Letter to the Nixa School Board – June 17, 2022

June 17, 2022

Nixa School Board President
Linda Daugherty
301 South Main Street
Nixa, MO 65714

cc: Dr. Gearl Loden, Superintendent

Dear Ms. Daugherty and Dr. Loden,

As Missouri librarians and members of the Missouri Library Association Intellectual Freedom Committee, we would like to express to you our concern over the number of challenges being made to books in your district. We understand that a nationally-connected special interest group representing a vocal minority in your district recently presented to you a list of 17 books for potential removal from your collections. It is also our understanding that the majority of those books were retained, and for this we would like to support your judgment. That said, we are concerned that other decisions made about removal or restriction could cause harm to the trust that youth have in the schools they attend, as well as youths’ ability to pursue inquiry and access materials.  The books that were marked for removal, Fun Home, and All Boys Aren’t Blue, are both memoirs by prominent and celebrated Queer artists and authors. Homegoing, which it is our understanding is subject to restricted access, is a work by a Ghanian-American author that touches on complex themes about race, history, colonization and slavery. We trust that as educated people, you can see the common thread here: Celebrated authors from historically marginalized communities are being challenged for political purposes that have nothing to do with protecting youth. We ask you to consider why someone would want to restrict access to these perspectives, particularly as our social context becomes increasingly global and interconnected. We ask you to consider if restricting or removing these works truly serves youth in your district. We would further note that students in the district have already voiced their support for the challenged materials, which should be of equal or greater consequence to these considerations than the complaints of specific groups of parents.

As you know, challenges such as these are part of a national campaign to undermine civil rights and the social progress of LGBTQ and BIPOC populations, and to block access to the perspectives of historically marginalized people by young readers who may share those identities, or who seek to build greater understanding of experiences different from their own. Please find attached the MLA’s recent statement on intellectual freedom. In it, we outline the necessity of protecting the opportunities for access to diverse perspectives of which our youth avail themselves to be well-rounded citizens and empathetic participants in contemporary society. As with other challenges in the state, we ask you to consider the irreparable harm that undermining intellectual freedom causes to youth and their trust in public institutions that come between them and attempts to understand their world.

These challenges represent ill-founded and disingenuous attempts by anti-democratic organizations to curtail young people’s access to diverse perspectives and experiences. These incredibly damaging political actions are obfuscated by concerns about “protecting children”. Removing Fun Home and All Boys Aren’t Blue does not, certainly, protect LGBTQ+ youth, who need access to authentic representations of Queer experience to provide context for growing up in a predominantly “straight” society, just as cis/heterosexual children benefit from perspectives like Bechdel’s or Johnson’s that help them empathize with and understand the broader scope of human experience. Putting Homegoing behind the desk and requiring permission to access it does not help children interested in learning about African history or gaining access to authors writing that directly confronts the ills of slavery and racism on the world stage. In fact, these infringements on the intellectual freedom of youth in your schools cause only harm, and we would assert, do so as part of an agenda that is antithetical to the purpose of public education itself.

We request that you consider a moratorium on removing or restricting access to works from your collection, particularly doing so as a result of petitions by individuals or local groups who are known to be associated with national anti-intellectual-freedom action groups. Groups such as these are attempting to undermine the expertise of educators, the agency of students, and the good faith of parents across the state of Missouri and the nation. The goal of these groups has nothing to do with the well-being of parents and students in your district and is instead part of an unfortunate “culture war” that continues to drag public institutions into protracted battles that waste public resources and undermine the general public good.  We support those teachers, librarians, and employees working toward maintaining and promoting inclusive library collections, and those who cultivate spaces for free inquiry and curiosity to flourish in schools. We support parents working to promote access to materials in your district and applaud their efforts to support their kids during this fraught time. We lament the amount of abuse, stress, and other negative consequences students and hardworking teachers and librarians suffer as these regrettable censorship campaigns continue. Please support your students by reconsidering your recent decisions to remove Fun Home and All Boys Aren’t Blue, and to restrict access to Homegoing.  Please support intellectual freedom and put these items back on the shelf.

