Librarian Spotlight #5
By Bianca Schulze, The Children’s Book Review
Published: December 17, 2012
Lisa Taylor is a “shelf-employed” children’s librarian whom you can find amidst the shelves of a public library. In addition to being a member of ALA, ALSC, and NJLA, she is currently serving on the ALSC’s Oral History Committee (in January 2013 she will be reassigned to the Great Websites for Kids Committee) and as the 2nd V.P. of NJLA’s Children’s Services Section. This fabulous blogging librarian is well and truly tapped into the wonderful world of children’s literature. Nothing makes her happier than placing the right book in the right hands at the right time.
Bianca Schulze: Why did you choose to be a librarian?
Lisa Taylor: I have always been a library user (I still have my original library card with my name embossed in plastic). After I had children and began frequenting the library for story time, I became friendly with the children’s librarian who encouraged me to get my MLS degree. As a reader, a parent and a library patron, being a youth services librarian was a perfect fit. What a wonderful way to earn a living!
BS: Librarians are the ultimate evangelists for reading. How do you encourage students and children to read?
LT: I read; I talk; I write; I share. The little “off-desk” time that I take is primarily used for story time and outreach visits. Most of the time, kids and parents can find me sitting at my desk in the children’s section. I’m a chatty librarian. I read across all genres of children’s literature, and am ready and willing to talk children’s books with anyone. I think the personal connection, the “hand-selling” if you will, is the best approach to promoting reading. There is seldom a time that I cannot recommend a book that matches a patron’s request. I host event parties for popular books, and a monthly “‘Tween the Covers” book club for ages 9 and up. It’s similar to a book café – chatting about books, watching book trailers, and doing book-related activities. I’ve also planned book-themed clubs, most recently The Geronimo Stilton Club, which culminated in a visit from a reporter who then wrote an article about the group. For those whom I can’t reach in person, I share online, because not all parents, teachers, and librarians have the time to read extensively. At Shelf-employed (http://shelf-employed.blogspot.com), I blog about most books that I read, and all my books are tagged and logged in my LibraryThing account (http://www.librarything.com/profile/shelf-employed).
BS: Which kids’ or teen book is the most frequently checked-out in your library?
LT: Not one copy of Diary of Wimpy Kid: The Third Wheel has been on the shelf since the day it arrived. As soon as the books are returned to the library, they go immediately out to fill “holds.” Rick Riordan’s books are also wildly popular.
BS: Why do you think The Third Wheel is?
LT: The Wimpy Kid series books are most popular because all are laugh-out-loud funny, but more importantly, they’re popularized by word of mouth. There is no better spokesperson for a kid’s book than a kid; and kids love Greg Heffley.
BS: What is your favorite read-aloud for a preschool story-time?
LT: Much depends on my mood when I’m choosing story time books, but many of my favorites are funny. I can’t go wrong with A Visitor for Bear by Bonny Becker. If I’m doing bedtime stories, I love Bedtime at the Swamp by Kristyn Crow.
BS: What makes them your favorites?
LT: They both have great story lines, and they offer the opportunity to create silly voices and read dramatically. A Visitor for Bear begins humorously and ends sweetly. Bedtime at the Swamp begins with drama and ends with humor. Either way, kids love them.
BS: Which new releases are you dying to lay your hands on?
LT: I’m looking forward to Nan Marino’s Hiding Out at the Pancake Palace. Sure Signs of Crazy (Little Brown) also looks good, and I think In the Shadow of Blackbirds (Abrams) will be one of my few YA reads – dark historical fiction, death, disease, ghosts – who can resist? Want to know what as yet unwritten books I’m dying to read?
BS: Of course!
LT: The final book in Wendy Mass’ Willow Falls series, and the next in Clive Barker’s Abarat series, though I’m afraid at the rate he’s going, I may be dead before he finishes!
BS: What steps do you take to strengthen the relationship of the library with local schools and the community?
LT: I take advantage of any opportunity that presents itself, and I try to create my own opportunities as well. I visit the schools for Library Card Sign-Up month, Read Across America Day, family reading nights, young author’s conferences, career day, and summer reading club outreach. In addition, I am in regular contact with many of the teachers, staying abreast of upcoming assignments, etc., and work with the district’s ILA supervisor to find ways that we can collaborate to benefit students. I visit preschools on a regular basis, and have squeezed in a guest story time at the recreation department. I also do book-related programming for local groups of adults with disabilities.
BS: What kinds of regular reading events or story-time sessions do you host?
LT: Mother Goose Time for babies, Toddler Tales, PreK Story time, ‘Tween the Covers Book Club, and monthly visits from a therapy dog. I offer many other programs, but these are the standard fare.
BS: Could you tell us one thing about librarians or libraries that you think would be surprising?
LT: My area of New Jersey was one of the hardest hit by Superstorm Sandy. Though the public library is just a very small arm of government, we are capable of offering an enormous amount of assistance in a crisis – accurate and timely information, lists of available resources (shelters, food pantries, FEMA offices, consumer advocates, etc.), free internet access (we added laptop stations to deal with the influx of patrons), a safe and warm environment (particularly helpful in the cold weather that followed the storm), extra activities for children, and the sympathetic ears of librarian assistants and librarians – professionals who have been trained to be efficient, organized, informed, fair, and helpful. Our service in a time of need is outstanding.
BS: I’m sure that you are asked many interesting questions on a daily basis. What would you say has been the most entertaining question asked of you by a parent or a child?
LT: I don’t know about “entertaining,” but the most unusual question I ever received was a simple one, “What is this?” After positing the question, the patron proceeded to dump two large, wet, sandy, living, shellfish on my desk. For the record, they were bivalves, Placopecten magellanicus, or Great Atlantic Sea Scallops which can possibly grow to a size of 9” – pretty big for a scallop!
BS: If you could be any fictional character from children’s literature, who would it be?
LT: Mighty, fair, wise, beautiful – why not?