MLA Featured Library Employee — Pam Wood

Pam Wood, Stone County Library

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

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

My name is Pam Wood and I am the Stone County Library Youth Services and Outreach Coordinator.

What originally got you interested in working at a library?

A few years ago, my oldest son had just started college and I was still homeschooling my two younger children. I was looking for part time employment and thought a library position would be perfect because I love helping and interacting with people of all ages. I noticed online that a youth services position had opened at the Midtown Carnegie Branch of the Springfield-Greene County Library. I love reading and always loved reading books to my own children, so I knew any position that allowed me to host story times would be perfect. I worked at Midtown for just over four years and I’ve been with Stone County Library since February of 2020. Story time is still one of the best parts of my job!

What keeps you coming back every day?

I was born and raised in Stone County so I thoroughly enjoy serving its citizens. In my current position, I have the privilege of interacting with patrons of all ages during story time, art programs, summer reading programs, school visits, community outreach events, and while delivering materials to our homebound patrons. My job is full of variety so there is no chance of getting bored.

What’s challenging about your work?

Planning summer reading is always challenging! We have a top-notch youth services team and we all collaborate to plan summer reading programs. One of my primary responsibilities is to coordinate summer reading performances and library visits to our local schools. It has gotten easier each year but it’s still tricky because I have to tentatively book performers long before most of our schools know their summer school schedule. Thankfully, our schools and the performers we’ve worked are very flexible when schedules don’t work out quite as I anticipated.

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

I am passionate about treating all of our patrons with kindness and respect, regardless of age, gender, or lifestyle and even when dealing with difficult issues. We never know what kind of day someone is having and everyone deserves a greeting and a smile.

Who is one of your mentors?

My mentors are my three sons, ages 20, 22, 25. They are all so witty and unique and truly comfortable in their own skin. Recently, I was reminded of just how amazing they are . On July 26th, our youngest suffered the devastating loss of his girlfriend, the woman he planned to spend the rest of his life with, from injuries she sustained in a car accident. His brothers dropped everything and took time off work just to be with him and support him and grieve with him. I’ve always said they have each other’s backs but seeing that expressed in such a tangible, meaningful way was amazing.

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.

This is VBS week, August 7-11, so that has consumed my evenings – in a good way! I’ve also been listening to City Spies by James Ponti. It’s a 2022-2023 Mark Twain Award Nominee and is so much fun. It’s fast paced and the characters are kids that come from difficult living situations and each have specialized talents – computer coding and hacking, amazing deductive reasoning skills, and sleight of hand skills to name a few. In this first book of the series, they end up in Paris, working with MI6 to stop a criminal mastermind. If you are looking for a fun, quick read, I highly recommend it!

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

One of the most rewarding parts of my job is attending community outreach events. If you’ve never had the opportunity, I would encourage you to attend an outreach event in your community.  During the summer and fall, there are many outreach opportunities in Stone County. I love going to these events. It’s so rewarding to engage with our patrons outside of the library and talk with them about all the great programs and services we offer. And when the kids see us at an event, they make us feel like celebrities!

 

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!

Banned Books Week Statement- MLA-IFC- September 19, 2022

In honor of Banned Books Week (Sept 18-24), the Missouri Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Committee would like to clearly state our position on SB 775 and related actions by legislators, administrators and school board members. On behalf of our members and readers across the state, please join us in resisting attempts to undermine intellectual freedom.

Banned Books Week Statement- MLA-IFC- September 19, 2022

Librarians are no shrinking violets, don’t let our cardigans and thick-rimmed glasses fool you. None of us want to be arrested for doing our jobs, but we will not sacrifice our ethical and moral principles simply because we are threatened. SB 775 confronts librarians with a fine and up to a year in prison for the “crime” of helping a young person find the next volume of their favorite graphic novel. Libraries are not here to protect arbitrary “innocence” or “purity” standards, we are here to protect the freedom and richness of our readers’ intellectual lives. We are here to provide them with access to the world of ideas, and to nurture their development as citizens of the world. This means encouraging inquiry and trusting readers to choose their books.

Librarians hold true to our convictions in the face of injustice done to the rights of readers by SB 775. The members of the Missouri legislature who made the change to MO-Revised Statute 573.550 are engaging in a cynical act of cowardice; the governor became complicit when he signed this bill into law. These politicians would shrink the world to improve their chances to win reelection, and in doing so, shortchange and disenfranchise countless readers in our state. Librarians are public servants who work to support access, literacy, and democracy; all of which are foundational principles that support public institutions. We as librarians ask why Missouri’s legislature seems intent on producing bills that curtail the freedom of the general public, that undermine voting rights, that intimidate long-time public servants in an effort to curtail intellectual freedom. We question what gives them the impression that voters want fewer rights? We wonder if the true wellbeing of their voters even enters into their decision making at all.

