Next in our series of behind-the-scenes peeks into the inner workings of the library, we'll talk with Joella Peterson, our Children's Services Manager.
You're the Children's Services Manager here at the Library. I know your job involves many kinds of work, but explain it as best you can.
I make sure the Children’s Department– employees, programs, projects– happens. That means I am in charge of training librarians and storytellers to know what their jobs are and how they can best serve the library patrons. I need to make sure that people are here to answer questions at the reference desk or to make the programs happen. I basically am juggling a whole bunch of schedules and ideas and making sure everything happens to make the Children’s Department great.
What kind of library jobs have you had in the past?
I started off my library career here at the Provo Library as a page. That meant that I was tasked with putting books away. I have also worked in the mending and processing departments of another library. I was a graduate assistant at the Center for Children’s Books. I have been a Youth Services Librarian for seven years.
At what point did you know you wanted to be a librarian?
When I was graduating from college with my Bachelor’s degree I decided to write a list of the 5 things I was looking for in a job—because when you are about ready to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in English you start to wonder just what to do with that degree. Here are the five things I wanted in an ideal job: 1. To work with kids. 2. To have what I did change from day to day. 3. To somehow work with books. 4. To do something fun. And 5. To potentially dress up. It turns out that being a children’s librarian fits all five of those criteria. So after talking to an actual librarian, I started pursuing a library career.
You were on the Odyssey committee in 2015, which judges the best audiobooks of the year. How did that impact your life?
Oh, that was a crazy year. Basically I became a hermit for a year. I would go to work and then listen to audio books. I would listen to audio books on my commute to and from work, at lunch, and after work. I listened for anywhere from only 3 hours after work (on a slow day) to sometimes 10 to 12 hours on a weekend when I didn’t have to work. When reading a physical copy of a book you can skim or speed read and still get the gist of the book. With the Odyssey we were charged to find the best audio book. Which meant we couldn’t skip bits. We had to listen to the pace of the narrator, the pronunciation, if the breathing or pauses were too noticeable. Everything was determined based on the audio performance and editing. And that isn’t something you can just listen to a half an hour of and declare a winner. So it was hard. I turned down a lot of “extra” things that I normally would do. I had Thanksgiving dinner with my family, then went back to listening to audio books (I only took out my ear buds to eat the food with them). But at the same time it was an amazing experience. I feel like I have a greater understanding of what makes a high quality audio book and I think we picked a great winner (THE WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE) and honor (ECHO).
How has this job changed the way you see the Library's role in the community?
Before being the Children’s Services Manager I was a Youth Services Librarian for seven years. I knew the impact of my programs and of the library in general. But now I can see the impact of libraries to the whole. I moved from worrying about making sure that I had early literacy elements in my story times to figuring out how I could get those story times out of the libraries (Stories in the Park!) so that the kiddos who need the early literacy elements but can’t always get to the library can still benefit from what the library has to offer. Now my role is to think about the bigger picture and how to best serve the community with the resources and programs that we have.
Where do you see the Library in 20 years?
I believe the library will become more and more of a community center. The library isn’t just about books like they were 50 years ago. Now libraries are about information—both in print and digital. Now libraries are about technology and where people can go to have group meetings. The Children’s Library is about experiences and memories they can create—like story time, the Fairy Tea Party, or Make and Take Crafts. I think that will only build in the coming years.
What about 50? Sorry if this is tough.
Ha. I will have to find Hermione Granger’s time turner necklace to figure that out!
Finally, what are you reading right now?
I just started THE BEST MAN by Richard Peck.