Amy Koester is the children’s librarian at the Corporate Parkway Branch of the St. Charles City-County Library District in Wentzville, Missouri. She is currently serving on the 2014 Newbery Award Committee, and she shares program plans and musings about youth services librarianship as the Show Me Librarian. She’s also online in quite a few places: on Twitter (@amyeileenk), as a contributor to the Storytime Underground community, and behind the scenes at LittleeLit.com.
We love her and so will you!
Bianca Schulze: Why did you choose to be a librarian?
Amy Koester: I first decided I wanted to be a librarian after seeing the movie The Mummy as a teen—Rachel Weisz’s knowledgeable librarian was particularly great despite being surrounded by a bunch of often-bumbling men. I made the more informed choice to be a children’s librarian while I was a camp counselor in college. I always made sure to have a selection of books for my campers to read during rest hour.
BS: Librarians are the ultimate evangelists for reading. How do you encourage students and children to read?
AK: I encourage children to read by sharing my own enthusiasm for great stories. I have found that if I talk excitedly about a book, a non-fiction topic, or a character, children’s interests are naturally piqued. They want to be engaged with the world, and I do everything I can to find the types of books that will engage them.
BS: Which kids’ or teen book is the most frequently checked-out in your library? Why do you think it is?
AK: One of the most checked-out books in my library this autum is The Unwanteds and its sequel by Lisa McMann. Kids initially pick up The Unwanteds because it’s nominated for the Mark Twain Readers Award here in Missouri this year, but they get completely pulled into the world of the series and clamor for more.
BS: What is your favorite read-aloud for a preschool story-time? Why?
AK: Mercer Mayer’s There’s an Alligator Under My Bed. That book is so simple—not a lot of text, clean illustrations—and the pacing and tension are brilliantly done. Even the rowdiest of storytime groups becomes wide-eyed and silent in anticipation of the story’s climax.
BS: Which new releases are you dying to lay your hands on?
AK: I’m looking forward to getting my hands on quite a few 2014 titles. For the younger reader, there’s Mama Built a Little Nest (Jennifer Ward, Steve Jenkins), a picture book out in March. I think it’ll make a spectacular addition to my go-to science story time books. I’m also interested to read Sheila Turnage’s The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing, scheduled for February release; I had quite a few young readers fall in love with Three Times Lucky this past year, and I hope they’ll love the companion novel, too.
BS: What steps do you take to strengthen the relationship of the library with local schools and the community?
AK: I visit local schools, and have them visit the public library, as frequently as they request. I have gotten to know quite a few of my local school librarians and teachers through our collaborations on summer reading, using electronic resources, and staff development. I’ve found that the more we know one another, both as professionals and as people, the more we can support and lean on one another in turn.
BS: What kinds of regular reading events or story-time sessions do you host?
AK: Let’s see. There’s baby storytime, toddler storytime, preschool storytime, preschool science storytime, all-ages weekend storytime, Picnic Lunch @ the Library (a summer program where I read aloud as school-age children chow down on their sack lunches)… I also visit lots of preschools and day cares every few months to share library resources and storytimes at their locations. My library district also partnered with our county parks department this summer to offer an on-going reading event at a local park: families can walk one of the trails and enjoy Peter Brown’s The Curious Garden at the same time, as the entire picture book is mounted along the trail on great wooden signs.
BS: Could you tell us one thing about librarians or libraries that you think would be surprising?
AK: Sometimes librarians get in reading slumps and we can’t find books that keep our interest. And that’s okay! Sometimes our brains need a break so we can be ready to read that next great book. So often kids think they are the only ones who fall into a reading slump, and it’s just not true.
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?
AK: “Miss Amy, I need a photograph of a real dinosaur. Not just the bones.”
BS: If you could be any fictional character from children’s literature, who would it be? Why?
AK: I’d like to be Claudia Kincaid. Claudia possesses this incredible confidence, even when she realizes there’s so much about the world she doesn’t know. She never stops being curious, and that’s a quality I greatly admire.