Signed,

Joe Kohlburn

MLA-Intellectual Freedom Committee 2022 Chair

Colleen Norman

MLA-Intellectual Freedom Committee 2023 Chair-elect

Tiffany Mautino

MLA-Intellectual Freedom Committee Past Chair (2021)

Casey Phillips

MLA-IFC Member/ Social Media and Communications

Ying Li

MLA-IFC Member

Kris Dyer

MLA-IFC Member/ Legislative Liaison

Kimberly Moeller

MLA-IFC-Board Liaison

Otter Bowman

Missouri Library Association President-Elect

 

Attachments:

MLA Statement on Recent Challenges- http://molib.org/mla-statement-on-intellectual-freedom/

 

 

Letter to the Wentzville School Board – June 9, 2022

June 9, 2022

Wentzville School Board President

Mr. Daniel Brice

280 Interstate Drive

Wentzville, MO 63385

cc: Dr. Curtis Cain, Dr. Danielle S. Tormala, Superintendent (Present and Future)

 

Dear Mr. Brice and Drs. Cain and Tormala,

We have been informed that your district has again chosen to remove work by LGBTQ+ and BIPOC authors from library shelves. Per our letter of January 28, 2022, we again must request that you return the book to circulation. The pertinent question for you is not whether certain books are worthy of being removed, the question is what actual good comes from removing materials? As we implied in our previous letter, one pragmatic reason librarianship as a profession insists on intellectual freedom and not banning or removing certain books based on their content is precisely that doing so becomes a protracted boondoggle that slows down and detracts from the important work with which libraries and schools have been historically concerned: supporting and educating students. We are aware of your present predicament with the ACLU and federal courts, negative media coverage, and push back from all sides, and must assume that the extent of the aforementioned boondoggle is clear to you. We, the Intellectual Freedom Committee of the Missouri Library Association (MLA-IFC), would like to again formally express our concern as Missouri librarians and intellectual freedom advocates regarding your recent decision to remove Allison Bechdel’s Fun Home. As with the previous attempt to remove Toni Morrison’s work, this is an ill-founded and disingenuous attempt by a vocal minority to control access to diverse perspectives and experiences obfuscated by concerns about “protecting children”. Removing this work does not, certainly, protect LGBTQ+ youth, who need access to authentic representations of Queer experience to provide context for growing up in a predominantly “straight” society, just as cis/heterosexual children benefit from perspectives like Bechdel’s that help them empathize with and understand the broader scope of human experience.

As quoted in a recent St. Louis Post-Dispatch article, Dr. Rebecca Wanzo, a prominent scholar and professor at Washington University, says, “ Alison Bechdel is one of the preeminent cartoonists of the 21st century…Her work invites conversations about sexuality, trauma, medium and genre, women in the academy, place and childhood”. This work, much like Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, is critically above reproach. If reporting is accurate, and most of these challenges indeed derive from a single parent, we ask you to consider why one parent (or even one group of parents) should be able to dictate the collections of an entire district. We ask you to remember that Fun Home is a memoir, meaning that Bechdel includes the events of her life as part of the art and narrative of the work based on real events. This means that the details of said events were formative and significant to her, not just as art, but as memories in the course of her life. We further ask you to consider what insight petitioners in favor of removing the work have to the experience of children who might grow up to be more like Allison Bechdel. We question if in fact trying to prevent youth from growing up to live open and healthy lives as LGBTQ+ adults is precisely the motivation for removing the work. Should not LGBTQ+ youth have the same freedom to push boundaries in their reading works like Fun Home, as straight youth have when they read any one of thousands of YA books or graphic novels about people like themselves?

