Have you ever had a friend that you could call at any time and demand a frozen yogurt run? Or who would happily have a long conversation with you about which Doctor was the best one? Katie Salerno was that friend for me while we were in grad school together, and now she’s a super successful YA librarian putting her awesome interests to good use. I still go to her for advice and nerdy discussions, so I thought I would ask her some questions about what it’s like working with teens and being a new professional. Here’s some more about Katie:
Katie Salerno graduated from the University of Illinois’s Graduate School of Library and Information Science in December 2012. She currently works as a YA librarian at Somerville Public Library, a branch of the Somerset County Library System in New Jersey. When she’s not working, Katie enjoys writing her own YA novel, spending time with her family, especially her nephew Matthew, and interacting with the fandom communities of Teen Wolf, Supernatural, and more. She is currently reading Rainbow Rowell’s YA novel, Eleanor and Park.
M: In your transition from being a student to a new professional, what was most surprising to you?
KS: I’ve learned that communication, both written and verbal, is very important in the work place. For school, little communication was necessary to be successful. I always let my supervisors and my co-workers know what teen programs are being offered and what changes are made to the teen room, so if I’m not available when a question about teens is asked, my colleagues can answer with no problem. I’ve found that the best way to communicate is both in person and through email. This method ensures that my associates know and understand the current teen services.
M: What do you like most about your current job? What do you find most challenging?
KS: The best part is interacting and providing for the teens! Teens are a fun group, and I learn from them as much as they learn from me. They help keep me informed about their interests like gaming, while I teach them about topics such as research, SATs, and college.
The most challenging aspect is time management when working in a small library. Because we have such a small staff, I provide reference service for the majority of time I work, so I take advantage of any free time I have to work on programs and marketing.
3) How do you keep up with the interests and trends of teen patrons?
KS: Talking with local teens and other YA librarians is the best way to keep up with teen interests. I also use online book databases, such as Goodreads, to see what the newest YA book releases are, and blogs, such as Tumblr, to learn about teen movie and TV likes and dislikes. It also helps that a lot of my interests are similar to that of teens, such as Doctor Who, Harry Potter, and The Hunger Games. This allows me to have casual easy conversations with them, which in turn makes them feel comfortable enough to ask me questions about library services.
M: What do you find most challenging about managing a collection for teens?
KS: In my library, the most challenging part about collection management is circulating teen books. Since the library I work in is small and a part of a large system, often teens in the community go to the bigger library down the street that has a much wider YA selection. I found that displaying books and creating a section for new materials helped circulation rates increase.
M: What’s your favorite YA book/book series?
KS: I have quite a few favorites. One of the first books I’ve ever enjoyed was Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak. It’s a classic in YA literature, and I still remember it because it is the book that made me realize reading is enjoyable. It has a very unique feel mixed in with intense drama, which immediately caught my interest as a young middle school girl.
My current favorite book is Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell because she shows a distinct group of the teenage population, the fandom community. Not all of fandom is teenaged, like myself and other adults, but I feel like this group has not been represented before in such a realistic fashion. I haven’t related so much to a YA book as I did with Fangirl.
M: What advice would you have for library students or new librarians entering the profession?
KS: My advice is to be as personable as possible. Get to know other librarians and attend any teaching workshops your library offers, such as readers’ advisory training. It’s a great way to network and to learn more about how to be a better librarian.