The Liberation of Not Knowing All the Answers

This post was written by Jill O’Connor who was a school librarian for 12 years before making the switch to a public library and, as the Youth Services Librarian at the Merrill Memorial Library in Yarmouth, Maine, she is  loving the freedom to craft programs for a willing audience. She is an avid reader of YA and middle grade books and a book reviewer with the Maine State Library Book Review group. When not thinking up glorious new STEM programming, she can be found driving to her son’s hockey games or her daughter’s dance classes, routing for the local baseball team, or cooking up new foods to tantalize her family.

As a former school librarian, I am new to the public library world. In the public library setting, programming looks very different than it did in school where you are a teacher, on par with all other educators in the school with learning objectives and curricula in hand. A school offers an audience of a knowable set of bodies in your class every day. You plan classes (programs) that hit your objectives and you present information. You don’t have to know everything, and it’s okay to say, “I don’t know, let’s look it up,” but for the most part, I always felt that I had to be the one in the know and in the position of teaching my audience something.

Fast forward to this past fall, I am the shiny new Youth Services Librarian at a public library, excited to try new things in a completely different setting, no longer hostage to the multiple classes-per-day grind. My domain is 3rd through 12th grade, and I am in charge of collection development, reader’s advisory, and all programming for the patrons within my assigned demographic. I know that I have to offer some STEM programming; it’s being asked for by parents and it’s a sensible and sought-after topic for all kids to be participating in, but what to do?!

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