You ARE a Youth Librarian
I was fortunate enough to be a presenter at a three day wonderment called the Wisconsin Youth Development Institute at a northern Wisconsin retreat center. Twenty-five participants applied and were accepted from a pool twice as big. They came together to learn about the history of youth librarianship, advocacy, collaboration, programming, planning, collection development, social media and much much more.
Our state Department of Public Instruction Division for Public Libraries Youth Consultant (say that really fast five times!), Tessa Michaelson Schmidt had the dream that resulted in this reality. Influenced by the Calli leadership model in Colorado and Oregon's leadership development institutes, she thought that offering an intensive two or three day retreat to give non-MLIS degree youth librarians a chance to sharpen their game would be a boon for those librarians, their community, and ultimately, for youth services in our state.
Tessa asked for and received LSTA money to fund what she hopes will be a biennial learning experience. Applicants needed to get permission from their board and director to attend the Sunday afternoon through Wednesday noon intensive institute. Each participant was asked to come up with a goal and project, work on that for the following year and report back their progress. She also asked that anyone coming commit to the institute fully - no skipping sessions to visit friends or relatives or hide away. Evaluations, notes and goal setting would be on-going at each session. Her hope was that everyone, sharing and reflecting on the same experiences, would more fully be able to support each other- and themselves.
It was a major commitment. And what would participants receive in return? A chance to work together with each other and presenters to boost their knowledge and skills and develop a network of colleagues to assist them as a Personal Learning Network. A beautiful location and facilities to help them center themselves and focus their participation. Constant access to mentors and peers to work, eat, play, think, learn and laugh with.
Tessa did the lion's share of the preparation - poll participants for what sessions they wanted to have; booking the venue and all the arrangements that entails; phone-meet with her presenters to map out lectures and activities; kept in contact with participants to prepare the for the day; gather supplies and stuff packets. Answer many emails from participants and presenters dipping their toes into this totally -new-for-Wisconsin adventure.
So on Sunday afternoon, presenters Tessa, Sue Abrahamson, Lean Langby and I gathered and welcomed the inaugural cohort to this most excellent adventure. We were joined halfway through by Merri Lindgren and Megan Schliesman of the CCBC. It was eye-opening, rewarding, fascinating, fun, emotionally uplifting and EMPOWERING! Both presenters and participants learned from each other over those four days.
Many of the people who came felt like - or had been told - they weren't "real" librarians because they didn't have an MLIS. We smashed that stereotype and invited everyone to step up into their real titles as librarians. The change was...electric. And very emotional. We all could see and support the change that we saw happening in each of us. Through formal and informal sharing at sessions, meals, on walks, in rooms, around the firepit, people's confidence and knowledge were visibly boosted.
Our final session sharing the goals each person was going to go after was powerful and powerfully emotional. People shared their project and their dreams for themselves and most shared the profound support and change they felt personally and professionally. The presenters, too, shared their gratitude to everyone for all that had been offered back to us. My own message echoed them and I reminded everyone to share this feeling and support with co-workers in their library, neighboring libraries and around the state. Find ways to lift others as they - and I- had been lifted by this experience.
Thank you Amy, Andrea, Ann, Arin, Arlene, Barb, Cindy B and Cindy T ("the Hooligan"). Thank you Cole and Davy, Deb, Diane, Essie, Gina, Jody, Judy, Kaye, Leah, Lisa, Lyn, Maria, Mary, Monica, Sally ("Baby"), and Tammy. Now you know and I know and we know very much more of who we all are. Your journeys were mine as well. Thank you Sue, Leah, Tessa, Merri and Megan for all you shared and did. You blew me so far away in such a great way I hope I never touch down.
I will carry all thirty of you with me always - amazing youth librarian colleagues all.