Monica LaVold started at the River Falls Library just before the Summer Library Program hit, and she's still with us, which is a great sign, I think! You'll all enjoy getting to know this thoughtful, enthusiastic person! Here she is, all agog as she holds an original painting by Clement Hurd from Good Night Moon at the Kerlan Collection at the University of Minnesota.
What is something you’ve discovered you really enjoy about your job as youth services librarian in River Falls?
I think my favorite part so far is meeting and getting to know the families that come in. I am new to this position – I was hired in April – and fairly new to being a Librarian, so I have been learning and discovering new aspects of the job almost nonstop. Being in youth services is very much a dream job for me, so it is equally hard to think of a part of this job that I don’t enjoy. I love people, so being able to be a part of a community and to support that community through my work is a huge joy for me. I really like book clubs, because I think so much happens there – literacy development, social development, communication skills, and relationship building. I love to watch a shy or introverted kid find a way to express themselves or feel like they are heard and respected.
What’s something you’d like to do at the library if you had unlimited time and money?
Great question! And so hard to answer. I feel like I have been so immersed in figuring out what I am doing and how I am want to change things here in River Falls (or not change, as the case may be) that I am more focused on the here and now than on the “what if” of the future. One thing that I would love to do would be to bring in some writing programs – poetry, creative writing, etc. that kids and teens could attend and practice writing in a fun way. I also would like to start an Anime and Manga program for teens here at some point. I am sure as I am here longer, my “wish list” will grow even larger.
How do you think your experiences as a teacher and mom are informing your current work as a librarian?
I worked as an Elementary teacher for a few years before becoming a stay-at-home mom for 5 years. Both of these have been invaluable to not only getting this job, but being successful at it. Being a teacher gave me a lot of insight into development – and how that is SO different for every child. I have actually worked as a special education teacher, focusing mainly on Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, which is a huge umbrella covering a number of disabilities such as Autism, ADHD, and even Conduct Disorder. I think the most important thing I have taken from that experience is that everyone, no matter the label, is an individual and needs to be respected as such. We do not fit into perfect “boxes” – none of us. Being a mom has really backed this up! I have two boys, ages 10 and 12, and they are SO different. They learn differently, grow differently and even communicate differently. I can’t assume that if one child responds to something, the other one will, too. I think that has made me a better librarian, because I am prepared to adjust and be flexible with programs, ideas, and even book choices. We are just not a one-size-fits-all world, and I don’t want to fall into the trap of working that way.
Tell us about a book you’ve read or audiobook you’ve listened to recently that you really enjoyed. Why was it so good?
I recently read John Green’s entire body of work and am completely blown away by him as an author. I can’t stop telling people to read him. I think that The Fault in Our Stars might just be one of my top favorite books ever. I was trying to figure out why it was so amazing, and I think it is because he handles such a touchy subject – death – with humor and with a voice that is so realistic and genuine that it just strikes a perfect emotional chord. Not over sweet and simpering, but not dismissively funny either. I think it just felt beautifully and terribly true. I also need to try to read some “grown-up” books from time to time, just to remind myself that I am an adult, and I have been listening to Jim Butcher’s Furies of Calderon series lately. It is pure escapist fantasy and does a nice job of distracting my brain from daily worries. I just checked out InGenius: A Crash Course on Creative Thinking and am pretty excited to start that one next.
I am a HUGE extrovert, so I get excited pretty easily and no problem showing it. I am excited by so many things that are happening right now. My family and I moved to River Falls just 2 months ago and I am excited to be a part of this community and to see my kids succeeding in school and making great friends.
At the library, we started a Young Adult for Adult book group this summer, and I am very excited about that. It has been a great way to get parents and other adults in the community reading Teen books – and we have the most amazing discussions about them – discussions that delve much more deeply into the philosophy and background of the books that I normally get in a teen book group.
I am excited when I can connect a child or a teen with a book that really resonates with them – because I think that is the heart of what we do. I LOVE that! When I can really turn someone on to a great book, and they then seek out more, it just makes me want to do a happy dance right at the library (and yes, I do dance a bit).
What is an activity/action rhyme/book/song that you have found works especially well with kids?
In this, I have to give a huge THANK YOU to Jodi Bird in Menomonie who is acting as my mentor and has given me a few tips and ideas for doing story times. I had very little story time experience when I started this past spring and it is an area that I still want to explore and learn more. But, Jodi gave me a number of short activities she and her coworkers have used over the years, and I have borrowed and adapted a few.
One of them “What do I have in my bag today” I have taken and made a central part of both my toddler and preschool aged story times. I have a “letter of the day” kind of theme, and we do finger plays and stories that feature that letter. Then I have a bag of items that start with that letter, and I sing “what do I have in my bag today” and pull out those items. With the preschoolers, I have them guess and come up with ideas of things that might start with the letter of the day, while with the toddlers, I simply pull them out and have them name them and say the words. I think the kids enjoy it.
Being so new, I think it is easy for me to feel overwhelmed and wonder how I can be doing “better”. I think one of my favorite things about choosing librarianship as a career is that we are so helpful and communal. Also, I think this is the best job in the world for someone who wants to keep growing, learning and trying new things. I wish I could thank every librarian who has ever helped me out, freely shared tips, techniques, and ideas, and given me things to think about and ideas to learn from. I am so honored to be numbered among you.