Interviewer: Jackie Flowers
The morning alarm goes off, you hit snooze until you can’t put it off any longer: it’s time to go to work. For most people, there are things to dread about the workday: unrelenting emails to answer, dry meetings to sit through, reports to write and rewrite. When Jessica Roy wakes up in the morning and thinks about her workday ahead, her thoughts go elsewhere. She’s thinking about having the chance to “wear a monkey costume, play with playdoh and sing a ridiculous song”. What sort of job does Jessica hold? Well, she’s a Children’s and Teens' Programming Librarian, of course.
Jessica works at the Alta Vista branch of the Ottawa Public Library (“OPL”), a role she’s held for a year-and-a-half. She is a graduate of Laurentian (Bachelors of Religious Philosophy) and McGill (M.L.I.S.). She is currently in her second career since graduating from her Masters.
Her first job after finishing her Masters was with the Montreal Children’s Library (“MCL”). MCL is a non-profit organization, separate from Bibliothèque de Montréal, which provides materials and programs to children under the age of 12 in under-served communities. As the only librarian in her branch, she had to wear many hats. The job was a satisfying one because the collections were well-used and the programs were well-attended. Jessica was lucky to have landed a job right out of school that provided her with many of the job elements she was looking for. She attributes her success in landing a great first job to a few factors: 1) her experience working as a page/circulation staff in a public library; 2) her enthusiasm and eagerness for the job; and 3) experience working with children.
Presently, Jessica works for a large branch in the OPL system. In her role, she is responsible for the following:
· maintaining and promoting the children’s collection at her branch
· programming “toddlertime” for her branch
· networking in the community for the benefit of the branch
· organizing external children’s programs for all OPL branches
· delivering outreach programs (storytimes and book talks in daycare centres and schools)
· sitting on internal committees (focused on library policy development).
Of course, being part of a larger library system, like OPL, has many benefits. Jessica spoke about the ability to share and learn from other children’s staff, a practice that is encouraged by administration. Informal discussion and formal presentations by colleagues are part of the perks for a new librarian. Her branch will be closed for a three-month period during which time Jessica will have the opportunity to spend time between several different branches throughout each week. This will again give her an opportunity to learn from her colleagues and share her own experiences.
For children’s librarians in larger communities, there are opportunities to take on more management positions. In ten years, she sees herself continuing to work with children but likely with some additional supervisory responsibility. For the meantime, Jessica finds that her current job gives her the needed components to be happy in a job: it’s energizing, interesting and fun. She comments that “a lot of children’s librarians will tell you that they really found gold” in their careers.
According to Jessica, the most important thing a children’s librarian does is “communicate your enthusiasm for books and reading.” Librarians perform this role through book talks, storytimes and readers’ advisory (which Jessica can do in English and French). The impact that children’s librarians have on children is often hard to measure accurately or comprehensively; it’s more of a faith to believe in.
Some other fun facts about Jessica Roy:
If you weren’t a children’s librarian, what would you be? Children’s author.
What do you do for professional development? Read other librarians blogs (see Alex Yarrow’s blog). Go to conferences. Read School Library Journal.
What are some of your favourite children’s books? Black Book of Colour; The Baby Goes Beep
On behalf of the CYA, we are deeply thankful to Jessica for taking the time to provide us with this interview.