An Interview for My Alma Mater

Check out the interview I did for Drexel’s Student Chapter of the American Library Association (SCALA).

I’m so happy that Drexel SCALA, a group I was involved in while at library school, is still active with a fresh group of students. I started the SCALA blog you see today and I love that it’s flourished under new leadership.

Thanks to Gail for the interview. You can see it on the SCALA blog:



Quick Thinking

cc image – – planetschwa

Some jobs require quick thinking. Air traffic controller. ER doctor. Improv actor. They have to be great at thinking quickly and intelligently, or they are out of a job.

Librarians need quick thinking too. People want answers to questions, and they want it NOW! I got a little experience thinking on my feet when I did homework that involved practice reference transactions. I would pair up with another student and we’d practice answering questions on the spot using only free internet resources.

Now that I’m working in a public library answering questions all day, I find myself wanting to jump to conclusions or habitually only looking in certain places. My quick thinking may not suffice in the end, though, and someone leaves dissatisfied or still looking for an answer that suits their needs.

Naturally, I’ve been aware of my interactions with patrons because I’m new at this. And I really like helping people so I want to get better at it. Slowly, I’ve been collecting tips and tricks from my fellow librarians who know much more than I do. The full-time cataloger who has a few shifts at the reference desk has been extremely helpful with giving me new ways to search the catalog to find books. It’s already improved my response time tremendously. I also walk around the stacks or click around on the library’s website to get acquainted with the massive amount of information we have access to. I think another great exercise would be to give myself random questions and see how fast I could answer them.

Here’s some questions I’ve gotten lately that had my brain sputtering:

  • What are the side effects or dangers of zeolite?
    • I searched online for this “zeolite.” My first reaction to the “side effects” part was that they should consult their physician. We are not in the business of giving health advice. When the patron heard this, they were immediately discouraged and ended the interaction. After searching the internet some more, I found some basic info on the Sloan Kettering website that could have been useful to them without breaking the “no medical advice” rule.
  • Do you have any audio books about math?
    • Hmm. This was a hard one because there just wasn’t anything to fill his need. I showed him some audio books in which math was mentioned as a smaller topic within a broader science context. I did use the tips I learned from the cataloger to make my catalog search more precise.
  • Which Kennedy had an annulment?
    • I guess this one was hard because she kept saying that it was Robert Kennedy and it was actually Joseph Kennedy II. Sometimes people think they have their facts right but they don’t always. A Google search for “Kennedy annulment” did the trick. But I got stuck because of her prejudgment about who had the annulment.
  • I need some easy listening music CDs.
    • We don’t have an easy listening category in our music CD collection. I know this used to be a category when browsing in some CD stores back in the day (I remember those days….). So I had to give suggestions, like jazz or classical. Sorry, dude!


New position

My time at the University of the Sciences library and at the Welsh Road branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia has come to an end.  Sad, but true.

Now I will be embarking on a new adventure as the Young Adult Reference Librarian at the Abington Township Public Library. I cannot believe my luck! I get to join one of the busiest public libraries in Montgomery County. I get to work with teens. I get to do exactly what I wanted to do when I graduated library school. My excitement cannot be contained!

It is sad, though, to leave the two part-time jobs I currently have. Yesterday, I broke the news of my leaving to an Iraqi mother who brings in her 3 boys consistently for homework help at Welsh Road. She kept saying, “What am I going to do without you? Who will help my kids? Can I come to the new library where you will be working?” I tried to assure her that they would fill my position as quickly as possible and that in the meantime, the teen assistants would still be working and could help her kids. Still, she was sad. She gave me a big hug and a kiss on the cheek before she left. It’s things like that that make me realize what an impact I’ve had working with these kids. Most of them are English Language Learners, not native to this country. I’m doing valuable work by providing them with quality homework help in a safe environment after school. Some children’s grades have even improved as a result of coming to the program. When I can see results like that, it validates all that I’ve been working for.

I plan to keep up with my blog but now within the scope of my new job at Abington.