn the skills necessary to eventually hold a steady job and feel as though they are part of society, not a social outcast.

This is when most libraries make a common mistake: programming for the community instead of with your community. It’s easy to listen to a parent tell you that her son needs more opportunities to be social only to turn around and throw together a hodgepodge of a program, but what is the desired outcome? Will the program teach new skills, provide learning opportunities, enhance their quality of life or will it simply be glorified babysitting?  A colleague suggested I approach Community Living York South, a local organization serving individuals with disabilities and special needs. Several meetings later I had a better understanding of the challenges facing these individuals in our city and the role our library system could play in supporting them.  If you’re new to building outcomes into your program planning, check out the resources on YALSA’s wiki.

Many of the young adults I spoke with expressed a desire to learn how to use a computer. The basic skills we often take for granted were barriers for these youth and restricted their ability to achieve a fundamental mission of any library system – equal access to information. Through these conversations and research, I developed an adapted computer program for young adults with special needs. The workshop would be offered every Tuesday afternoon for two hours for 8 consecutive weeks. Since I was facilitating it, there would be no cost to the participants, but due to space and equipment limitations we were only able to take on nine students.

We decided upon several topics for the program:

  • Computer basics (turning on, opening & closing windows, etc.)
  • Keyboarding & mouse skills
  • Microsoft Word and communication skills
  • Using the Internet for research & Internet Safety
  • Cyberbullying and peer-pressure

Each lesson was comprised of educational games, computer exercises, real-world examples, group discussions, and a review period at the end of the session. We also encouraged participants to mentor their peers who were having difficulty with certain tasks. Some of our students were able to complete their work quickly, so rather than sit and become disinterested, they were encouraged to pair up and support someone in need of assistance. This became one of the most rewarding aspects of the program because participants were now learning more than just how to use a computer, they were developing their communication and interpersonal skills while making new friends.

I’ve made it sound much simpler than it is, but I want to encourage each of you to take on the challenge of making your library more inclusive. It won’t happen overnight and you’ll encounter countless roadblocks along the way, but know that it will all be worth it. The picture you see below is from the first class I had the pleasure of teaching and I keep it by my desk as a constant reminder that all it takes it a willingness to support those who are too often left behind.

Are you still wondering if you should be offering adapted programs? Well, let me tell you about Adam (I’ve changed his name for privacy) from the program. Adam came to the first class nervous and apprehensive because he had never used a computer. In his own words, he considers himself too “dumb” to use a computer, but that didn’t stop me from trying. Each week we practiced the most basic tasks to create a strong foundation of knowledge he could build on. It seemed as though little progress was being made, until I overheard his conversation with a classmate. I was walking around the class helping participants with their assignment when I heard Adam say, “I can’t believe I’m doing it. I’m actually using a computer. Look, I’m doing it!”

There’s an Adam in your community, and I know with your determination to support those in need, you can provide every Adam with an opportunity to succeed and make your library a truly inclusive space.

 

Teach Us All Highlights Powerful Youth Activism

By Julie Stivers

[This post is part of the YALSA Presidential Theme: Youth Activism through Community Engagement]

Have you watched the powerful documentary film, Teach Us All? This crucial and compelling film—directed by Sonia Lowman and distributed by Array—documents educational inequality in the US, framed with the history and lasting impact of the Little Rock Nine. The film is available to stream on Netflix or—to increase reach—you can host a screening at your school, district, or library. (Watch the trailer here.)

I was lucky enough to attend a screening organized by a group of equity-focused assistant principals in our WCPSS district.  Watching—and then discussing—the film with fellow educators made the experience even more meaningful. For me as a viewer, the crucial thread running through the entire film was the powerful student activism piece and how it directly relates to this year’s YALSA Presidential Theme: Youth Activism through Community Engagement.

Teach Us All highlights students championing for their rights, building grass-root organizations, questioning inequitable and structurally racist school policies, and working with each other to enact social change within their schools and communities. Youth voices were the most compelling:

“It is up to us as students to create that essential change.”