We again request that you codify the depth of your commitment to education as a vehicle to understanding and empathy, and reject this outgrowth of political grandstanding performed at the expense of educators and students in your district. In terms of policy improvements, we suggest striking removal of work as the challenge goes through committee and other processes. If you keep the book on the shelf, we suspect you can undermine much of the motivation for challenges in the first place, which seems mostly to be about political haymaking rather than the good of any student in the district.  We further suggest adding provisions that place a moratorium on petitions from individuals who seek to abuse the process of reconsideration for political or personal reasons judged to be in conflict with the interests of students, teachers, and librarians in the district. We continue to support those working toward maintaining and promoting inclusive library collections, and those who cultivate spaces for free inquiry and curiosity to flourish in schools. Please support your students by reconsidering your recent decision, and putting Fun Home back on the shelf.

Signed,

Joe Kohlburn

MLA-Intellectual Freedom Committee 2022 Chair

Colleen Norman

MLA-Intellectual Freedom Committee 2023 Chair-elect

Tiffany Mautino

MLA-Intellectual Freedom Committee Past Chair (2021)

Casey Phillips

MLA-IFC Member/ Social Media and Communications

Ying Li

MLA-IFC Member

Rachelle Brandel

MLA-IFC Member

Kris Dyer

MLA-IFC Member/ Legislative Liaison

Kimberly Moeller

MLA-IFC-Board Liaison

Otter Bowman

Missouri Library Association President-Elect

 

Attachments:

Letter from MLA-IFC- January 2022- https://www.stltoday.com/entertainment/books-and-literature/letter-from-missouri-library-association-to-wentzville-school-board-president/article_5583141d-3148-5ce8-a516-86d95395b9ec.html

STL-PD Article on Fun Home Challenge- https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/education/wentzville-school-board-bans-another-library-book-for-sexual-content/article_83f7a559-cc8c-5848-ae26-2e0d77234add.html

Board Minutes- https://go.boarddocs.com/mo/wsdr4/Board.nsf/Public#

MLA Statement on Recent Challenges- http://molib.org/mla-statement-on-intellectual-freedom/

MLA Featured Library Employee — Mindy Schmidt

Mindy Schmidt, St. Charles City County Library

Meet our newest Featured Library Employee for the Missouri Library Association, Mindy Schmidt!

What is your name, your library, and your role at the library?

Mindy Schmidt, St. Charles City County Library, Youth Paraprofessional; specializing in Teen and Tween services

I have worked for the library district for over sixteen years. I started out working nights and weekends at the circulation desk, which allowed me to be home during the day with my daughters.

I became a youth paraprofessional around six years ago and now work at the information desk assisting patrons.  I also plan programs for teens and tweens, maintain the teen area and YA collection at our branch and work with other teen staff within the district on a variety of committees and projects.

What originally got you interested in working at a library?

Libraries have always been a magical place for me, to be able to take armloads of books home for free amazed me as a child.  I have always been a reader, using books as my escape, and libraries and bookstores as a refuge.  When I was younger I had considered becoming a librarian, however life happened and a degree didn’t.  Now, as an adult and a library employee, I truly understand what all the library can offer besides books.

What keeps you coming back every day?

The rewards and challenges of working with youth, working with my fellow employees and the love I have for our smaller general purpose branch, where we are able to work on a little bit of everything.

What’s challenging about your work?

Before Covid, balancing outreach, projects, in-branch programming and desk duties was quite a challenge.  Now, since we have been easing back into everything, it has been great to be able to rethink how I want to structure my time.

Has your work made you either curious, or passionate, or awestruck about something?

I love the relationships that form with the teens and tweens that come in regularly to the branch and attend programs, that is one of the best parts of my job.

I have become very passionate about making the library a welcoming place for all youth, not just the stereotypical bookworm.  We have had the wonderful opportunity at the McClay Branch to serve a diverse group of teens that forced us to grow as individuals and expand our abilities as library staff.

Before covid we had a fairly large group of teens that walked from the high school every day after school.  They seemed to be a pretty intimidating group before we got to know them.  Once we invested the time and effort to interact and actively engage with them everyday, we could appreciate that they enjoyed the time and attention we gave them, they are still some of my very favorite teens.

Who is one of your mentors?

Personally, my four daughters; they are bold, passionate, and pursue opportunities that seem out of reach.

