MLA Featured Library Employee — Kat Wright

Kat Wright

Meet our Featured Library Employee for the Missouri Library Association, Kat Wright!

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

My name is Kat Wright and I am the Assistant Manager at the Smithville Branch of the Mid-Continent Public Library.

What originally got you interested in working at a library?

My love of books and reading spurred me to study English in college. When my children were little, I would bring them to Storytime at the Library. I really enjoyed the atmosphere and the connection the library made with the families and the community. Storytime was a lot of fun for everyone with great books, music, and activities for kids to enjoy. I knew it was the place for me!  I was able to find a position working as a Storytime librarian and loved every minute of it!

What keeps you coming back every day?

The wide range of customers we see and the great co-workers I get to work with! Libraries make an impact in so many areas of the community, that keeps the job interesting and fun. It is so rewarding to make connections with individuals and groups and see how those partnerships develop into projects that make an impact in the community. Seeing how each staff member has a niche and connects with various groups and customers is really inspiring to me.

What’s challenging about your work?

I was promoted last year to Assistant Manager and moved to the Smithville Branch from the Parkville Branch. Learning about a new community and a new job can be challenging and fun. I miss working with the little kids and families at storytime but learning new skills for my position has been exciting. Being as flexible as possible and open to change has been important, especially as we have been working through the pandemic.

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

I think my passion for Early Literacy has continued to grow over the years. I have seen the important role that libraries play in providing materials and programs for young children and their families. Libraries can often be a bridge to literacy for families by providing them with a social space to experience books and music. I have had many parents tell me that they don’t have the first idea of how to help their children learn to read.  But after coming to storytime events they begin to get more comfortable with Early Literacy and their confidence inspires them to be great teachers to their children. These experiences inspire me to try and find unique ways to promote other services to the broader community and find ways to reach the people who need our services the most.

Who is one of your mentors?

My current mentor is probably my boss, Stacey Franklin. She has been very supportive of me in my new role, while being honest with me about my strengths and weaknesses. Stacey has helped me to embrace new technologies as well as evaluate every aspect of my job. Her kindness and sense of humor has helped me get through many different situations. We have worked together since last August and I have learned so much from her!

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 am currently reading Barkskins by Annie Proulx. Spanning 300 years, it tells the story of the settlers of New France in 1693 and the treacherous mysteries that occur when French and English trappers live alongside the Iroquois and attempt dominate the land. It’s also a National Geographic miniseries.

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

I am taking my final class this summer to complete my MLIS from the University of Missouri. I am so excited to be finishing this goal and look forward to focusing on my family and career in the coming months!

 

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 — Whitney Gerwitz

Whitney Gerwitz

Meet our most recent Featured Library Employee for the Missouri Library Association, Whitney Gerwitz!

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

Whitney Gerwitz; St. Charles City-County Library; I am the Government Documents coordinator at the Middendorf-Kredell branch.  I work with the Government Publishing Office to deliver current and relevant government information to the public.  I teach classes on voter registration, how to research candidates and issues for the election, how to search and find Congressional and local bills, decipher fake news, and many other government-related classes.  I love keeping people informed and making sure they have fun while learning!

I also work with another coworker on a series we created in 2017 called Current Conversations where we focus on current and somewhat controversial topics within our community such as racism, immigration, climate change, and prison reform.  We bring in local professionals who are experts within a specific field in order to allow open and honest discussion between members of the community.  After running it for a year, we contributed a chapter to a recent publication, Social Justice and Activism in Libraries, on how other libraries may implement a similar series at their own libraries based on our experiences.  This year, we successfully applied for a grant from the Missouri Humanities Council to help fund the series, so that’s exciting!

What originally got you interested in working at a library?

I actually ended up at the library completely by accident.  I spent most of my college life in a library instead of a sorority house or going to college parties (lame, I know).  After I graduated college, I applied to the library near my house in order to work while I was in grad school, but little did I know that twelve years later, I’d still be here.  When I started working for the library, it was right around the time the recession hit, and I realized how big of an impact the library has within the community.  I never realized the extent to which public libraries go for its patrons and how much of a cornerstone it is to a free society.

What keeps you coming back every day?

Knowing that you are a part of the community and being able to fulfill any need within the community is what keeps me focused on my job.  Being in Government Information, patrons approach me frequently regarding government and social services in hopes that I am able to help them enroll in social security, apply for disability, or help with taxes.  I may not be able to offer direct assistance, but I guide people on where to go and how to get the information they desire.  It also gives me ideas on what our community needs and can help plan programming accordingly, such as Medicare enrollment assistance or legal assistance with a non-profit legal organization, so those people can get help when they need it.  It always amazes me the amount of trust people put in libraries and librarians. They will come to us for any and every need they have.  Maybe I feel flattered that people put so much trust in me and the wonderful people I work with, but it’s a feeling that makes you want to keep coming back.

In light of recent events, it has become even more obvious how important libraries are to the community.  Libraries from all over have been able to come together and adapt to the needs of their community whether it’s offering virtual programs, providing hotspots, using their buildings as emergency distribution centers, utilizing their 3D printers for face shields, and more.  This took us all by surprise but the way libraries and their staff have adapted, it makes me proud to work in this profession.  I look forward to being able to walk back into my building and see what the future holds for libraries.

What’s challenging about your work?

No one day is alike when you work at a library, so there are always different challenges you face whether it’s dealing with the public, staffing issues, or keeping yourself up to date with technology.  I think the biggest challenge, however, is something every library faces and that’s trying to be resourceful while continuing to be creative and captivating when you have limited funding.  While challenging, this can be done!  Government Documents may not be the most exciting topic to some but when you build a photo booth from PVC pipe and equip it with an iPad, you can have people express why certain Amendments are important to them, give them patriotic photo booth props, or have them read famous speeches from history, and it will suddenly spark an interest in that topic.

