Lifelong learners make great librarians

by Kristin Charles-Scaringi, Senior Assistant, INALJ CT

Lifelong learners make great librarians

kristincharlesscaringiLibrarians are usually by nature curious, smart, and eager to help others. These qualities are important as we staff libraries in the 21st century. The library is a cultural hub where people go to learn and find new information.

In my three years as a professional public librarian, I have determined that the most important trait for librarians and library staff to possess is the desire to learn. We as librarians do not need to know everything (and we should not be expected to), but we need to be able to provide our patrons with the tools and resources they need to gain and discover new information.

The world is always changing and people are in need of guidance more than ever. Many people have a soft spot in the hearts and minds for librarians and they turn to us for advice. I have been contacted countless times by patrons who tell me that when they could not figure something out they thought of the library. By being a lifelong learner, we are already inquisitive about the world around us and are willing to search around for something to meet our information needs. We need to rely on that passion for pursuing knowledge when helping others. The last thing a confused patron needs to see are the people they were hoping could help them, scared and ready to hide their heads in the stacks.

I have a lot of interests from photography to fiction writing to American Sign Language. I have found that my job as a librarian not only allows me to purse these interests, as least in a small way, but it also provides me with ways to further explore these interests by introducing me to databases, books, and other learning tools that might be useful. I have also found that by working in a library that I have access to a lot of smart and talented people. I recently learned from a coworker that there is a website that allows amateur photographers to rent camera equipment for cheap. I also discovered an artistic side of myself by taking part in a diorama contest with a coworker (I make a mean set of giant feet climbing down a beanstalk).

I have discovered more about myself by being a librarian than I have in any other field. I love to learn. And I love to teach.

I always thought about becoming a teacher, but for whatever reason could never commit to standing in the front of a classroom. I believe I found my place in the education world as a librarian. It is no surprise to me that in many states, the library system falls under the education department. I have been able to explore my inner teacher without having to stand in front of a classroom. Not only am I curious, but I want to share what I’ve learned with others. To me, it doesn’t matter if just I know something. I want everyone around me to know it as well.

It is also not surprising that many states require that public librarians have to participate in continuing education or professional development in order to keep their certification. In my home state of New York, the requirement is 60 hours every five (5) years. I already like to keep my mind active, but this provides me with a schedule to keep. We as librarians need to adapt to the new tools and resources that become available to us. We are lucky to have professional development built into the job.

If we embrace our curiosity and share our knowledge, it will not only improve the lives of our patrons, but we will grow in our own lives.

Kristin Charles-Scaringi is a public librarian specializing in adult and teen services. She lives and works in Ulster County, New York. At the Kingston Library—which is part of the New York’s Mid-Hudson Library System—she is responsible for reference, collection development, programming, publicity, and social media. She has found her background in journalism and public relations to be invaluable as a reference librarian. The experience she gained interviewing people taught her to listen and work well with the public; digging for information for articles provided her with solid research skills; and creating print and online publicity materials gave her the tools to produce solid-looking informative materials for programs and publicity. Kristin has a passion for literacy instruction that she is pursuing by participating in the Library Instruction Leadership Academy (LILAC) Across New York program in fall 2014.

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