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Meet the Librarian: Tess

This month, I am happy to introduce all of you to Tess, a librarian/blogger extraordinaire!  Tess, who can be found here on tumblr, has been a librarian for five years. When she’s not busy being awesome at the library, she hangs out with her husband and their dog (simultaneously the smartest and dumbest dog she has ever encountered), and plays the accordion, and watches a lot of BBC America. 

HEY BOO BOOKS:  Hi Tess, and welcome to my corner of the internet here at Hey Boo  Books.  How did you decide that you wanted to become a librarian?

TESS:  After graduating college with a degree in literary studies, I worked several unrewarding jobs in food service, retail management, and even telemarketing (don’t hate me! I needed the money!). I really wanted to do something that mattered, and contribute to my community.  I saw an opening at the local public library, and the rest was meant to be I guess!

HBB:  What does a typical day at the library look like for you?

TESS:  I specialize in youth services, so my day at the library is spent with mostly young children and their families. I work the information desk in our library’s children’s section, interacting with kids and their care givers, helping them find the things they need. I answer reference questions. I do readers advisory. I assist with technology. I also do a lot of programming. A good deal of my time is spent planning and executing story times for babies, toddlers, and pre-schoolers. I am our library’s early childhood community liaison as well, so I do a lot of outreach, providing library services to local Headstart centers and such, sitting in on various inter-agency meetings, and representing the library at promotional events in the community.

HBB:  What is your favorite book to read aloud?

TESS:  I really don’t think I can pick just one! I have so many great experiences reading aloud to children. I can tell you my favorite types of books to read aloud. I love books that encourage interaction with children like Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems, The Purple Kangaroo by Michael Ian Black, or Can You Make a Scary Face by Jan Thomas. I also love books that incorporate music like Port Side Pirates by Oscar Seaworthy, Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin, or Tanka Tanka Skunk by Steve Webb. I also love Dr. Seuss. Horton Hears a Who is my favorite Dr. Seuss book to read aloud, because Horton is such a great role model, and sharing his story of loyalty and devotion with children makes my heart happy.

HBB:  Do you have any tips or tricks that you can share about reading aloud to children?

TESS:  Have fun! Children will benefit in the long run from positive experiences with books. Don’t be afraid to read silly books! Laughter is good for the soul. Don’t hesitate to read a book over and over again. Repetition helps children learn. And while you are reading, try to start conversations with children. Ask simple questions like “How many balloons are on this page? What colors are they?” and complex questions like “When is the last time you saw a balloon? Where do you think balloons go when they fly away?” and really listen to the answers!

HBB:  I know that you’ve served on several book awards committees over the past few years.  Can you talk about what those experiences were like for you?

TESS:  The Maryland Blue Crab Young Reader Award committee celebrates books written for children who are starting to read independently. The Blue Crab committee annually recognizes four distinguished books for this age group.  I was incredibly pleased to serve on this committee because high quality literature for early readers is, in my professional opinion, in generally short supply. By creating this award, children’s librarians in the state of Maryland are challenging authors and publishers to produce more excellent books for children, and I’m glad to have been a part of that.

The CYBILS Awards are very unique literary awards giving by the “Kid Lit” blogging community.  I had the honor to serve on the CYBILS committee judging Fiction Picture Books. There are first round judges, who evaluate the large group of contenders, and then narrow them down to a short list of top books, and there are second round judges who intensely argue the merits of the short list books, and then choose a winner. I was a second round judge. My fellow judges were fantastic and made the experience highly enjoyable.

I am currently serving on the American Library Association’s Stonewall Book Award committee. I’m so lucky, being as relatively young to the profession as I am, to be asked to serve on such an illustrious committee! The Stonewall Book Awards are given annually to books of exceptional literary merit relating to the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender experience. The American Library Association has a long history of celebrating diversity. The ALA’s GLBT Round Table was the nation’s first GLBT professional organization, and the Stonewall was the first, and most enduring, GLBT book award. I’m proud to be part of such a forward thinking field as librarianship! The Stonewall Book Award committee gives three awards each year: the Barbara Gittings Literature Award, the Israel Fishman Non-Fiction Award, and the Mike Morgan & Larry Romans Children’s and Young Adult Literature Award.  The Stonewall has been my most intense, but most rewarding committee experience to date. We considered approximately 200 books total for these awards and engaged in many eye-opening deliberations. I’m extremely happy with our list of winning and honor books for this year, and am looking forward to the next cycle!

HBB:  You and your fellow librarians run a great blog that reviews children’s books.  Can you talk a little bit about how that came about, what you write about, and any success you’ve had?

TESS:  The Kid’s Book Blog was originally my final project for Library Associate Training Institute, which is Maryland’s state certification program for librarians. I was initially a reference librarian, and when I switched focuses to youth services, I wanted to learn more about children’s literature, specifically picture books, so I set forth to read as many as I could and discovered I had a great affection for them. I also have an affection for blogging, so it was natural to combine the two, and start blogging about picture books I liked. The project grew from there, and after a while it became a collaboration between myself and the other children’s librarians in my county. Every month we each review children’s picture books for the blog. It is an indispensable readers advisory tool for us. Our customers seem to like it and often seek titles they’ve seen suggested on the blog. I’d say it’s evolved into a big success, and I’ve even lead trainings on blogging and readers advisory as a result of my founding and maintaining the Kid’s Book Blog.

HBB:  If you were stranded on a desert island, what three books (of any genre or reading level) would you want to have with you for the long haul?

TESS:  Moby-Dick, or the Whale by Herman Melville, A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin, and Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan. Given those choices my island may not be the most cheerful, but by golly it will not want for good literature!

HBB:  I know that you’re an accordion player—do you ever get the chance to incorporate that or any of your other hobbies and skills into children’s programs at the library?

TESS:  My accordion has made quite a few appearances at the library. I especially like to bring her when we do pirate themed story time. Kids generally are very interested in the accordion. It looks like a piano on one side! And there are buttons on the other side! And that weird part in the middle that looks like a fan (the bellows)! I play some simple songs they can sing along to. I have them try to guess how old my accordion is (she was built in the 1950’s), and what country she’s from (Italy, though many accordions are made in Germany). I talk to them about how musicians often name their instrument (my accordion’s name is Ethel), and how you have to practice an instrument a lot to be able to play well. Playing any musical instrument for children is a great opportunity to entertain and educate at the same time!

HBB:  What is the number one best part of your job?

TESS:  I don’t hate it. I know a lot of people who get up every day dreading what lies in store for them at work, and I really don’t. Some days are better than others, don’t get me wrong, but every day has a moment of Zen. Working with children, in the capacity that I work with them as a librarian, can’t be beat. The way they look at the world is so refreshing. They are my heroes.

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