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

It has certainly made me more passionate when it comes to information literacy and making sure people receive credible information.  I love that I work in a Special Collection made up of primary sources.  When someone asks me to find a book on a certain topic, specifically something they just heard in the news, there may not be a book published on the topic yet but I can almost guarantee I can find a Government Document on it!  Being able to find documents that are obscure to spark other’s curiosity or documents that are applicable to current events is like Christmas for me.  I love being able to share my passion with others!

Who is one of your mentors?

I have so many influencers in my career and personal life that it is really hard for me to pick a mentor.  I will have to say we have a great and supportive Government Documents group in the St. Louis area that meets a few times a year to see what everyone is doing in their libraries.  They are always available for questions and assistance when you need it and everyone works together so well.  Our regional coordinator at the University of Missouri, Marie Concannon, is such a great advocate for open records and mentor!

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 grew up in the 90s and am starting to feel really nostalgic lately so I have been listening to a lot of 90s music.  This must be how my parents felt in the 90s when they wanted to listen to 60s music all the time.  I don’t know how to persuade you on why you should pick this up, but just that listening to a little grunge and hip hop may make your work day a little better.

 

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 Statement on Covid-2019

Greetings MLA Membership,

We are entering unprecedented and uncertain times. The health and safety of our members and our communities is a top priority of the Missouri Library Association, especially in light of the presidential guidelines released today. These new guidelines issued by the CDC and the President recommend no gatherings over 10 people and to close schools.

The Missouri Library Association commends the libraries and local officials who have made the very hard decision to close their doors to the public and at the same time, we encourage others to take action.

The Missouri Library Association serves as a leader and advocate for Missouri libraries, and we call on all libraries in Missouri to close their doors until Sunday, April 5th, and to ensure that staff are fairly compensated during this crisis.

Libraries must do their part to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and protect our staff and communities. The Missouri Library Association will do our best to stay on top of this quickly evolving situation and to communicate regularly as conditions change. We are providing resource lists for remote work, as well as virtual services and programming to patrons, and are here to aid in any way we can to support Missouri library workers. We must all work together to protect the most vulnerable among us, and to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Good luck and stay safe as we navigate through these difficult times.

– Missouri Library Association Executive Board

Library Advocacy Day 2020

Library Advocacy Day is about a month away! Join fellow librarians across the state on Wednesday, March 11th to talk to your legislators about how important libraries are to their constituents! It’s a day of education and advocacy for you and your elected officials. We will start the day with an overview and tips on talking with your legislators. Then, in the afternoon, there will be time to set up appointments with your legislators.

Just like last year, we will have some talking points prepared for everyone who attends. That seemed to work really well, and attendees liked having them as a quick reference. For those of you who participated in our Virtual Advocacy Campaign last year, we will have the same opportunity this year. Look for more information on that this week.

Registration is $30.00 and includes lunch. Register here: https://molib.wildapricot.org/event-3636093. Be sure to start making your appointments! To find your legislators, visit https://www.senate.mo.gov/LegisLookup/Default.aspx.

If you ever have any questions or concerns, please let me know. The Legislative Committee is happy to help!

Dan Brower
Legislative Committee Chair
Missouri Library Association

MLA Statement on HB2044

The Missouri Library Association is aware of and monitoring Missouri House Bill 2044 (known as the “Parental Oversight of Public Libraries Act”) and any other legislation that has an impact on libraries. The Missouri Library Association will always stand against censorship and for the freedom to read, and therefore opposes Missouri House Bill 2044.

The Missouri Library Association is committed to supporting all types of libraries. MLA exists to support the mission, vision, and values of those libraries, which connect their communities to vital resources. We support the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights and Freedom to Read Statement. Public libraries exist to provide equitable access to information to all of its users, as it is key to having an informed populace. Public libraries already have procedures in place to assist patrons in protecting their own children while not infringing upon the rights of other patrons or restricting materials. Missouri Library Association will always oppose legislation that infringes on these rights.

Cynthia Dudenhoffer
President, Missouri Library Association.

National Library Legislative Day 2020 – Register Today!

Happy 2020, Missouri Librarians!

National Library Legislative Day has been announced and registration is open! On May 4th and 5th, 2020, librarians from across the country will meet in Washington, D.C. to speak with U.S. Representatives and Senators. Arrangements have been made at the Georgetown University Hotel & Conference Center, just a few minutes from Capitol Hill.

The first day, at Georgetown, will involve briefing and training on issues and how to talk to your federal legislators. That afternoon, we will try to visit Senators Blunt and Hawley. On the 5th, we will meet with all of our Representatives.

It is a unique experience, and I would encourage you to consider it. Registration is very limited (capped at 400 attendees nationwide), so register early! Registration is $175 and includes breakfast and a reception on the evening of the 4th. Hotel information is also available at that link. ALA has reserved a block of rooms at $219 per night and are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. You cannot sign up for the room block until you have registered for the event, though. There are other hotel options around Georgetown and DC. However, most lodging will be at least that much. Now that the cost is out of the way, find more information and register: http://www.ala.org/advocacy/nlld.

If you know a library supporter (trustee, friend, general supporter) who would like to attend for the first time, there are scholarships available to non-librarians here: http://www.ala.org/advocacy/NLLD/funding.

As we get our group together, I will send out more information. As always, let me know if you have any questions!

Dan Brower
Legislative Committee Chair
Missouri Library Association