February 18, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Fresh Paint: A New Building, a New Team, a New Me

My father is a Marine, so by the time I was eight I was quite adept at packing up my things. I vividly remember when we moved to Beaufort, SC. It was 1996, and it was the first time I ever took advantage of a move. Instead of trashing my old clothes and childish toys, I fixed up parts of my personality that needed improvement and tried out some new traits. I asked people to call me “Al”, giving the role of tomboy a spin. I also spoke up a little more and put myself in more social situations. I used this experience to invent a whole new me.

I have (much more successfully) done this at every other juncture in my life, including the (final) family move to Maryland, three colleges, and a dozen jobs. I took what I liked about myself and refined the details. As for the not-so-likable elements, I trashed them. I knew there was a better me just waiting to be born. With our new library opening in less than two months and my transfer to the new building coming next week, once again I’m in a time of transition and I’m redefining who I am as a teen librarian, a peer, a supervisor, an advocate, and a friend.

Many of the responsibilities I have at my current library are following me to the Gum Spring Library. My biggest responsibility is that of page supervisor. I took over that role in December 2011, when the person who’d been supervising the four pages had to take an emergency leave. My own supervisor helped me ajust to my new role, though many of the job’s nuances I learned as time progressed. To help out my successor, I’ve created a document that describes the duties (official and unofficial) of a page supervisor. I also used this opportunity to reflect upon what I’ve learned. In effect, I gave myself a performance assessment. I’ve already begun working on a new document on the training and supervision of the pages who will arrive in February.

Much of what I’ve learned while supervising pages transfers neatly into my role as a teen volunteer coordinator. My goal is to teach our young volunteers about the library, encourage them to work and play there, and give them a solid opportunity that builds both their character and their resume. I know I let some of our teen volunteers fall through the cracks in my old branch’s very busy volunteer program. Instead of giving each of them the personalized attention they deserved, I let a few simply sign in, do their tasks, and then leave. Even if that was the kind of experience they’d expected, it wasn’t what they deserved. Teen volunteers should be nurtured to view the library as a “third place”: a place to keep organized, fun, and safe, and mostly importantly, to be proud of. As I train my replacement and the new Gum Spring teen volunteers, I’ll be sure to keep the number of volunteers at a manageable level. That way, my peers and I in the Teen Center can create meaningful relationships with them, and instill a sense of responsibility and of place in them.

As I sit at my desk, contemplating which documents, folders, and ARCs to get rid of and which to take to my new library, I’m doing the same thing with my role as a teen librarian. We are rarely given an opportunity to reinvent ourselves, but when we are, we owe it to ourselves and to those we work with to take a moment to reflect on ways that we can improve.

Gum Spring opening day collection

Fresh Paint charts the development of teen services at a new public library in an underserved community. Gum Spring Library will be Loudoun County’s (VA) eighth branch and will serve more than 100,000 residents. It’s one of the county’s largest public-private partnerships.

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April Layne Shroeder About April Layne Shroeder

April Layne Shroeder is a Teen Services Librarian in a Northern Virginia public library system, and loves it! One of her favorite job duties is reading/being knowledgeable about YA literature, and discussing/recommending it to young people (and open-minded adults).

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