Libraries and schools are under constant scrutiny, and are consistently underfunded in our state. While we act in good faith to support the public good, legislators seem to spend their time working to undo any progress we make, scheming and acting in bad faith to undermine that public good in the name of political expediency. This seems, from our careful observation, to be the political strategy of those who oppose intellectual freedom: Undermine public education, limit access to diverse viewpoints through libraries and curricula, and encourage the most negative elements of public sentiment toward ignorance and bigotry. Librarians oppose this strategy. It is antithetical to everything we believe and practice in our work and lives.

We stand against oppressive legislative efforts to undermine the public good, and we stand with our readers.

Joe Kohlburn, 2022 Chair
Intellectual Freedom Committee
Missouri Library Association

Tiffany Mautino, Past Chair
Intellectual Freedom Committee
Missouri Library Association

Colleen Norman, 2023 Chair
Intellectual Freedom Committee
Missouri Library Association

Casey Phillips, Social Media and Communications
Intellectual Freedom Committee
Missouri Library Association

Letter to the Rockwood School District 09/09/2022

Dr. Curtis Cain
Superintendent
111 East North Street
Eureka, MO 63025
cc: Jaime Bayes
Board of Education President

September 9, 2022

Dear Dr. Cain and Ms. Bayes,

We send letters like this to point out the potential impact of harmful policy decisions. When we advise school districts, library boards, or local politicians against infringing on the first amendment rights of readers, we do so to protect the freedom to read. In most cases, these efforts to censor and control what people read are undertaken with some form of nefarious intent, whether that is to push particular political agendas, to foist religious dogma on public institutions, or to undermine the wellbeing of groups of people who have been historically marginalized by our society. In few cases, like yours, we can appreciate that your effort to remove certain graphic novels is undertaken out of an abundance of caution, and to ultimately protect your employees from prosecution under Missouri’s unjust addition to Missouri Revised Statute 573.550, put into place by SB 775 just recently. That being said, the impact of the decision to remove these books will be the same as the aforementioned nefarious efforts of others. In choosing to preemptively remove graphic novels from your collection, you are sending the message to your students that you support SB 775’s intent, which is to chill access to information, art, and culturally relevant materials in your collection.

We noted with concern that each of the graphic novels you list for removal in your recent post is a locus for just the sort of critical reflection that we claim to be teaching in K-12.  All of these works are cultural touchstones representing political issues or aspects of identity relevant to historically marginalized communities. The visceral impact of graphic novels makes them an important tool for promoting literacy, and for grappling with difficult psychological and sociological issues. For example, Sean Murphy’s Batman: White Knight asks questions about the brutality of our justice system and Katie Green’s Lighter Than My Shadow is the story of the main character’s struggle with disordered eating; these are both books on your removal list. Other graphic novels like Be Gay Do Comics collects stories from diverse artists and writers across the LGBTQ+ spectrum, while Margaret Atwood and Renee Nault’s Handmaid’s Tale presents a dystopian picture of reproductive rights, reflecting the reality in which we now live. These also are on your list for removal.

Obscenity laws like that put into place by SB 775 are simply a means to block access to truth. Visual art, like the written word, is a means by which society views itself through the lens of the author or artist. In this case, it is obvious that certain perspectives are being censored as a means to suppress the vitality and freedom of the reader’s intellectual life. To what end? We ask you as leaders in your district to have courage in the face of this law, to support your staff and your students, and to stand with us against censorship. SB 775 is clearly meant to intimidate districts into taking actions just like the one outlined in your post. Any success of this law will only feed future similar successes, undermining the autonomy of educators as professionals and the wellbeing of students. You will find that elsewhere, as in Virginia last week, laws like this are being overturned outright.  As educators, and stewards of the intellectual wellbeing (not the “purity”) of young people, you must fight back! SB 775’s addition to 573.550 exists exclusively to create chaos in public institutions, and to eventually drive principled teachers and librarians out of the profession. While we can understand trying to protect your employees from being charged with a misdemeanor for doing their jobs, preemptive censorship is ultimately more harmful than theoretical lawsuits that may never come. We as the Intellectual Freedom Committee are also prepared to support you and your district by way of writing letters, providing resources, and communicating with relevant parties. We implore you to reconsider your choice to remove the aforementioned comics and others, and to stand with us in protesting this absurd and unjust law.

Sincerely,

Joe Kohlburn
Intellectual Freedom Committee Chair
Missouri Library Association

Casey Phillips
MLA-IFC Member/ Social Media and Communications

Colleen Norman
Intellectual Freedom Chair-elect
Missouri Library Association

 

Kimberly Moeller
MLA-IFC Member/MLA Executive Board Member

 

Otter Bowman
President-Elect
Missouri Library Association

 

Tiffany Mautino
Intellectual Freedom Committee Past-chair
Missouri Library Association

 

Kris Dyer
MLA-IFC Member/Legislative Liaison

 

Hope Hunter
AASL Delegate/MASL