Today’s Librarian’s Spotlight features a lovely lady whose blog I’ve been following for some time now. While reading her blog, I’ve found she’s had some really cool things to say about being in a PhD program, YA lit, and many other bookish topics. It’s my pleasure to present this wonderful, informative interview with librarian and blogger extraordinaire, Tara Anderson!
Roaring Out: Please introduce yourself and speak a bit about your background with libraries.
Tara Anderson: Hi! I’m Tara Anderson, and I finished my MLIS in School Library Media in 2010. I worked in a middle school library for three years before deciding to go back to school and get my PhD. I originally wanted to do my PhD in Library Science, but decided that a PhD in education would be me more marketable when looking for tenure-track faculty positions upon graduation. Fun fact: I was voted “most likely to be a librarian” in fifth grade.
RO: What made you want to become a librarian?
TA: I became a librarian with the specific intention of becoming a school librarian. I taught middle school for a few years, and did a lot of lessons in the school media center. The school librarian suggested that I might make a good school librarian with my love of books and my tech skills, so I applied to library school and took the plunge.
RO: You are currently working on your PhD in YA literature. What is your least favorite aspect of getting your PhD? What is your favorite aspect of getting your PhD?
TA: My favorite aspect of getting my PhD is having a lot of freedom in what I do with my days. I get a lot of control over my classes and the papers I write within those classes. And even though I spend a lot of time on studying and research, I can do a lot of it from local coffee shops. My least favorite part is always feeling like I should be doing more. There are always so many things on my to-do list!
RO: Librarians have been pegged with several stereotypes. Are there any that you find particularly amusing?
TA: I find the sexy librarian stereotype rather amusing. I’m kind of the opposite of that. I like the idea that we can be sexy and smart, but I think personal brand of sexy is a little outside of what that stereotype is portraying.
RO: What is your favorite database/online resource? Why?
TA: I was always a fan of procon.org . A lot of middle school projects have students practicing argumentative essays or exploring issues in politics or science. The site is a good starting point for these essays, clearly defining both sides of the issues. It is designed for students, and fits all of the criteria for “trustworthy resources” that we try to teach in middle school: it has citations, a clear creator, and well-organized content.
RO:What book are you currently reading, or have recently read, that you would recommend? Conversely, what book are you currently reading, or have recently read, that you not would recommend?
TA: I’m currently reading Noggin by John Corey Whaley, and it is brilliant! The premise that a kid has his head cryogenically frozen when he gets really sick from cancer, and comes back to life 5 years later when they connect it to another body. The science is supposed to be a little wacky, but the story itself is an interesting exploration of second chances. As for a book I wouldn’t recommend, I just finished The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery and found it obnoxiously pretentious.
RO: Your blog, The Librarian Who Doesn’t Say Shhh, is really such a wonderful place for literary types. What prompted you to start your blog and expand your love of books outside the library’s walls?
TA: My blog started as a blog in my media center, but it become very clear within a month that I wanted to say things a little too controversial for a middle school blog. I decided to move from Blogger to WordPress and pursue a personal blog.
RO: You have a very consistent posting schedule (posting once every weekday. With all that you juggle, how are you able to keep up with all of your posts and the comments they receive?
TA: I schedule everything ahead of time! The blog in general has a posting schedule that forces me to spread my content out. I do reviews on Mondays and Thursdays, quotes on Fridays, I post about graduate school on Wednesdays, and I usually do Top Ten Tuesday lists on Tuesdays. I’ll sit down while watching TV and write 4-5 posts when I’m feeling inspired. I have a calendar that I use to keep up with it all. The nice thing about the schedule is that a crazy week at school can go by and I might only miss 1 or 2 posts, rather than a whole week. If I disappeared tomorrow, the blog would run itself through mid-May!
RO: The Internet is full of wonderful resources for librarians, and you are active on many of those outlets. What do you love about connecting with other librarians/bookish types via social media and your blog?
TA: There is no possible way that I can read all of the books that I want to read or that kids want to read, but I really do feel like I know about a lot of books I haven’t read from reading reviews and musings on other blogs. Some of my fellow bloggers are still in high school, so they are also a good resource for thinking about YA books from the perspective of actual YAs. They have been a great resource, and I’m currently thinking about involving them in my dissertation in some way.
RO: We all know that kids say the darndest things. In your experience as a middle school librarian, what is the funniest interaction you’ve had with a middle-school patron?
TA: Middle school kids are nuts. In a good way, of course! I think my funniest interactions were with my TV news crew. We used to do the daily announcements on the closed-circuit television system. They used to come up with very creative ways to force me to play the news anchor for the day. I was supposed to just supervise and they knew I hated being on camera. One time they all changed into non-uniform shirts just before the news, knowing that I could not let them on the air out of uniform. It wasn’t something they could get away with all the time, but it was hilarious and they were so clever about!
RO: What is something librarians do that, in your opinion, should be considered a superpower?
TA: I’m pretty sure I can tell what’s happening on 24 computer screens at once. The kids used to joke that I can tell who is sneaking on Facebook from across the room.
RO: Going off of that question, if you could have a skill that is traditionally considered a superpower, what would it be?
TA: I would want to be able to be invisible at will. I’m a curious person and I would sneak into all kinds of meetings. I think this is why I want to be a researcher—I like observing people.
RO: Lastly, what advice would you give to someone who is considering going into the library science field?
TA: Jobs are pretty scarce right now, but not impossible. Have a pretty good idea of what you want to do before starting library school. I was able to land a school library job because I was already in the school system and had connections. However, some of my classmates are still looking for school library jobs (3 years later) because they have no classroom experience or connections and the schools are on hiring freezes. For anyone not looking into school libraries, being able to spread your job search across the whole country, or at least a region, will also help. Many of my classmates are unemployed or underemployed because jobs in general right now can be hard to come by. I know that sounds pessimistic, but it is realistic.
Thanks, Tara, for your advice and insight! If you’d like to keep up with Tara’s happenings, follow her on her blog or on Twitter.