This article by Children's Librarian Mary Elder was originally published in the Arizona Daily Star on November 29, 2015.
I was a librarian at Harelson Elementary School in the Amphitheater Public Schools for six years, and it was a phenomenal experience. My time working there quickly revealed that I have a passion for working with kids and books, which led to my decision to go back to the University of Arizona to pursue my Master’s degree in Library Science. I was 39 years old when I started, and 41 when I graduated in 2013. Although I miss the faculty, the students, and all of the families at Harelson, I am incredibly happy to be working at Himmel Park Library.
I love working at the library because I truly love working with people.
Helping younger children find books they will enjoy reading; geeking out over the latest teen books with teens, and getting them to try something new; reading aloud, singing, and being silly at Storytimes—these are the things that make my job so rewarding. I help children and teens learn that the library is here to be a fun, safe, and welcoming place for them, which will hopefully lead them to using us as a lifelong resource. Plus, I get to share my love of children’s and teen literature with a very appreciative audience. I’m typically reading four or five books at a time since what I read depends on what mood I’m in, and at least one of those is a teen or children’s book.
I have a 17-year-old son and a 15-year-old daughter, and I truly enjoy their company. We have so much fun together. We watch movies, play video games, geek out over books and pop culture, bake, have conversations where we solve the world’s problems, and we still read together. When I read The Hunger Games series aloud to them, it really sparked great conversations.
At Harelson, we had to come up with our Core Educational Beliefs. These are mine, and I think they apply in children’s librarianship, too:
- Every child can learn. In order to learn, children must first feel safe and valued.
- Making mistakes is just as important as doing it right, and often is a prerequisite to doing so.
- There is no such thing as a bad question.
I recently helped a teenage girl with the age-old question, “Can you help me find a good book?” I love this question because it opens up a whole world of possibilities for the patron and for me. She had read The Hunger Games and some other dystopian fiction, and was looking for other books like them (but not necessarily dystopian). After asking her about what she enjoyed about the books she’d recently read, I was able to give her some recommendations that she was really excited about. I also took her to one of our catalogue computers our library and showed her the Appeal Mixer using NoveList Plus, one of our free online resources. She had a blast using it, and said she planned to go home to play with it some more and show it to her friends. She was very happy to connect with someone who thinks teen fiction is cool, and to find more titles. I was happy because she left the library excited about books and a new resource.
One of the best things about our library system is all we do for kids and teens. Homework help, databases, gaming days, crafts, Storytimes, science programs, book clubs, the 101Space at the Joel D. Valdez Main Library, MegaMania!! during the summer, outreach at the schools, and the list goes on and on. We work very hard to ensure that kids and teens know they are important and valued when they walk into one of our libraries.
Working with the adult patrons in our community is also very rewarding. Whether I’m helping them find a specific book, finding the answers to their questions, or helping them on a computer, I know I am doing something useful. They feel valued, and I feel valued. It’s a win-win!
Pima County Public Library is a phenomenal library system because of all we do to support our communities, and I am so proud to work here.
Mary Elder worked as a part-time program instructor at Pima County Public Library before she was hired as the children’s librarian at the Himmel Park Library this year. Reading aloud is still a tradition at home and whenever she goes on road trips with her kids, Nick and Lily. The Martian might be their next pick.
NoveList Plus - Get help finding the perfect next read!
Books to read with tweens and teens
The Selection series by Kiera Cass
The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins
The Maze Runner series by James Dashner
Stormbreaker series by Anthony Horowitz
The Giver by Lois Lowry
The Heroes of Olympus series/The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan