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Naomi House’s interview with success story Allen.
Naomi: How did you come to work for your current position?
Allen: After working for Piscataway PL for almost 5 years, I was promoted to my current position in March 2013. I have also worked at my library as a Librarian in the Adult/Young Adult Department, and as the Supervisor for the User Services Department, which includes circulation, pages, and maintenance. Westergard is a small, but very active neighborhood branch, so my current responsibilities include everything from daily operations to covering the reference desk, scheduling programs, and collection development.
Naomi: Can you speak a little bit about the program you won the Library Journal Movers & Shakers award for?
Allen: The LJ Mover & Shaker recognition was in response to my work in creating new opportunities for people to connect and collaborate both for librarians (like the Libraries of Middlesex Unconference, which is now in it’s fourth year) and the public (nostalgia programming like Retro Gaming Day, and Turn It Up: A celebration of cassette tape culture). But I didn’t do any of this on my own. All of these projects were made possible by the efforts of great teams. The potential we have as a team is so much greater than any individual effort. My advice to others is always to seek out amazing people and build teams.
Naomi: Favorite book(s)?
Allen: The Art of Happiness: A handbook for living by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler; Wherever You Go There You Are: Mindfulness meditation in everyday life by Jon KabatZinn.
I read mostly nonfiction, and I’m a big fan of anything by Seth Godin. But the books above are the ones that I continue to read over and over.
Naomi: Favorite thing about libraries?
Allen: I fell in love with public libraries when I first started volunteering at my hometown library almost ten years ago. Everyone I met was so appreciative of our services and the assistance we were able to provide. My favorite thing about public libraries is the role we play in lifelong learning. We nurture early childhood literacy and spark the imaginations of young people; we offer tweens and teens a safe place to learn, grow and socialize; we help new immigrants achieve citizenship; we assist people who are unemployed in their job searches; we deliver reading materials to homebound seniors. The list goes on. We try to be everything to everyone, and we do a damn good job. My experience in public libraries has been incredibly rewarding.
Naomi: Are there any blogs or websites we should be following?
Allen: More so than a specific blog or website, I would say that there are a lot of smart, passionate, and innovative people in LibraryLand and there are countless opportunities to engage with them. One of my favorites is ALAThinkTank.com where librarians discuss library news, articles and trends, crowd source information, challenge and motivate each other, and solve problems on a daily basis.
That being said, the blogs that have the most consistent impact on my work are Seth Godin’s blog (http://sethgodin.typepad.com/
Naomi: Any tips for job hunters?
Allen: Volunteer. Find someone to let you do the work you want to do, and then find someone to pay you for it. Even when there is a shortage of open positions, there is never a shortage of work that can be done, and these are opportunities to impress library managers, develop skills and improve your resume and reputation.
Also, expand your network online and in person. Online you can go to places like Facebook and Twitter, find the people talking about elements of your profession that interest you, and join the conversations. But the physical is still just as important, if not more so. Join library associations and volunteer to serve on committees. Go to every professional development and library related event you can. Show up, smile, and talk to people. This will help you get a library job, but more importantly, this will continue to help you become a better librarian throughout your career.
Allen McGinley, MSIS, is Branch Manager & Outreach Librarian at the Westergard Branch of Piscataway Public Library in New Jersey. He graduated from the College of Computing & Information at the University at Albany (NY) in 2006, and spent the first two years of his career working in Manhattan at the Countee Cullen Branch of The New York Public Library.