“Real change happens when the people who need it, lead it.”


Teach Us All
highlighted several community led, youth-based organizations that work with and through youth on issues related to educational equity and social activism.

StudentsMatter [studentsmatter.org]
“A national nonprofit organization founded in 2011, Students Matter promotes access to quality public education through impact litigation, communications and advocacy. Students Matter fights for education equality in the court of law and in the court of public opinion, where students’ rights and voices matter most.”

IntegrateNYC [integratenyc.org]
“We are building a powerful community determined to advocate for meaningful policies that can ensure a just and equitable school system for all our young people.”

IntegrateUSNetwork [integratenyc.org/build]
“Together, we are growing a new generation of real leaders who will unite our society. Students develop civic leadership and design solutions for real integration and real representation.”

Additionally, Teach Us All is committed to inspiring youth to engage with their schools and communities using a social activism lens. On the Teach Us All site, further resources are organized by stakeholder, including educators, parents, organizations, and most critically, students.

Have you seen Teach Us All? What were your main takeaways? How do the issues identified in Teach Us All relate to libraries? What inequitable and structurally racist policies and practices exist within our libraries that need to be examined and dismantled? How can library staff work with youth to develop community led, youth-based programs that empower youth to examine issues related to equitable library services and programs?

We would love to hear from you in the comments.

Making the Public Library More Accessible to Students

In the course of my career, I have worked in almost every type of library (from Academic to Special), but I have spent the bulk of that time as a Public Librarian. One challenge that hasn’t changed in those 30+ years is providing students with access to materials.

At my first public library job in the early ‘90s, I worked closely with the librarians in the school district. They would fax over (because, yes, this was before email) assignment alerts for the various schools and I would pull materials for the students who would inevitably be coming in later to work on their assignments. The librarians of our community, public and school, worked as a team and the students benefited. It was helpful to me as well, because I could make sure there was a reserve cart pulled for specific projects before an over-zealous parent came in and checked out every single item in the library.

Fast forward 30 years, and some elements of this dynamic have remained while others have fundamentally changed. We have the internet; multiple school districts; reference collections are a thing of the past; 1:1 in some districts; cell phones; databases, staff reductions, elimination of school libraries, etc. All of these factors have changed the relationship between many schools and public libraries.

Students and teachers come to the public library in search of data and materials for assignments. In an effort to make sure that all students and teachers have access to materials in my library, we have created three new classes of library cards: limited library cards, digital library cards, and school library cards.

Our main library is located next door to one of our districts’ high school. We get many teens walking over after school to study.  We observed that some of these students couldn’t access databases (from home) or check out materials because they don’t have library cards, and since they walked to the library, didn’t have a parent or caregiver available to check out materials.

In an effort to make these materials and services available to all of our teen students, we created limited library cards and digital library cards. Limited library cards are for teens 14-17, who want/need to check out materials but don’t have library cards. Since our card policy requires a parent or guardian to register minor children for a library card, we have encountered teens who want to check out materials, but don’t have cards.  The limited card allows the teens to check out up to 3 items, and give them access to our digital databases. Without a library card, these teens would not be able to check out materials. It allows onsite and remote access to all of the library’s databases, but does not include access to materials charging.

The third type of card we created, a school library card, is designed for educators. They are helpful to teachers who want to stock their classrooms with supplemental materials, and who have traditionally taken on the responsibility for these items by checking them out on their personal library cards.  Unfortunately for the teachers, when materials are lost or overdue on a personal card, they are responsible for fines and replacement.  Issuing school cards allows teachers access to the materials, but shifts financial responsibility to the school.

If your school library and public library don’t have cooperative borrowing in place, you might want to consider similar ways to provide access to students.

