Blogger Meg Smith

Winning Traits

Skill in presenting programs, an understanding of child development, and a love for working with young people are all traits required for staff working in youth services. There are other important traits which outstanding youth services staff must possess. When the time comes to replace a member of this department, what skills, characteristics and strengths do you seek? What do you admire in your colleagues?

It is true that youth services staff must have the special ability to connect with young people and their caregivers, but there are other characteristics that are necessary for staff to be the best team players they can be and for them to have the most positive impact on the team. A positive mind set, a strong work ethic, and problem-solving abilities are qualities that make staff excel.

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For a positive mindset to truly make an impact in the workplace, it must be all encompassing and not selective. I’ve seen the most successful staff not only exude that warmth and their encouraging manner to customers of all ages, but to staff members at all levels as well. Not only do staff that are the most positive become the most productive in the workplace, their uplifting attitude often spreads to those around them. Positivity is a choice with healthy and long-lasting consequences. How have you found staffers’ positivity to benefit you and your work team?

Youth services staff also work hard! The physical aspect and the emotional energy they spend on presenting programs and engaging their patrons often knows no bounds. Typically, the amount of programming they produce is exhausting and the scope of the audience they reach is expansive. Staffers must have a strong sense of the importance and the efforts required in their position for them to most successfully complete all the demands their work requires. How do you see your colleagues’ work ethic impact the productiveness of your library system?

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Youth services folk often have the uncanny ability to excel in problem-solving and the knack to think outside the box on any given issue. Do your supervisees or youth services colleagues easily see challenges that can be overcome or obstacles that hinder their growth? Perhaps youth services staff are so solution-driven because they fully grasp the significance of their work and the powerful impact they have in shaping young people’s lives. How do you see youth services staff being able to turn life’s headaches into highlights?

Our field is filled with youth services professionals demonstrating positivity, a strong work ethic, and problem-solving skills. What are the other characteristics that you see that are necessary for staff holding youth services positions in your libraries? What traits in your co-workers or supervisees are required to build the best possible team? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!


  1. Kelly Doolittle

    Nice post – thank you! It is so gratifying to see all of our hard-earned, positive traits outlined in detail! I’ll add one very important one: a sense of humor. Oh yes – working with children of all ages and their families and all their foibles and quirks – it is indeed a pleasure, but it can also be down right crazy! I’m sure all of us who work in youth services could write volumes on all the wild and uncomfortable situations we’ve found ourselves in. From toddlers with head-bonks, to throw-up on the early learning keyboard that you just purchased, we have to deal with it all! How heart broken we feel as we follow the grownup to the restroom with the cold pack and paper towels! How totally unwilling we are to go anywhere near that keyboard, yet, by golly, someone’s got to move it – or maybe just guard it 🙂 – as we wait with sinking hearts (and held breath…) for our die-hard facilities folks to get there with the rubber gloves and garbage bags!

    I adore my job as a Youth Services Library Assistant. I love creating fun , early literacy-inspired programming for those little ‘uns and their most awesome caregivers; answering every possible question under the sun at the reference desk, and helping with all those little passive programs (Need another glue stick? Want a hand with those scissors? What, no pink crayon in there? Oh my goodness, let me dig….!) But sometimes…whew! When the vomit hits the keyboard, as it were, well, you just HAVE to be able to laugh! If you can’t, this may not be the job for you!

  2. Meg Smith

    Kelly, that is so true! Sense of humor is key, and I love how you emphasize the flexibility and those funny moments we find in our jobs – thank you so much for sharing!

  3. Nicole

    I’ve worked with a lot of people while working with youth over the years, and I’d like to add that gumption to the list. I know it can’t be taught, but it is so valued. I’ve had coworkers who waited to be told what to do while kids were running around like maniacs and I’ve had coworkers who jumped into the fray with me to redirect the energy of the group. The latter are necessary when working with youth. It’s a matter of seeing that something needs to be done, using those problem-solving skills you mention, and taking the bull by the horn. I have a lot more respect for people who ask for forgiveness later than for those who wait for permission when working with children. As long as we all have their best interests at heart and we aren’t mean while we’re working, of course.

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