Professionally, I have worked with many people who have inspired me and I appreciate them all.  Johnathon Shoff, was one of the first people that I worked with when I started in YA, I try to model his laidback style and ease when working with teens.  I admire his work ethic, sound advice, and his willingness to share ideas.

What book, author, artist, show, or music are you engaging with this week, either personally or professionally? Persuade us in one or two sentences that we should pick this up, too.

I read a lot of YA, Mindy McGinnis is one of my favorite authors, her writing can be on the dark and gritty side, which I enjoy.  I just finished “The Last Laugh”, it is the final book of an intense duology that I had a hard time putting down. Her award winning novel “Heroine” was hands down one of my most enjoyed books that I read this year.

Currently I am watching Bridgerton season 2, as well as, Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers, both are equally compelling in completely different ways.

 

Would you like to nominate someone to be our next Featured Library Employee?  Examples could be:

…a new employee you’d like to introduce

…someone with a unique job or on a unique career path

…an employee you find inspirational

…a coworker whose gifts you wish were more widely known

…someone who’s “an institution” full of interesting stories

…a role that has a new focus or is reaching a new audience

…someone you’d like to make more visible to potential employers

Submit name(s) and contact information, along with place of employment, to Shannon Mawhiney at smawhiney@missouristate.edu.  We’ll do all the work of contacting; we just need you to connect us!

MLA Featured Library Employee — Pam Stone

Pam Stone, Holts Summit Public Library

Meet our newest Featured Library Employee for the Missouri Library Association, Pam Stone!

What is your name, your library, and your role at the library?

Pam Stone, Library Associate- Branch Lead at the Holts Summit Public Library.

I have the opportunity to oversee the day to day operations of the library.  I enjoy working with our awesome staff and our friendly patrons.

The Holts Summit Public Library is the newest branch to join the Daniel Boone Regional Library System.

People love the library so much that they passed the proposition during the pandemic to make it a permanent staple in the community.

What originally got you interested in working at a library?

I love working with people. This library has an open floor plan with a welcoming feel once you step inside.  When I first entered the building, it felt like I was at home and knew this was the place I wanted to be.

I have lived in this area for over 20 years and felt like there was always a need for a library in Holts Summit. The bookmobile stop we had before the branch was opened was very popular.

What keeps you coming back every day?

 Our patrons. When I first started, our Associate Director said to me that libraries build communities.  I try to remember that every day when I go to work.  At the end of the day, it is about making a difference.  I love being able to connect with our patrons and share the resources that we have.  There is no greater feeling than signing someone up for a new library card or helping a child find new, exciting books to read.

What’s challenging about your work?

 The pandemic. It continues to throw us many curve balls.  Like everyone else we continue to rise to the challenge, whether it is switching to virtual programs, creating take and make kits to hand to our patrons, offering curbside services, or increasing access to our digital services.  I feel support every day from the staff at DBRL, from the board and director to the managers and my fantastic coworkers. It really does take a village, and Daniel Boone Regional Library is full of talented individuals who make a difference.  When that is recognized by our fabulous patrons with pictures, smiles, and notes, that’s what keeps us going, even on the tough days.  One of my favorite messages the library has received: “I believe in you, unicorns and the library.”

Has your work made you either curious, or passionate, or awestruck about   something?

The thing that I have been both awestruck and passionate about lately is our 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten Program.  Since it has launched we have had over 1,500 kiddos participate in the program.

It is great for the staff to receive feedback when a child comes in to claim their prize.  To see the smile on their face and the pride of achievement, is priceless for me.

I hope they will be lifelong readers!

Who is one of your mentors?

I have many mentors professionally that I get to work with on a daily basis.  I am grateful to each one of them to help me be a better version of myself and the role I perform everyday.

On a personal level, it is my mom and my daughter.  My mom has been through bouts of cancer and a week in the ICU from Covid.  She tries to find something good every day and does so with grace.  My daughter is a professional with 2 kids and teaches me how to rise to life’s challenges and still bring sunshine every day.