Alexa Newman is a Youth Services Librarian at the Algonquin Area Public Library in Illinois, where she focuses on community programming. Besides her regularly scheduled duties, Alexa created and runs the library’s annual drama camp, storytelling festival, and teaching garden. In her spare time she loves to read, dabble in the arts, and putter in as many gardens as possible. Alexa is currently serving on the School-Age Programs and Service Committee and on the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Joint Committee on School/Public Library Cooperation.

Bringing the BFYA Teen Feedback Session to Kansas City

For any YALSA member, the Teen Feedback Session of Best Fiction for Young Adults is a highlight of attending ALA’s Annual Conference or Midwinter Meeting. It isn’t just getting the feedback on what titles teens liked from this year’s publishing cycle…but seeing teens up at the mic, sharing their thoughts with marketers, editors, agents and library staff. It’s empowering and reminds us why we do what we do. After experiencing the Midwinter 2017 BFYA Teen Feedback Session, we began to think about how we could get our teens to the conference at Annual.

Chicago and Denver are the closest ALA’s conference ever comes to Kansas City (although KC is a large city, we don’t have the conference facilities to host ALA)  That means our teens will never have the chance to experience and reap the benefits of  the BFYA Teen Feedback Session. They will never have the awesome power of addressing the committee and a room of library staff and publishers. And on a late spring day in Kansas City…we decided to change that.

Three YALSA members from two library systems – Amanda Barnhart from Kansas City Public Library (MO), and Peggy Hendershot and Kate McNair from Johnson County Library (KS) – came together to talk about the BFYA Teen Feedback Session. Our grand idea was to figure out a way to take teens to Chicago and get them on the mic…but soon learned that there are ample teens in Chicago waiting their turn and we wouldn’t steal their moment to speak up. We still wanted to empower our teens and give them the opportunity to speak out and be heard, so we went back to the drawing table and came up with an idea that would impact more teens than we could have fit into a van on a roadtrip to Chicago…

Talk Book To Me was born. In line with YALSA’s Futures Report goal of designing programs with teens’ passions and interests at the heart that are strongly connected to academic and career achievement, we identified four goals for the program. 1) Give teens the tools to analyze a book and express their thoughts in the form of a review. 2) Amplify their voices to BFYA committee members, editors, agents and library staff. 3) Unlock opportunities for teens to build a portfolio of accomplishments.

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TRW 2017: Unleashing Teen Stories through Community Engagement

Teen Read Week 2017 has begun! This year’s theme, Unleash Your Story, centers around the power of the story and how they can be used to communicate identity, discover the world, and share personal experiences. During this week, our goal as library staff is to encourage teens to tell their own stories and find the stories of others. Whether that’s hosting programs that center around creative writing, providing reader’s advisory, or hosting an author visit, this initiative can also give you the opportunity to encourage teen participation in the stories of their communities through activism and involvement.

Each and every one of your library’s teens has a story that affects their view of the world and their place in it. Right now, our political climate is rife with division and uncertainty and teens want to speak out about the issues and causes that matter to them, but many may not have the resources or skills to take action. As library staff, we have the privilege of serving as a connector between these teen voices and the communities that they belong to. Sandra Hughes-Hassell, President of YALSA, has laid out her presidential theme for the 2017-2018 year that will help empower library professionals aid teens in finding their voices and develop the competencies needed to become potential community builders and activists. This theme, Youth Activism through Community Engagement, is the perfect springboard for this year’s Teen Read Week theme because they both involve highlighting the voices and stories of our youth and sending these voices out into the world to make a difference.

The next step forward is determining how to become that connector between teen voices and their communities. Right from the start, we should strive to listen to our teens and observe them using the library space. Teens are the experts when it comes to the issues facing them and by interacting with them in your teen space or reference desk, you will quickly realize what they are concerned with or passionate about. Last year, our library hosted several Open Mic Nights for teens; at first, many simply covered their favorite songs or performed dance routines that they had seen in music videos. However, as the program progressed, they started to open up and began performing original poetry or improvising on the spot. Many of their performances discussed struggling with bullying, being victims of homophobia, and poverty. Not only was it incredibly moving, but it reminded me as community participant, that teens need a space to simply share their stories with their peers. The act of speaking and being heard was a powerful yet simple way to empower teens and reinforce positive peer interaction with others in their immediate community.

