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Friday, July 20, 2012

Meet a Librarian--Becky Arenivar

Becky Arenivar is the Program Librarian at the Prescott Public Library.  She is one of IFLS's trainers for The Wakanheza Project, she's running for the board of directors for the Youth Services Section of the Wisconsin Library Association, and she's a smart, funny, and very committed librarian!

What made you decide to go to library school?
I truly had a moment of enlightment when I was volunteering in a school library. As I was shelving books in the 910s, I suddenly remembered a long-forgotten childhood dream of being a librarian. This “aha” moment also included the realization that I could get paid for what I was then doing as a volunteer. It was 4-1/2 more years before I started back to college, and another 8 years before I finished my MLIS. Although the path was long, I never doubted that it was the right one for me.

How did your experience at school and your experience at your job in Prescott inform each other?
The first thing I recognized in library school was that I am at heart a public librarian. The public service that is at the core of public librarianship gives me a huge amount of personal satisfaction. But it is easy to allow the day-to-day and minute-to-minute needs of patrons, staff and the library to monopolize my time and resources, so that I feel as if I'm bouncing from one crisis or event to the next. This is where my library science education comes in handy, reminding me to step back, take a look at the big picture and at long-term effects and goals, and make sure my decisions and actions are grounded in the philosophy and principles of librarianship. The second thing I recognized is that I love being part of the community of librarians and library staff. We are dedicated, collaborative, service-oriented people, but we also know how to throw an awesome zombie apocalypse party. The sharing and enthusiasm that is embedded in this vocational community inspires and motivates me, and gives me practical help. Library school fostered this sense of belonging and mutual support and I find it immensely helpful in my daily work to be able to connect with and rely on the creativity and knowledge of other people with similar goals.

What have you found to be the most interesting or pressing issues in librarianship?
As the needs of our communities are expanding and multiplying, we are being required to make do with less—less money, less staff and less time. Although the collaboration and sharing that librarians do so well will help us find ways to meet new needs without abandoning traditional formats and services beloved by our patrons, the pace at which we must learn, innovate and transform ourselves and our libraries, threatens to erode the very principles that have underlied librarians' well-deserved reputation for thoughtful decision-making and careful stewardship of resources. The increasing need to persuade loyal and grateful patrons that their advocacy and action are needed to maintain the security of the very library they are grateful for puts librarians and staff in a position that many of us never anticipated and that is not always comfortable for us.

What are you excited about (in your job and in life)?
  • Summer Reading! No, really, I am enthused about our new Teen Summer Reading Program, with separate materials for teens (no more kiddie bags sporting cutesy animals), a separate reward program with (hopefully) teen appeal, and 2 (count 'em – two) events for teens only. Time will tell whether my planning and outreach will result in more teen participation, but it's fun to be creative, try out new ideas, and see what happens.
  • This is an exciting time for me as a parent and an individual, too. My kids are growing up, exploring the world on their own, and turning into really interesting adults. This has left me time and energy to explore new activities, too. I started doing yoga a couple of years ago, and love the daily practice and the focus on mind/body connection. So much of my work and personal time is spent getting things done, and yoga allows me to just be, even if it's for only 20 minutes a day.

Do you have an addition to the Gallery of Terrible Programs?
I got really excited about Money Smart Week in 2012, and put together a program where reps from local banks came to share information on specific financial topics. They also brought lots of useful financial literacy materials for attendees. Unfortunately, we had abysmal attendance, and I felt so apologetic towards the wonderful reps who came prepared to help people feel more empowered about finances and money. This was a good, if painful, lesson in “know your community.” I still strongly believe that promoting financial literacy is an important job for libraries, including my library, but my next steps into this will be taken with more information on what our community wants and how they want it delivered.

What's a book you read or listened to that you really liked? Why?
I'm a manga fan, and my favorite current read is Library Wars: Love and War by Kiiro Yumi. I first read manga as an assignment for a library class on materials for teens, and fell in love with shojo (romance/comedy) manga. Library Wars is a shojo manga with a little bit of shonen (action) mixed in. Set in a futuristic Japan, LW tells the story of Iku Kasahara, a young woman who joins the Library Defense Forces to help fight government-sponsored censorship. Shelve a few books, help someone find some information, then go kick the stuffing out of goons from the Media Betterment Committee? Just another day in the life of an LDF librarian. And there's a love story, too? I am so there!

If you had 20 more hours a week, how would you spend them?
1) Take the time to step back and look at the big picture more often; 2) Find and apply for grants; 3) Participate more in professional organizations; 4) Take more training workshops and webinars.

What's something that you found especially fun for a program?
We do trivia hunts at every Summer Reading Program event. I felt the need for a literacy activity, but I don't start events with a story, since people tend to trickle into our events, not arrive promptly at the starting time. Our in-house events are comprised of crafts and activities presented cafeteria-style at stations, so it was important to find a literacy activity that fit into this structure. The Trivia Hunt has become a popular activity with kids, and I enjoy coming up with a set of 7-8 questions and answers based on the event's theme. Last week, we did Friendly Monsters for our Bump in the Night event, and for Going Batty, I learned about the 7 bats native to Wisconsin. The Q&As are printed in large type, pasted onto construction paper, then posted around the room for kids to find. Kids pick up a scavenger hunt form on which they can fill in the answers. It's fun to see older kids helping their younger siblings with reading the questions and answers, or families doing them together. My teen volunteers are quite creative about where they post the answers, including wearing them on their backs. I can't imagine having an activity program without a trivia hunt anymore.

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