What book, author, artist, show, or music are you engaging with this week, either personally or professionally? Persuade us in one or two sentences that we should pick this up, too.

I just finished “Welcome to Dunder Mifflin” by Brian Baumgartner and Ben Silverman.  If you loved The Office, it is a great back story behind the #1 binge-watched series during the pandemic. It explains why it still resonates with people today even though it ended in 2013.  If you want some humor during this cold winter season, I encourage you to check it out.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

Your public library provides you with more resources than you think.  If it has been a while since you have visited the library, please check out your local library.  For everyone who works in a library, thank you for all you do.

2 of my favorite quotes:

“See the good all around you even if you have to squint.”

“In a world where you can be anything, be kind.”

 

Would you like to nominate someone to be our next Featured Library Employee?  Examples could be:

…a new employee you’d like to introduce

…someone with a unique job or on a unique career path

…an employee you find inspirational

…a coworker whose gifts you wish were more widely known

…someone who’s “an institution” full of interesting stories

…a role that has a new focus or is reaching a new audience

…someone you’d like to make more visible to potential employers

Submit name(s) and contact information, along with place of employment, to Shannon Mawhiney at smawhiney@missouristate.edu.  We’ll do all the work of contacting; we just need you to connect us!

Youth Services Spring Training Opportunity

Youth Services Spring Training
Monday, April 25, 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
Scenic Regional Library – Union Branch
251 Union Plaza Dr.
Union, MO 63084

Registration is open now through Saturday, April 16: https://molib.wildapricot.org/event-4693324

Registration cost is FREE for MLA members, with a $10 lunch fee for non-MLA members.

Spring Training is a flexible, personable way to engage in topics that matter to you and your library. The morning will include two, large group sessions that focus on the social and emotional development of children (see below!). The afternoon will consist of three breakout, small group sessions that will be led by you, the attendees. Share your unique knowledge and learn from your amazing peers across the state! 

Lessons from Mister Rogers: Preparing Kids Socially and Emotionally for Kindergarten
Presented by Johnathan Shoff, St. Charles City-County Library

While librarians have long helped kids with early literacy and motor skill development, Lessons from Mister Rogers emphasizes topics to prepare children socially and emotionally for school. This session will cover kindness, self-care, being a friend, respecting all living things, being brave, managing anger, and what to expect at school.

Using Picture Books to Cope and Grow
Presented by April Roy, Kansas City Public Library

ALA Notable Children’s Books Committee Member, April Roy, will share some of the best picture books of 2021 that will help young people cope, escape, feel proud, and advocate. The workshop will include tips for dialogic reading, fun activity ideas, and more. All participants will leave with free books! 

Sponsored by the Youth Services Community of Interest (YSCI), Missouri Library Association. 

Register today by following this link: https://molib.wildapricot.org/event-4693324

MLA Statement on Intellectual Freedom

On behalf of our members, member institutions and professional ethical standards, we at the Missouri Library Association (MLA) stand with librarians, library workers, and other educators in the state of Missouri as they select and provide access to their collections for readers. We further support the processes and procedures our libraries have in place to deal with challenges with concerned parents and community members and are deeply troubled by efforts to circumvent these processes for political gain or as a result of moral panic.

Libraries as public institutions have existed in the United States for over 250 years. Each year, we promote our foundational ideals, provide access for our patrons, and find better and more equitable avenues to improve our institutions. Perhaps our most important guiding principle comes from Ranganathan: “Every reader, their book and every book, its reader.”

The “freedom to read” is more than just a shorthand for encouraging curiosity and inquiry. It is a pillar of our democracy. Intellectual freedom means that all of us have the right to explore and engage with the ideas we choose, and to be informed about the world around us. Adults have intellectual freedom, but so do youth. We support MASL’s statement that says, “Students should have choices in what books they read.”