If teens are concerned with issues on a more national level, connect them to resources that can help them address it. In my library’s local community, we have a high number of Latino families that are uncertain about their futures what with the recent news about the Trump administration’s plan for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) students and what that means for their families. Our goal has been to encourage not only Latino teens, but teens from all backgrounds, to become literate in the rights and struggles that others are facing. During Teen Read Week, reader’s advisory can be a powerful tool that connects teens to voices outside of their own experiences and perspectives. If you need some titles to keep handy, YALSA’s The Hub blog recently featured a great booklist that highlights teen activism. On a programming level, provide teens with resources that lead them to data about immigrant issues and help them start a social media campaign targeting to students in their schools and community to raise awareness. When teens have the facts to back up their voices, they can be empowered to take their stories out to their community at large and begin their journey towards becoming a powerful community builder!

For more information on how to host a successful Teen Read Week at your library, check out YALSA’s ning page for outreach resources, program planning, and more. If you need inspiration on how to encourage teens to unleash their stories this week, check out the Teen Programming HQ to see how other libraries are engaging in this year’s theme. Do you have a program or outreach initiative that you are excited about? Share it with YALSA members on the Teen Programming HQ site! Finally, let everyone know what you are doing for Teen Read Week on social media by using @yalsa and #TRW17.

Civic Data Zine Camp

Since 2012, The Labs@CLP (Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh) has provided Pittsburgh teens a digital learning space where they can explore new technologies and hone existing skills. We were one of the fortunate programs designated as an IMLS Learning Lab grantee, and our programming continues to develop our curriculum of teen-driven connected learning. Recent additions include a process through which teens can earn badges as they practice and refine new Labs skills, a transition into some of our neighborhood locations that have not yet received weekly Labs programming and equipment, and the annual Labsy Awards, which recognize the creativity and innovation of local teens. Over the last five years, this unique initiative has evolved and extended its reach into new locations, new disciplines, and new avenues of creativity.

Each summer, we invite groups of teens into our libraries to participate in what we call The Labs Summer Skills Intensives. Partnerships with local organizations like 1Hood Media and Pittsburgh Filmmakers, along with individual artists with unique specializations, allow us to explore a specific aspect of literacy—from songwriting to street art to sound recording—in a creative way. Each teen earns $100 for attending the entire week, and bus passes are available for anyone who might need one. These week-long camps give teens a platform for intimate engagement and complete immersion, and the results are extraordinary. In our camps, teens have produced music videos, written original songs, sewn their own fashion projects, and much more.

We saw The Labs Intensive formula as a great opportunity to highlight our teens’ expertise about their communities, while also increasing the reach of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s Beyond Big Data initiative. Part of this effort involves the inclusion of data literacy programming into our existing repertoire, and we soon created a curriculum that would allow us to explore open data with a brilliant group of civically-minded teens. On July 31, we grabbed our supplies and headed to CLP – Squirrel Hill for the first day of Data Zine Camp.

The goals of this Intensive were the following:

  • To identify data as it impacts our everyday lives;
  • To think critically about data;
  • To practice storytelling using data;
  • To examine a personal, civic, or national issue through the lens of data; and
  • To create a Data Zine that documents not only our findings, but our process.

We began the week by introducing our partner, PublicSource. This local journalism network is unique because of its data-driven perspective, and its ability to amplify the compelling stories within data. Throughout our camp, the data journalists at PublicSource led us in fact-finding adventures, examined biases through critical discussion, and introduced us to a variety of data visualization tools and techniques.

