Each month, an ALSC member is profiled and we learn a little about their professional life and a bit about their not-so-serious side. Using just a few questions, we try to keep the profiles fun while highlighting the variety of members in our organization. So, without further ado, welcome to our ALSC profile, ten questions with ALSC member, Jenna Nemec-Loise.
1. What do you do, and how long have you been doing it?
I’m a relationship architect, a community builder, and an early childhood specialist. I’m an Everyday Advocate for youth, families, and libraries. On occasion, I’ve been called Flannelboard Ace and Teen Volunteer Coordinator Extraordinaire. And I’ve been doing it all at school and public libraries in and around Chicago for 14 daring years. (You thought I was just going to say “children’s librarian,” didn’t you? Ha!)
2. Why did you join ALSC? Do you belong to any other ALA divisions or roundtables?
Doesn’t everyone join ALSC to be more awesome for the communities they serve? That’s certainly why I did! When I got my first job as a librarian at a small private school, I had no idea what I was doing. But I did know that in order to be awesome at my job, I had to do two things: (1) get an MLIS, which I earned two years later from Dominican University, and (2) join ALSC, which I did immediately. Guess which one started paying off right away?
I’m also a member of PLA and YALSA, and my involvement with both divisions has been equally rewarding.
3. What are you proudest of having accomplished in your professional career?
By far, it’s been my advocacy work on behalf of children, families, and libraries through ALSC-related opportunities.
Through a four-year term on the ALSC Early Childhood Programs and Services Committee, I helped coordinate a 2012 membership survey on early learning partnerships. Our data not only contributed to the May 2013 IMLS Growing Young Minds report, but it also made it into the hands of a White House Domestic Policy Council member at National Library Legislative Day 2013 in Washington, D.C.
I’ve also been honored to serve as Member Content Editor of the ALSC Everyday Advocacy website and electronic newsletter since February 2013. Most recently, I had the privilege of representing ALSC and PLA during the 2014 Opening Minds Innovation Award showcase, where educators, administrators, policy makers, and funders voted Every Child Ready to Read @ your library as the next game changer in the early childhood field. What an incredible experience!
4. Favorite age of kids to work with?
Those babies! I can’t resist their fascination with everything and the sheer joy that comes from sharing books, songs, and rhymes with them. That magic is the elixir of my library life!
5. What’s one “rule” you wished every librarian followed?
People over paperwork.
In these days of budget cuts and staffing shortages, we have to arm ourselves daily with endless streams of facts, statistics, and anecdotes to ensure we stay relevant in our communities. It’s easy to get lost in this climate of urgency, bogged down by this report or that deadline. We have a choice, though, and it’s a simple one: Stay grounded.
The child standing in front of you deserves every ounce of your attention. For the precious minutes you have with him, make him feel like the Most Important Child in the World. The paperwork can wait; the child can’t.
6. What do you collect?
Is it too nerdy to say Folkmanis puppets? Because I’ve got about 50 of ‘em! They’re the biggest hit you can imagine at all my book sharing programs, and even the big kids get in on the fun when we bring them out at the library.
My first puppet was Mabel (a big wooly sheep), who was quickly followed by Snap (an alligator) and Wally (a camel). The fan favorite, though, is Otis, my big floppy sheepdog. The little ones love rubbing their faces in his fur!
7. Who is your role model? Why?
Hands down, it’s Fred Rogers.
As a young child, I desperately loved Mr. Rogers and his Land of Make-Believe. He piqued my sense of wonder and made me feel safe with his soft-spoken demeanor and familiar routines. When Mr. Rogers talked to me, I felt smart and important.
And that’s why I love Fred Rogers to this day. His respect for young children and every aspect of their physical, socioemotional, and psychosocial development inspires my adult passion for engaging in developmentally appropriate library practice.
(Funny Mr. Rogers story: My mom called the pediatrician once because she was concerned that I was talking out loud to no one. When Dr. Mabini asked what else I was doing, she told him I was watching Mr. Rogers on TV. Dr. Mabini chuckled and said, “Well, Mr. Rogers asks lots of questions. When someone asks you something, you answer him, right?”)
8. What’s the best thing you’ve learned this year?
I learned a new definition of advocacy that clarifies the whole murky business! During the ALA Advocacy Coordinating Group meeting in Las Vegas, Office of Library Advocacy Director Marci Merola defined advocacy as “turning passive support into educated action.” Awesome, right? (Thanks, Marci!)
9. Favorite part of being a children’s librarian?
Building relationships with children, families, and communities. My library building is starting to show its age, and our children’s collection could use some refreshing. But I know I’m doing something right when kids and families stop by just to say, “Hi, Miss Jenna!” I treasure those moments when I get to say in return, “I’m so glad you came by to see me today! Have I got a book for you…”
10. Do you have any pets?
I sure do! Trudy is my two-year-old mini-lop rabbit and the unofficial mascot of my library’s animal-themed summer program. Kids and families love hearing Trudy stories and seeing pictures of her various bunny shenanigans. (Trust me—there are many.)
I’m proud to say my little gal has inspired lots of reading this summer! Back in May, I challenged kids at my library to read 150,000 minutes as a group during our eight-week program. I promised that if they met this goal, I’d adopt a second rabbit as a mate for Trudy. With two weeks left to go, kids have read a whopping 120,000 minutes, so it looks like it’ll be double the bunny fun at my house come August!
Thanks, Jenna! What a fun continuation to our monthly profile feature!
Do you know someone who would be a good candidate for our ALSC Monthly Profile? Are YOU brave enough to answer our ten questions? Send your name and email address to firstname.lastname@example.org; we’ll see what we can do.