We librarians are skilled, credentialed and thoughtful professionals who make it our work to champion inquiry, curiosity, democracy and access to information. Librarians support the rights of parents to choose books for their own children, but not the rights of one person to choose what books are right for an entire classroom, school, or public. Through our deep immersion in books and materials, librarians and library workers understand the greater context of knowledge and understanding facilitated through our collections. We reject the claim that removing, labeling, or relocating a title will somehow shield children from the ideas contained within, especially in the context of our connected digital world. We further reject the notion that anyone can perform the work we do without significant engagement with the professional ethics and expertise of librarianship. Public and school libraries are safe places for children to encounter ideas in an environment that nurtures curiosity. Occasionally these encounters will include ideas that might be challenging. We support the right of readers to be challenged, to learn, and to grow.  Librarians and educators are the critical connection between readers and their books. It is our responsibility to champion these rights.

We support the expertise, thoughtfulness, and care exercised by thousands of librarians, library workers, and educators in the state of Missouri to foster the curiosity and inquiry that lives in young people.

Signed,

Cindy Thompson, Missouri Library Association President

Members of the Missouri Library Association Board

Members of the Missouri Library Association Intellectual Freedom Committee

 

For further reading:

Ranganathan’s Laws

Freedom to Read Statement

The Library Bill of Rights

Core Values of Librarianship

PLCI Mentoring Program: Calling all want to be mentors and mentees

In May 2018, the Public Libraries Community of Interest (PLCI) initiated a program to encourage mentoring relationships between public library employees and new librarians.  We are ready to form new mentor and mentee groups for 2022. Mentors and mentees will be paired early next month, and this first mentoring period will run from mid-February through June. See these guidelines (https://drive.google.com/file/d/1-HU9qbFbPs8e_Gsd8h8Ot1qmt3dfXf_0/view) and deadlines for this first session below.

Mentors

PLCI is looking for experienced public library employees who are interested in mentoring new librarians. This is a great opportunity to share your knowledge and give back to the library community.  Eligible mentors must be members of the Missouri Library Association and have at least 5 years of library experience, with at least 3 years in their current field.  Mentors must work or have worked in a public library and must be able to commit to at least one meeting per month during the mentoring period.  Meetings may be held via Zoom or a similar platform, phone, e-mail, or in person.

If you are interested in being a mentor, please fill out this Google Form by Monday, February 7, 2022.

Mentees

PLCI is looking for new public librarians who are looking to learn the ropes of the public library profession and learn from an experienced professional. This is a great opportunity to learn more about the public library profession and have a seasoned library professional available to answer questions and give you insight. We will do our best to match you with someone who will help you to achieve your professional goals. Meetings may be held via Zoom or a similar platform, phone, e-mail, or in person.

If you are interested in being a mentee, please fill out this Google Form by Monday, February 7, 2022.

If you have additional questions, please email us at publiclibrariesci.mla@gmail.com.

Thank you!

The Public Library Community of Interest
publiclibrariesci.mla@gmail.com

Library Advocacy Week 2022

Registration for the Virtual MLA Library Advocacy Week 2022 closes Sunday 2/6!

Please mark your calendars and join us for the Library Advocacy Week starting on February 8, 2022. Like last year, this year’s advocacy event will be completely virtual. Because it is virtual, registration is free. The welcome and orientation will be held via Zoom. By registering for the event you will receive the Zoom meeting invitation information for the event.

Registration for orientation is available here:
The orientation will start at 9:30am and last until about Noon on February 8th. The schedule will be similar to past years: the Secretary of State will speak; we will have comments from our state librarian, Robin Westphal; Randy Scherr will give us a legislative update; and there will be a briefing of the week and what to expect. We will also have handouts, similar to previous years, that we will pass onto membership as a tool to supplement our discussions as soon as those are finalized.

We ask for libraries to schedule visits with their legislators any time after the welcome and orientation virtual event on Tuesday February 8, 2022. Having libraries’ visits during the same week helps unify our efforts and keep libraries on our legislators’ minds as they work on the budget for the next year and other bills. Meetings can be held over the phone though we strongly encourage virtual meetings so that legislators and their staff know the faces of their librarians.

This is a great opportunity to talk with your legislators and share about the amazing work their library does for their community.