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Teen Translator Interns @ the Sacramento Public Library

I am in charge of teen volunteers at the Arcade library and had noted that, of our approximately two dozen volunteers, many of them spoke languages other than English. At the same time, the Arcade library was seeing a large influx of new patrons who spoke said languages from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and Syria; teens were also regularly asking about finding paid work in our area. I wanted to create an opportunity for the volunteers to use their linguistic skills and develop new ones related to professional working environments. It was also important to me that they be paid for their efforts.

I then came across a YALSA grant designed to monetarily support interns at one’s library and applied. I was informed that my program had been selected for one of the grants in early 2017. The amount of the grant totaled $1,000, all of which I paid directly to the interns.

The first thing I did after getting the grant was solidify the job description for the interns. I made the schedule flexible and the requirements loose – at minimum, applicants had to be at least 13 years old and be able to get to the library reliably. I highlighted the fact that teens who spoke Arabic, Persian/Dari, and/or Pashto would be given priority and that they would be paid. I also determined that, ideally, I would hire two interns – one who spoke Arabic, and one who spoke Persian/Dari, as those were the languages most often appearing in the community and that no library staff spoke. The description specified that interns were to email me with an answer to the question of why it was important for their community to have access to information.

Once this was finished, I sent the posting to teachers, administrators, and other community contacts in the Arcade area. When performing outreach, I talked about the opportunity to classes, especially those with adult ESL students, once the posting was translated into Pashto, Arabic, and Persian.

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Banned Books Week Approaches

Recently I spoke on a panel discussing graphic novels and their representation of sex education and self-acceptance from an LGBT perspective. The conference, called Flame Con, has taken place for the last three years in Brooklyn, NY and focuses on pop culture with an LGBT lens. As part of the panel we discussed what exists on this topic for all ages including children and teens. In our conversation, we touched on why these titles are important and whether they live on the shelves of libraries. They mostly do, but in my preparation, I found myself on ALA’s Banned Books Week page and saw that many of the books that I know and love for their inclusivity were among the most challenged for 2016. In fact, the top five of the ten were challenged due to their inclusion of LGBT characters. Other reasons these books were challenged focused on sexual content, lewd language, and violence. To see the top ten list of 2016, which includes picture books, graphic novels, YA titles and more, click here.

According to ALA’s Banned Books Week page, “Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Typically held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community — librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers — in shared support of the freedom to seek and express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.” This year Banned Books Week is taking place from September 24th – 30th toting the hashtag #wordshavepower. Let’s show our unity as we fight for our teen’s right to read what they need.

This week allows us as librarians and advocates to shine a spotlight on those books that others want to put in the dark. Censorship of these titles silences the voices of the authors and puts blinders on our readers. It effects our First Amendment rights as readers. As we all know, representation in young adult literature is paramount to the teens that we serve. Whether those books are windows or mirrors for the readers we must make sure our patrons can either see themselves in a book or learn about the lives of others through what they read. If we do not fight against these challenges our teen patrons will continue to find the books they need censored.

So how can ALA and YALSA help you? Take a look at our resource pages on Banned Books Week and the Office for Intellectual Freedom. There are tools located there that can help you report challenged titles, get support for these challenges, and build a rock-solid collection development policy. So you know what you may be facing here are definitions from ALA’s Challenge Support site:

  • A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others.
  • Censorship is a change in the access status of material, based on the content of the work and made by a governing authority or its representatives. Such changes include exclusion, restriction, removal, or age/grade level changes.
  • Intellectual freedom is the right of every individual to both seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction. It provides for free access to all expressions of ideas through which any and all sides of a question, cause or movement may be explored.

The Challenge Support site also goes on to explain you can contact the Office for Intellectual Freedom whenever you hear even the slightest rumbling around a book at your library. They even give you the contact information right on the page! We’ll share it here for even easier access: For assistance with challenges to library materials, services, or programs, please contact Kristin Pekoll at the Office for Intellectual Freedom, 800-545-2433, ext. 4221, or via email: kpekoll@ala.org. Granted it can be scary when something is challenged in your collection, but remember we are all in this together (that may or may not be a High School Musical reference – don’t censor me!).

