Meet our Featured Library Employee for the Missouri Library Association, Katie Hopkins!
What is your name, your library, and your role at the library?
Katie Hopkins, Springfield-Greene County Library District, Adult Programming Coordinator. My job is to oversee and support staff with adult program planning across our district. I head up our Adult Summer Reading Program, Winter Reading Challenge, and annual One Read events. I wear many other hats too – I serve on our district’s Inclusion Committee and I recently co-wrote a successful grant to make our programs and buildings more accessible to individuals with sensory processing challenges. I am also one of the conference coordinators for the MLA 2022 Annual Conference in Springfield.
What originally got you interested in working at a library?
Even though I grew up an avid public library user, library work kind of fell into my lap. In my early 20s my friend suggested I apply for a part time reference job at the library while I figured out what I wanted to do with my life. I quickly fell in love with the role I was playing in lifelong learning in my own community and 13 years later I’m still at it!
What keeps you coming back every day?
Admittedly, with everything going on in the world this past year and a half, it has been a struggle to come to work every day. But I consider myself a leader in our district and it is important to me that I keep trying to bring good energy into the workplace because I care about the people I work with. Programming is a creative outlet for many of our staff and it breaks up the monotony of frontline desk work. Helping foster staff creativity and energy and reinvigorating their commitment to serving patrons is ultimately what keeps me coming back.
What’s challenging about your work?
Finding a balance between staff ideas, public demand, and administrative concerns is an on-going challenge. Also, stepping outside of my personal interests and biases to design programming that is relevant to our community is always hard for me. However, it always pays off when you sense that flow of energy in a program when people are curious and engaged – that moment ultimately drives my work and makes the challenge worth the effort!
Has your work made you either curious, or passionate, or awestruck about something?
Wow, this is a tricky one! I think something about library work in general that continues to leave me awestruck is the argument that libraries are irrelevant – often from someone standing in front of me IN A LIBRARY. Anyone who works in a library sees on a daily basis the multitude of ways a library brings value to its community. It’s astounding that people who continue to make this argument think that because a library isn’t useful to them in a particular way, it must not be useful to anyone. It demonstrates to me that while we still have a lot of work to do to combat old stereotypes and spread the word about services, we also have lots of potential to continue finding new and interesting ways to serve our communities.
Who is one of your mentors?
One of my mentors is a photography professor I had in college named Alan Brown. We still stay in touch through social media. His best piece of advice then, and one I still use today, is “kill your darlings” which means that even if I really feel strongly that a program is a great idea, it has to fit in with the bigger picture. If not, I have to be willing to let it go for the greater good of my own work and that of the library. There are always a million great program ideas floating around but it is important to filter your selection down to the ones that are feasible to pull off and will resonate with your patrons. That can be really tricky but good ideas will still be good ideas further down the road. A good coordinator keeps track of them and knows when the right time is to bring them to fruition.
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’ve been watching “The Movies that Made Us” on Netflix this week. Besides being a comforting dose of nostalgia, these short documentaries demonstrate that the works of art we hold most near and dear to our hearts are frequently a patchwork combination of teamwork, persistence, frustration, seemingly random choices, and a little divine intervention from the universe. I think there are a lot of lessons to be gleaned from this.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
In the 2005 animated movie Robots there was a character whose motto for running his company was “see a need, fill a need”. This practice is at the core of my work in designing programming. Sometimes that need is very specific (like the workshops I designed for parents of children with disabilities) or even a little offbeat (like the program we hosted on cults in America) but if you can pinpoint that need and fill it, your library’s role in your community will be so much richer and the network of patrons you reach will be so much wider. Don’t neglect your adult programming – it is one of the best ways to demonstrate the library’s value to your community!
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!