The Legislative Committee hopes that, by having a free, virtual advocacy week, this will give opportunities to smaller libraries or libraries that are farther away from Jefferson City. Instead of needing to set aside round trip drive time and having to pay registration, librarians can talk “face-to-face” with their legislators.

If you have any questions, please contact the Legislative Committee Chair, Cody Croan, at ccroanlibrarian@gmail.com.

MLA Featured Library Employee — Scott Villarreal

Scott Villarreal, Christian County Library

Meet our newest Featured Library Employee for the Missouri Library Association, Scott Villarreal!

What is your name, your library, and your role at the library?

My name is Scott Villarreal. I am a proud member of the Christian County Library District, which houses four different branches—Ozark, Nixa, Clever, and Sparta.

My role in the district is that of Outreach Manager.

The Outreach mission statement reads:

Outreach librarians strive to provide equitable delivery of library services to all people through the development of programs and practices which make the library available to non-traditional patrons.

Services include bookmobile runs to various locations, our Homebound Program, partnerships with school libraries including student card drives, and attendance at numerous community events throughout Christian County.

What originally got you interested in working at a library?

I was a librarian’s aide in high school and found the experience to be extremely enjoyable. This left me with an inclination towards libraries that would not come to fruition until many years later.

I worked in retail for some fifteen years but found myself wanting more than a job where you made a quick buck off the public. I wanted something where the interactions that I had with people would be more meaningful.

What keeps you coming back every day?

Outreach interactions are special. You really get to know the individuals that you bring materials to on a firsthand basis. The stories they tell by sharing their lives makes an impact on you personally. It can leave you feeling enriched and a little closer to humanity.

I would never have stayed 20 years being involved in library services without the people that trained me and gave me my start. It’s also the best assortment of people that I’ve ever been associated with. There is literally not one person that I dislike in the entire library district. I’m convinced that I have the best coworkers and Admin on the planet. How many people are lucky enough to say that?

What’s challenging about your work?

The most challenging aspect of Outreach is making sure you actually reach the people that need your resources the most. We advertise at the library by putting available Outreach resources on our Facebook and Instagram pages, do events to spread the word on a one on one basis, but the best way to promote what we have to offer is the positive word of mouth from the people already receiving Outreach services.

Who are some of your mentors?

Christian County Library veteran of 58 years, Ruth Davis, was instrumental to the development of my early library career. She taught me to respect my patrons and showed me how a library works.

Geri Godber elevated me to the status of Outreach Manager in 2018 and for that I will be eternally indebted. She was a strong leader and taught me about the importance of listening and management in general.

Nicholas Holladay is my current Supervisor. I’m grateful for his guidance in making me a better Manager on a daily basis. His management style is one of intelligence, grace, humor and compassion. Thank God he’s a patient man.

What book, author, artist, show, or music are you engaging with this week, either personally or professionally? Persuade us in one or two sentences that we should pick this up, too.

Legendary comic book artist/writer George Perez recently told the world that he has inoperable pancreatic cancer and has 6 months to a year to live. Perez was and always will be an integral part of my adolescent years, with his reach extending into my adult life. His expert storytelling magically transported me to the worlds of The New Teen Titans, Wonder Woman, Action Comics, The Fantastic Four, the Avengers and so many more. His work was there for me during my tumultuous youth and he was a great inspiration behind my desire to take Art as my major in college, his work even played a role in comforting me during my personal “coming out story.”

I would encourage anyone that enjoys the comic book medium to check out his spectacular body of work.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

My hobbies include, comic book collecting, music, fantasy, sci-fi, horror and artistic drama movies and of course, reading. I enjoy spending time with my boyfriend Chris, my dear friends and the best mother that I could ever have asked for.

 

Would you like to nominate someone to be our next Featured Library Employee?  Examples could be:

…a new employee you’d like to introduce

…someone with a unique job or on a unique career path

…an employee you find inspirational

…a coworker whose gifts you wish were more widely known

…someone who’s “an institution” full of interesting stories

…a role that has a new focus or is reaching a new audience

…someone you’d like to make more visible to potential employers

Submit name(s) and contact information, along with place of employment, to Shannon Mawhiney at smawhiney@missouristate.edu.  We’ll do all the work of contacting; we just need you to connect us!

