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Adventures in early literacy

Visionary Service Award

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Last week, I was honored to accept the Visionary Service Award from my state library association’s youth division. It’s such a big deal to me that I’m going to break my blog hiatus to celebrate myself. And, because without those of you still reading this, following me on social media, chatting with me every day on hangouts, and texting me messages of support and love, I wouldn’t have gotten this award. I’m sharing my acceptance speech (not quite verbatim but close) and words from the committee chair in case you’d like to read more about how amazing I am (please know I died a little typing those words).

This is also further proof as to why you should participate in the ALSC Mentor program. Karlyn, my nominator (pictured below, thanks to Heather @lopielovesbooks), was my mentee and is now not only my employee, but a great friend. Not that every mentor/mentee pair should end in a job, but I know from experience that they can lead to great relationships. Who wouldn’t want that?


Statement from Sarah Walsh, former CAYAS Board Member:

I hope you’ve all been enjoying the conference!

The Visionary Award committee, consisting of myself and last year’s co-winners, Mary-Ellen Braks and Gwendolyn Haley, were quick to decide on Kendra as the winner of this award. The nominations we received were inspiring, humbling, and made it clear how much our work as youth services librarians matters. It matters, it makes a difference, and we were delighted to have the opportunity of recognizing the nominees as exemplars of library services to youth.

Kendra’s nominator made a point of emphasizing that in just a year and half, Kendra has, quote, “transformed the Youth Services Department of the Timberland Regional Library District.” The list of her accomplishments in such a short time is truly mind-boggling: for the first time, the system was able to give away free books as prizes for Summer Reading finishers; she enhanced the STEM/STEAM programming by soliciting funding and purchasing all kinds of tools, kits and technology for the TRL system; she implemented a Storytime Training and mentoring program for TRL staff; and she increased the library’s involvement in the community by creating a new Outreach Youth Services Librarian position at the District level.

But what set Kendra’s nomination apart, and truly makes her a visionary, was that in addition to her dedication to improving access, resources and literacy support for TRL’s children and teens, she embodies what we’ve termed “librarianship as a lifestyle choice.” She spends considerable personal time advocating for and increasing awareness of the value of libraries and the critical role libraries play in today’s ever-changing social and political landscape. I think my favorite side note from her nomination was that her big ideas and proposed changes were sometimes a little tough to swallow! But her enthusiasm, confidence, and leadership have proven to be the spoonful of sugar that makes the medicine go down, and the results speak for themselves.

Kendra does our profession proud, and we are confident that she will continue to do so, in ways even she hasn’t dreamed up yet. Congratulations, Kendra!


Acceptance Speech

I’m so flattered and honored to receive this award. When I was notified I had been nominated, I was shocked. I was on the committee to choose the winner. First committee I’ve ever been kicked off. Then, I was chosen for the award. Obviously. And I was really shocked. What had I done to deserve this award? Does being hard headed and overly sarcastic count? Fortunately for me, others see more in me. One of those people is Karlyn Spevacek, all around incredible human, who I am lucky enough to supervise, and also count as a friend. She’ll be up here someday, mark my words. She said in her nomination:

“In the short span of a year and a half, Kendra has transformed the Youth Services Department of the Timberland Regional Library…she is the most passionate Librarian I have ever met and I believe she is a true mover and shaker in this profession.”

The committee chair then added that the committee was “especially wowed by the amount of free time I spend serving on committees and task forces focused on diversity and literacy.”

I wanted to note this because if any of you are like me you are sitting out there thinking “I want to be up there someday.” If so, you should know that several hours every week for the past 10 years has been spent after work and on weekends on mostly unpaid activities to contribute to our profession. The good news is I am not in this profession alone.

As any of you who knows me understands, I am a huge believer in working together and supporting each other. This is the foundation on which we created Storytime Underground. Supporting each other, across districts, libraries, departments, and even states, is essential. Great things happen in libraryland when we work together. So, I’m telling you right now, when you have a great idea, share it, even if it’s a wild one. Especially if it’s a wild one. When you hear a great idea, support it, even if it’s a wild one. Especially if it’s a wild one. Work hard to make great things happen for your community. Be passionate and don’t be shy about that! Be a squeaky wheel when you need to be. Stretch yourself to do things that are uncomfortable; insert yourself into meetings you want to attend even when you aren’t invited.  Get involved!!! Run for the CAYAS board or volunteer for an ALSC committee. I hear there are openings! Ask for help. Find a mentor. Find your people- your cheerleaders, your personal learning network, your team. Keep them close and keep the door open for more. We can always use more friends. And pay it all forward.

So, now I’m going to thank basically the whole library profession. Feel free to tune out for like 20 seconds. Thanks to my colleagues and best friends in Nevada who were there when I was just a babybrarian in library school, the many fabulous librarians in Washington, Clackamas, and Multnomah counties in Oregon for taking a chance on a noob librarian and hiring me right out of library school and then encouraging me to do awesome stuff, all the rock stars from Fort Vancouver including my former supervisor Ruth, who taught me more about compassionate librarianship than anyone else, the Joint Chiefs and other cofounders of Storytime Underground for making me stretch my brain to understand perspectives outside my echo chamber, to my personal learning network and friends for knowing the answers to all my questions and not judging the volume or content of those questions, and for joining me in my quest to make sure every library provides equitable, inclusive services to the ALL the kids in our communities. Thanks to all of you who I’ve had the pleasure of learning from and teaching-many of you in this room- and to the staff at Timberland for being flexible and embracing the changes I suggest. Steering the Youth Services ship would be a lot harder if they were being pulled behind the ship instead of grabbing an oar.  If not for all these people, and my incredibly supportive and patient husband who is quite thrilled to cook me dinner every night so I can get work done, I would not have been able to do all the things I’ve done. So, thanks to my entire support network, and thank you all for doing the work you do every day. You are all incredible.

Now, go kick some ass. And let me know if you need any help.



Author: Kendra

Children's Librarian in the Northwest. Lover of toddlers, twitter, and TV (T's, too, apparently!).

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