Interview a Librarian

Do you like to visit your local library or school library? Has a librarian ever helped you find a book? Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be “that person behind the desk”?

I’m pleased to say that Jason Stewart, the librarian at an elementary school, has offered some great insight into the mysterious life of a librarian!

Being a Librarian

V.K. Finnish: Let’s start with the basics. What is your job title?
Jason Stewart: Library/Media/Computer Technician at Ute Pass Elementary.

VKF: Who is your “boss” and what other positions do you interact with a lot?
JS: Mr. Briggs-Hale, the principle, is my boss. I see and talk most to the teachers throughout my day.

VKF: What kind of training did you need to get this position?
JS: Well, I’ve been working in a variety of libraries for the past fourteen years–from university to seminary to public, so that’s what helped prepare me.

VKF: What’s a normal work day like for you?
JS: Crazy. I average two classes of kids a day, and then maintain the library collection and TRY to meet the computer needs of the staff.

VKF: How do you stay current on what’s going on in the industry?
JS: “School Library Journal.” That’s my favorite resource.

VKF: What do you think are some misconceptions others might have about librarians?
JS: Misconceptions. . .The biggest one that I get is that I must know everything, in particular books. My educational background is in English, so I know a lot about English/American literature, but outside of that, forget it.

VKF: Do you have any advice for someone interested in being a librarian?
JS: Start with a volunteer position at your local public library, to see if it’s what you want. And understand that it can take time to break into the field — it’s actually a lot more competitive than it would seem.

VKF: Let’s learn about the library. Give a “tour” of a typical library setup.
JS: Let’s see, basically you’ll see a library broken into a few sections. Broadly, books and media, and then broken down further in each of these sections to fiction and nonfiction.

VKF: How do you choose what books to put in your library?
JS: I examine the needs of the collection—what areas are outdated, and what areas are growing — and the demands of the patrons — what do they want to read.

VKF: In your opinion, what is the role of a school library and is it different than a public library?
JS: I see the school library as a place where kids learn to love reading, and to develop the skills that will help them be successful in college and beyond. Basic skills such as the organizing of knowledge and research come in handy later on in life.

VKF: What do you think about kids (or even grown-ups) using free online sources like Wikipedia?
JS: I’m all for free online sources and “shareware” (for example, I prefer the music player “Songbird” over “ITunes” because it supports more music formats), but this is where the skills I’m teaching kids come into place. Sites like Wikipedia are not always the best sources of information, and can sometimes be sources of misinformation — the fact that anyone can add to these pages is wonderful, but can also lead to bias and incorrect information. I try to teach kids to be critical of the resources they use.

VKF: What do you think are some misconceptions others might have about libraries?
JS: Libraries only have books. I run into that misconception constantly, and am always trying to correct it. Libraries have a variety of media — books, DVDs, CDs, and video games, ebooks, etc.

VKF: Now for the fun part, let’s get to know a little about you, Jason! What made you decide to become a librarian?
JS: I started working in libraries in college because I needed a part-time job. That part-time job has now become a career.

VKF: What are some books you read for fun?
JS: Right now I’m reading Lawrence Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman; Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre; and In Beauty Bright, poetry by Gerald Stern. I am a bit of a book nerd that way.

VKF: What is the best part about your job?
JS: Working with the kids.

VKF: What do you find frustrating or difficult about your job?
JS: Technology can be such a bugbear, that’s my biggest challenge.

VKF: Is there anything you found surprising about this kind of work?
JS: The patrons. That’s always been the most surprising part of my job — you never know who’ll you’ll meet working in a library.

VKF: As you might know from my book The Society’s Traitor, a “Fetch” is an animal companion that is linked to you — shares your feelings and personality — and is a loyal friend to you. If you could have a Fetch, what sort of animal would it be?
JS: A bear, or a mountain lion. They’re my favorite animals.

Thanks to Mr. Stewart for giving this interview. I hope it helps you see a little about what it’s like being a librarian.

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