MLA Featured Library Employee — Mary Kate Gliedt

Mary Kate Gliedt, St. Louis Public Library Manager of Genealogy

Meet this issue’s Featured Library Employee for the Missouri Library Association, Mary Kate Gliedt!

What is your name, your library, and your role at the library?

My name is Mary Kate Gliedt, and I’m the Manager of Genealogy at the St. Louis Public Library.

What originally got you interested in working at a library?

Initially, COVID! I went to graduate school in New York, where I lived for nearly ten years before I came home to St. Louis to wait out a “two week quarantine” that turned into a permanent move and career change! Prior to working for the library, I worked as a senior educator at the Tenement Museum in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, sharing stories of the immigrant communities that made their homes in the neighborhood. Working in the Genealogy department at SLPL is a continuation of the work that I’ve been passionate about for years.

What keeps you coming back every day?

Sometimes, sheer stubbornness…but more frequently, the chances to solve the mysteries our customers bring, and to explore the different ways in which people are connected, keep me coming back.

What’s challenging about your work?

My position is brand new, so finding my place and my role in a long-standing institution can be tricky, and taking the department in new directions is always a scary leap. Thankfully, those risks have been well worth it for the library and for our customers. We have also been living with COVID for my entire tenure at the St. Louis Public Library, and things like not seeing my coworkers’ faces because of our masks, or meeting many of my colleagues on Google Meet, have been particularly challenging as a new hire.

Has your work made you either curious, or passionate, or awestruck about something?

I’ve been working in the immigration and migration history field for years now, and one thing I’m always struck by is how interesting the stories of normal people are. History chooses to uplift certain stories over others, but the stories of presidents and other wealthy, white, cisgender men aren’t the only ones worth telling! In the world of genealogy, most of us aren’t related to George Washington, but we are related to people who worked a job, raised a family, experienced tragedy, and lived their lives in ways that feel almost impossible to us today. I find those stories of normal life much more compelling, and that’s a reason I’m drawn to genealogy – it gives everyone a chance to be placed in the historic narrative.

Who is one of your mentors?

I’ve been incredibly lucky throughout my career to work with talented, smart, engaged women who demonstrate exactly what you can accomplish with enough passion and grit to get the job done. From Nancy Wormington at my first internship in Kansas City to Angie Miraflor and Amanda Bahr-Evola at my current job, I’ve learned an incredible amount from each one, and become the professional I am thanks to their influences.

What book, author, artist, show, or music are you engaging with this week, either personally or professionally? Persuade us in one or two sentences that we should pick this up, too.

Honestly, when the going gets tough, the tough watch Dance Moms. There’s nothing more distracting than a little dance drama when work and pandemic life get to be too much.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

One of my favorite immigration facts – no names were ever changed at Ellis Island- despite what The Godfather II says! Ship manifest documents were created before immigrants boarded ships in Europe, and Ellis Island officials simply made sure the person they were processing was listed on the ship manifest. Additionally, every Ellis Island official was required to be fluent in three or more languages, so every immigrant was able to complete their processing in a language familiar to them. While it’s certainly possible an Ellis Island official struggled to pronounce a name, or to find it on the manifest, they had no more authority to change a name legally than a Starbucks barista who misspells your name on a pumpkin spice latte.

 

Would you like to nominate someone to be our next Featured Library Employee?  Examples could be:

…a new employee you’d like to introduce

…someone with a unique job or on a unique career path

…an employee you find inspirational

…a coworker whose gifts you wish were more widely known

…someone who’s “an institution” full of interesting stories

…a role that has a new focus or is reaching a new audience

…someone you’d like to make more visible to potential employers

Submit name(s) and contact information, along with place of employment, to Shannon Mawhiney at smawhiney@missouristate.edu.  We’ll do all the work of contacting; we just need you to connect us!