In the meantime, when you are not dealing with a live challenge, celebrate those books that have been banned in the past. Make a display of the books or put a list of the books on a bulletin board. Ask your teens or colleagues what their favorite Banned Books are and show them off. We can be advocates for our teens and their literature in whatever way we choose – whenever we choose. As YALSA members and/or teen librarians we sometimes house the most controversial books in our collections so be brave, report challenges, and advocate for Banned Books.

For everyday Advocacy information, be sure to check out YALSA’s Advocacy Page and Toolkit!

Derek Ivie is the Youth Services Coordinator at the Suffolk Cooperative Library System in Bellport, NY. He has served on many booklist and award committees, and is currently serving as a Board Member at Large for the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA).

Youth Activism Through Community Engagement—Presidential Task Force

 

After the horrors of Charlottesville unfolded, we saw powerful and moving responses via social media, petitions, and public demonstrations. Recently, YALSA President Sandra Hughes-Hassell wrote a blog post about what library staff can do to help. The 2017-2018 YALSA Presidential Year theme of Youth Activism through Community Engagement is an appropriate call to action for library staff to support teens in developing the necessary skills and confidence to engage in their communities.

Advocacy and civic engagement are not activities solely for adults but have been taken up by youth across the world. Age is not a barrier for participation but an opportunity for teens to learn more about what they believe and how they can make an impact. More and more teens are organizing for social change and demonstrating a compassion for those in need. As library staff, we can encourage this excitement by sharing resources, offering a brave and welcoming space, providing opportunities for leadership, promoting thoughtful and #ownvoices reading, and facilitating teen engagement in their communities.

Wethe Presidential Advisory Task Forcehave collected a sampling of resources to help further support youth activism in your library, in addition to including resources that can help foster conversations with teens about Charlottesville,  race, institutionalized racism, and systemic oppression.

 

Teen Activism

Youth Activism Project

Teen Vogue: 20 Small Acts of Resistance to Make Your Voice Heard Over the Next 4 Years

10 Trans and Gender-Nonconforming Youth Activists of Color Making a Huge Difference

The Forefront of Resistance

Medium: A Nervous Wreck’s Disabled Guide to Stepping Up

Life Hacker: 30 Young Adult Books for Activists in Training

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Summer Learning @ South Sioux City Public Library: Dollar General Grant Winner

We were blessed to receive the Summer Learning Resources Grant through YALSA and Dollar General.  This grant provided us the luxury of purchasing books along with their audiobook companions, a listening table, CD/MP3 player and chairs. We were able to set this up in our computer room for youth in Middle School and High School students to use on a daily basis.

Our town is a minority/majority town and with this listening center it will help with ELL students learning and hearing the English language. We were able to meet our goals of having 1) the students hear how the words on a page can come alive in an expressive manner, 2) helping the students hear the sounds of the words without interruption and create a more fluid reading, and 3) having the audio books help the students master the skill of listening.

During our past Summer Reading Programs some of our ELL students and newly emigrated students struggled to meet the goals set for others their same age. With being able to include books in audio format, they were able and excitedly joined our program with no concerns of being left behind or feeling left out. We encouraged collaboration with the ELL staff at the High School to bring the youth into our Public Library on a field trip, where they met with me, talked with me, were made to feel comfortable in the library atmosphere and learn what we can offer to them. Throughout the summer I was able to meet back up with those students who I watched grown in their confidence of using the library, to enjoying the listening center and then finding the graphic novels! It was a huge success.

My name is Odessa Meyer. I’ve been the Youth Services Librarian at the South Sioux City Public Library in South Sioux City, NE since 2009. I never knew I wanted to be a librarian. I went to college for Computer Programming, worked in many different fields and eventually made my way into a school system in NE. When I decided it was time to go back to my hometown, I applied for the position at the library, was granted the opportunity to accept the job and fell in love. I had no idea how perfect this position was for me and how perfect I was for this job.