Meet our most recent Featured Library Employee for the Missouri Library Association, Kelsey Fitzgerald!
- What is your name, your library, and your role at the library?
Kelsey Fitzgerald, Ozark Regional Library, Youth Librarian
- What originally got you interested in working at a library?
My interest in libraries was piqued as a child. I couldn’t believe that there were entire buildings devoted to books. As I grew older, I realized all that libraries have to offer. I worked for a summer in my university library at Baylor University and that was when the wheels really started turning about making this a career. I wanted to combine my love of books, education, volunteerism, and children and the perfect way to do that was to become a youth librarian.
- What keeps you coming back every day?
The families in the communities I serve keep me coming back every day. It is an amazing feeling when I see a child’s face light up while reading a book or participating in one of my programs. My favorite part is seeing a shy or withdrawn child become more comfortable and start openly enjoying all of the wonders of the library. The library is an amazing place for families to connect with others for entertainment, education, and support.
Another aspect of my job that keeps me coming back is the people that I work with at Ozark Regional Library and our shared desire to support the small, rural communities in which we live. The library is a staple of the community and we want to offer the very best resources possible. Combined with their desire to serve, my co-workers are kind, dedicated, and always good for a laugh.
- What’s challenging about your work?
One of the biggest challenges I face is getting children and their families into the library. Ozark Regional Library has four branches in small, rural communities and it is my responsibility to bring children and teen programs to all of them. Transportation and time are the biggest obstacles in getting families through the library doors. To help combat this, my co-workers and I offer programs in the local schools and daycares, and at community events. Our library has developed strong collaborations with community groups, schools, extension offices, media and more to ensure that we reach as many people in our community as possible.
- Has your work made you either curious, or passionate, or awestruck about something?
My work has made me passionate about collection development. My Library Director, Holly Martin Huffman, strives to have a collection of the very best materials and resources that will foster knowledge, imagination, and growth. I am thrilled that I share some of the responsibility in developing the collections for children and teens.
My passion for collection development led to an amazing opportunity for me to serve on the Missouri Association of School Librarian’s Truman Readers Award Committee. My participation on this committee has exposed me to hundreds of books for students in grades 6-8 and has introduced me to astounding school librarians that I may not have had the opportunity to work with otherwise. If you’re not familiar with MASL’s Readers Award lists, I recommend checking them out because a great deal of hard work and dedication goes into making those lists by school librarians, public librarians, and students.
- Who is one of your mentors?
I have been blessed to have worked with extraordinary people in all of the libraries in which I have served. The staff at Smith Public Library in Wylie, Texas, where I held my first youth department position, helped me get a strong start in this career. One particular individual that helped me get out of my comfort zone is Jennifer Ilardi, Youth Librarian at St. Louis County Library-Florissant Valley. I had the pleasure of working alongside her for the better part of a year and I loved how she challenged me and how her passion for youth services was contagious.
- 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.
With my involvement in the MASL Truman Committee, I don’t have much time for TV, but I do read at least two books a week. However, I don’t want to give any hints as to what might end up on that list, so I’ll just say that there have been some really good books published recently.
Personally, the book that keeps me constantly engaged is the Bible. I read it every day and believe it is the best book ever written. The Bible offers encouragement, courage, guidance, and truth.
- Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
Never underestimate the effect that libraries and library staff can have on a person’s life, especially the life of a child.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll do all the work of contacting; we just need you to connect us!