This interview is over 1 year old and may no longer be up to date or reflect the interviewee/interviewees’ positions
My interview with 2012 Library Journal Mover & Shaker, Emily Ellis
Naomi: How did you come to work for your current position?
Emily: I’m only 30, but I’ve been working in libraries for 15 years which seems completely crazy. I started out as a library page in high school through my undergrad years. After graduating I started working at a local high school media center where I discovered a passion for working with teens. The Teen Services position at Greenwood Public Library opened up during my last year in the SLIS program, so I applied. It was a new position to the library, which was exciting and terrifying all at the same time. Building a program can be fun because you can shape it with your community, but it is also a lot of work and a lot of trial and error. I was taking youth services classes at the same time that I was juggling a rather rowdy group of after school kids, but I eventually found a groove and was able to establish a fun and welcoming place for teens. Now, six years later, I’m the Head of Reference and Teen Services. My passion is still in the Teen Room with that crazy, rowdy bunch of kids, but I’m also learning to enjoy management.
Naomi: Can you speak a little bit about the program you won the Library Journal Movers & Shakers award for?
Emily: I was selected as a community builder for my work with teens. While I started out as the first teen librarian at Greenwood Public Library working with the Reference Department, we now have a designated Teen Department with a second part-time librarian working specifically for teens. Participation in teen program has increased over 100% each of the last three years. In addition, I started the Teen Film Festival in 2009 with the help of Julia Reynolds, the media specialist at Greenwood High School. While working in the high school media center, I was absolutely amazed at the level of talent and passion of student filmmakers. I wanted to find a way to bring that to the public library setting, but I knew it would be difficult because, unlike in the school setting, I wouldn’t have a captive audience. Julia was new to her post, and I wanted to start building a working relationship with her, so I introduced the idea of a Teen Film Festival. Together we created the goals for the festival, guidelines and entry forms, and promotional materials.
The first year was a huge success. Since then, the program has morphed a bit. It is still a work in progress, trying to find the right avenues for promotion and participation. We are now a county wide and surrounding areas program and have enlisted the help of the county library system. I create media packets that are delivered to each of the participating schools, and all of the participating librarians are encouraged to help in the judging process. This upcoming year we plan to also promote in the middle schools and have an “upcoming” filmmaker award. Our tag line is “encouraging creativity in our community’s youth.” Guidelines are minimal and creativity, in whatever form, is celebrated. It’s a lot of work, but something I look forward to every year.
Naomi: Favorite book(s)?
Emily: Oh…such a hard question! Sorry. I can’t pick just one, so a few of my favorites: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, and A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle.
Naomi: Favorite thing about libraries?
Emily: Stories are by far my favorite thing about libraries, and I don’t just mean the amazing stories that line the shelves and take me to different worlds or teach me new ideas. The library is a place where each individual patron can add to his or her own story by making connections with other community members and organizations, participating in exciting discussions and programs, or developing new skills and talents. To be a part of that, to be given an opportunity to serve, makes librarianship a pretty amazing profession.
Naomi: Are there any blogs or websites we should be following?
Emily: At the beginning of the year I started a blog with fellow librarian and Teen Film Festival founder Julia Reynolds called TheLibrarianWay.com. We talk about teen services and library topics from a public and school perspective. I also blog at TheGnomingLibrarian.com.
A few of my favorites are www.abbythelibrarian.com/ for great information on children’s services and readers advisory and www.teenlibrariantoolbox.com/ for wonderful discussions on all things teen services.
Naomi: Any tips for job hunters?
Emily: We recently had to fill a few positions at my library. It was my first hiring experience was a bit nerve-wracking, but I learned a few things along the way. If you’re interested in working with teens, showing a knowledge of pop culture and teen interests can go a long way, as well as a fun, playful personality. Bring out a bit of your inner teen to show that you can relate to that demographic. Teens appreciate someone that’s willing to laugh and maybe, occasionally embarrass themselves. The other thing I learned is the importance of the first impression. If a candidate doesn’t have much experience with collection development or programming, that can be learned with the job. But if a a manager can’t “see” a candidate working at a reference desk offering patrons a warm smile and friendly service, he/she might not be a right fit for the position.
Does your library have a library kid or two hanging around? Emily Ellis was one of those. She received her undergraduate degree in history from the University of Indianapolis before going on to her Masters in Library Science program at IUPUI. She was still finishing up her classes when she was hired as the first ever full time teen librarian at Greenwood Public Library. Since it was a new position, Emily was charged with creating the teen program from the ground up. In a library where a great teen program had been five kids playing board games, Emily transformed the landscape by creating exciting programs and annual events. Emily is now a department head for both Reference and Teen services