Alyssa Harvey is my hero. As a circulation assistant at the Cortland Free Library she has made her mark in Youth Services. When I left my job as Youth Services Librarian after my maternity leave she was there to pick up where I left off and in the absence of a Librarian she took over all aspects of Youth Services including programming for babies to teens for 6 months before my replacement was hired. Alyssa single-handedly built a teen program and has seen consistent attendance at her Teen Advisory Board meetings and other teen events. She plans programs all the while manning the circulation desk, attending grad school, and working a part time as well. She is in her third semester in the MLIS program at Syracuse University. I asked Alyssa four best and worst questions before delving in a little deeper. Keep reading to learn more about this hard working young woman.
The best part of library school for me is getting to meet a bunch of other librarians from different areas and swapping ideas and advice with them. Every semester I meet new classmates that are from a different part of the country and I learn new things from them.
The worst part, besides massive student debt, is trying to do library school while I work my full time library job and my part time job. I constantly feel like there are not enough hours in the day to get all of my library work and class work done.
The best part of working with teens is how funny they are. I can’t think of a Teen Advisory Board Meeting or any teen program/event where I haven’t been rolling with laughter over what one of them said. I personally think that the teens in my TAB group are quite possibly the funniest in the world. They always end up brightening my day and cheering me up if I’m not in the greatest mood.
The worst part of working with teens is getting them to focus! In the past 2 years I’ve had our TAB group help me plan the bulk of the Teen Summer Reading Program. Trying to get them to focus on one event at a time is similar to herding cats: it’s exhausting, takes forever, and there is still always one that gets away. I feel like as long as I have 75% of the group on board with me, then it’s a good meeting!
I’d probably have to say To Kill A Mockingbird is the best (or most important) YA book in my opinion.
September Girls by Bennett Madison is one of the worst YA books I’ve ever read. I read it back in 2013 and I hated it. I was mad that I even finished it. Terrible book.
The best teen program I’ve had was the “Chocolate Games.” We held it last year during the Summer Reading Program and it was a hit! It was our highest attended teen program of the entire year. All the games used chocolate: Oreo Stacking, Hershey Kiss Scavenger Hunt, M&M Relay Race, Hershey Bar House Building, and Marshmallow toss. The teens loved it and they each went home with a huge amount of chocolate.
The worst teen program I’ve done was a book craft night. We hyped it up too much and only 2 teens showed up. The craft was so complicated that neither of them were able to finish it during the actual event. It was a fail.
Now for the real stuff…
What led you to libraries and why do you want to be a librarian?
In the back of my mind, I think I always knew I was going to end up being a librarian. My mother has worked in libraries for almost 14 years and my Aunt has been a Youth Services Librarian for almost 30 years. I spent a lot of time in my local library when I was younger. I would spend hours at the library after school until my Mom was finished with her work. I would finish my homework and then shelve some books for my Mom. I loved it. I would always try to get my homework done quickly so that I could help put books away. I loved to see what people were reading. In college I majored in History with the faint hope of someday being a Historian or an Archivist of some kind and I ended up working in my college library for 2 1/2 years. It wasn’t until October of my senior year that I actually realized that I wanted to be a librarian. I had submitted the first draft of my History Senior Thesis and my teacher did not like it, he said it was filled with too many insignificant details and stories. He said if I wrote like that, I might as well just be some small town librarian. I remember he said it with such disdain, and I looked him right in the eye and said, “Well that’s just fine, because I’m going to be a librarian anyways!” I love books. I love reading. I love working with kids. I’ve always been passionate about literacy, so being a librarian just fit me perfectly. If I wasn’t a librarian, then I would probably own some sort of bookshop. I can’t see myself doing anything else.
Do you think an MLIS is beneficial and cost effective in today’s job market?
I think an MLIS is beneficial and cost effective for what I want to do, but I know it’s not for everyone. My focus is on teens and for me to be a successful Teen or Youth Librarian, I have to have that degree – I could have all the experience in the world, but I would not be able to find a good job without my degree. But that’s really specific to my needs. I think if you just want to work in a library and you don’t necessarily want to be a head of a department, or the director, etc. – then you don’t need an MLIS degree. I know several people who work full time in libraries and don’t have the MLIS degree, they don’t need it. I felt like I needed it because I can’t go much farther in my job without it. My current job description is still “Circulation Staff” but I am also the Youth Librarian’s Assistant. In my situation I am not able to get a higher position in the library without my degree. When I first started applying to Masters Programs I had about 5 or 6 Librarians tell me it’s not worth it and a waste of money, but I’m in my third semester so far and I can tell you it has already opened up several opportunities for me that I wouldn’t have access to otherwise.
What sort of things are you learning in library school that relate to keeping libraries current?
So far in Library school I feel like I’ve learned the most from my elective classes. My first semester I took an amazing class on storytelling that really broadened my view on story time programs in the library and how to use technology during a story time. Last semester I took a Grant writing class that was extremely beneficial to me. I think everyone who wants to be a librarian will have to write a grant at some point in their career and it’s better to learn how to do it sooner rather than later!
What author and illustrator would you most like to go on a date with?
That would have to be Children’s Author, Daniel Rubin. JUST KIDDING!
Below are some of Alyssa’s all-time favorite reads…
When the government of the magic world and authorities at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry refuse to believe in the growing threat of a freshly revived Lord Voldemort, fifteen-year-old Harry Potter finds support from his loyal friends in facing the evil wizard and other new terrors. Ages 9-12
Mary Lennox is indeed a miserable child. Upon the death of her parents she finds herself transported to the cold climate of England to live at Misselthwaite Manor with an ailing uncle she has never met. How she hates this country and everything about it. But with the English sunshine, spring comes into Mary’s bitter heart. She find that she likes Misselthwaite Manor, its inhabitants, its gardens and especially its secrets… Ages 8-11
Soon after Peter, an orphan, sets sail from England on the ship Never Land, he befriends and assists Molly, a young Starcatcher, whose mission is to guard a trunk of magical stardust from a greedy pirate and the native inhabitants of a remote island. Ages 10 and up
Seventeen-year-old Bella leaves Phoenix to live with her father in Forks, Washington, where she meets an exquisitely handsome boy at school for whom she feels an overwhelming attraction and who she comes to realize is not entirely human. Ages 13 and up
Lame and suddenly orphaned, Kira is mysteriously removed from her squalid village to live in the palatial Council Edifice, where she is expected to use her gifts as a weaver to do the bidding of the all-powerful Guardians. Ages 12 and up
Sixteen-year-old Miles’ first year at Culver Creek Preparatory School in Alabama includes good friends and great pranks, but is defined by the search for answers about life and death after a fatal car crash. Ages 16 and up