Dinosaur Day, Pony Party, Spy Academy, and a vampires vs. werewolves debate.
These aren’t the names of the latest kids’ action movies, but a sample of the many ideas being introduced at the Vernon library by new youth services librarian Stephanie Vollick.
Vollick brings a love of children’s literature, but at just 25, she also brings her own youthful enthusiasm to the job she started in September, taking over from longtime youth services librarian Monica Gaucher.
“I went to the library often as a kid, and I wanted to be a writer or to work in publishing,” said Vollick, originally from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.
After earning a bachelor of English literature and communication studies, Vollick went on to earn her master of library science at the University of Western Ontario. Last June, she started working at the Salmon Arm branch of the Okanagan Regional Library.
“Working with books wasn’t necessarily part of my plan, but I liked the idea of working with the public and making libraries more accessible,” she said.
“The youth section appealed to me, and I always liked working with kids, and used to volunteer at the Y. I love kids’ literature, especially teen literature, and I had a great professor who taught the teen course.”
Since starting in her new job, Vollick admits the ideas are coming fast and furious: Knit, Knit Boom is a teen knitting club for youth ages 13 to 20, starting in January. And a Teen Advisory Group is being formed for ages 13 to 18, to encourage teens to share their opinions about the new teen space and teen events.
“We’ll stay with our popular storytime programs, and I’m also going to add things for school-aged programs, after-school programs such as board game nights. And I try and base everything around books.
“I really want kids’ ideas about programs because it changes so much, what they’re interested in. A big part of the appeal of libraries is that it’s a safe place to hang out, even if they are not there to read.”
Vollick said getting kids enthusiastic about reading starts with encouraging them to read about what interests them.
“Let them read what they want to read, let them have some fun reading. If they’re not sure what they’d like to read, they can fill out a personal booklist on our website.”
Vollick was encouraged when at a recent Harry Potter-themed event, the kids participating said they all enjoyed the book more than the film.
And rather than bemoan the popularity of the Internet, Vollick plans on making it an integral part of her work with youth, with the introduction of a teen blog and one for younger children.
“Teens can be shy about calling to register, so they can register for any of our groups online because they are just happier going online and clicking. And social networking will be used as well to feature new books.”
Vernon branch head librarian Maureen Curry said Vollick has come on board at an exciting time in the life of the branch, with the large, new space currently under construction on 30th Avenue downtown.
“Most librarians never get a chance to be part of something like this,” said Curry.
Curry said it’s an interesting time in history for public libraries, where librarians are required to balance both the electronic component and the book component.
“People have asked me about building a large new library and if anyone is going to use it in 10 to 20 years, but coming to the library can mean something different for everyone,” she said. “So to think down the road: we’ll probably have space for sharing, people can meet in small groups for having that connection, everyone has a different connection to the library and that’s our challenge and we enjoy that.”
And, while the beloved jungle-themed mural in the children’s section will not be making the move to the new library, Curry said she’s certain teens and children won’t be disappointed.
“We’ll have a teen section with comfortable seating and tables, more magazines, a place to hang out, we’ll have study carols and public Internet stations, windows, lots of light.
“And Stephanie is really bringing her strengths to the job, which is programming for youth.”
Vollick said she’s been encouraged by the enthusiasm of the little ones who have attended her storytime sessions.
“To see them so excited about it is wonderful, I had one little girl who was singing and dancing through the children’s section. And it’s rewarding to see kids come and get library cards, it gives them a sense of responsibility.”
And Vollick plans on continuing with the community outreach started by Gaucher, visiting district schools, and is booked up until May. During her weekly school visits, her programs may include storytime for the younger kids and a discussion of non-fiction with the older kids.
Curry said the school visits are a way of reaching the kids who might not get the message otherwise and will go home to their parents and ask to visit the library.
“I’m really excited about the many programs for teens that Stephanie is introducing, she is really connecting at their level and we don’t want teens to think the library is not a welcome space for them,” she said.
When it comes to her own reading, Vollick enjoys a wide range of fiction but if pressed admits to a love of the Hunger Games series.
“It’s been around for five years and still has a strong hold on people,” she said.
Vollick has discovered that while there is often a lack of awareness about all that the library has to offer, she also discovered the same thing applied when she was earning her library sciences degree and working part-time at Wal-Mart to help pay for her studies.
“Many people don’t realize that education is needed to be a librarian and I had people tell me I could come back and run the book section at Wal-Mart,” she said, smiling. “It was great being at school because I was surrounded by so many like-minded people.
“I did an internship at a law firm, but discovered that I prefer working with the public, seeing the kids so excited, that’s what I love.”