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Emily Ostrander

Children’s Librarian Trainee: Emma S. Clark Memorial Library, Setauket, NY
Children’s and Teen Librarian Trainee: Comsewogue Public Library, Port Jefferson Station, NY


What does a children’s and teen librarian trainee professional entails?

This profession entails, but is not limited to: Information dispensary, Programming, development of collections, development of bibliographies about collections, including lists, such as: princess picture books, Newbery winners, and teen graphic novels.

What is the larger field of work in which your job fits?

The Library master’s degree is worded as "Library and Information Studies," or "Library Science," depending on where you go. Librarians fit within the category of Information Specialists. My job is to curate information and disperse it to the public at their request.  Working with children though, my job is a little less deep database diving, and more fostering the love of reading through finding just the right book for a child.

How long have you been in this profession?

Technically six and a half years.  I started working in Emma S. Clark Memorial Library when I was 16.  I was a Page, which means I shelved books, prepared crafts, ran some select programs, and did whatever else was asked of me.  I was a Page up until March 2017 when I started working as a Librarian Trainee at Emma Clark. So I have been working as a librarian for a year and a half.

What does a typical day at work look like?

My typical work days depend on what is happening at the library that day.  Since programs, events, meetings, and other things are always happening, on any given day I could be answering reference questions, making phone calls, creating crafts, putting up or taking down displays, running a program, checking people into a program, helping a programmer set up, assisting other librarians in a project, sending out letters, helping patrons with technology issues, signing people up for programs, developing my part of the library’s collection, assessing damaged items, putting in work orders, writing up documents, talking to patrons in general, handing out prizes, cleaning up messes, or anything and everything in between.

What skills have you acquired through your profession?

I have acquired several skills through my work as a librarian thus far: first, information retrieval from what I would call, “unreliable witnesses”. It is my job as a librarian to tease out possible usable data points [such as ambiguous details] that I can work into a search phrase. Second, [the] skill of thinking on my feet, especially in programs. Once you get comfortable, you can read the mood of a room. If something is not working, you can sense it. Third, I have learned the art of being a non-judgmental, smiling face. There are times when you are working with an angry patron, or are sitting at the desk while a child throws a tantrum, or having to watch an uncomfortable discussion go down between warring parents. My job is to be the rock in the storm- being able to smile at the mom of a tantrum-ing toddler lets her know that she and her child are welcome in the library, and she does not have to hurry off in disgrace. I get to be there for people.

What is the most challenging part of your job, and the most rewarding?

The most challenging part of my job is when outside forces deny my patrons the materials they want. When a child comes up to me and asks for a certain book or type of story, and then just as I am about to give it to them as they beam at me, their caregiver comes over and says, “no, that’s no good for you, it’s not educational, you can’t read it”. Librarians know that any reading is good reading; reading in and of itself is educational regardless of what it is about.

The most rewarding part of my job is when I really get through to a patron, and get them what they need.  For example, when a reluctant reader approaches me, I take that as a challenge. When I talk to them, find out their interests, and connect them [to] something they will love, they leave the department beaming; I feel so happy for them, and satisfied in my work.

What is something work related that you look forward to?

I look forward to talking to the children.  Little kids are adorable, as are their questions.  I love to find them books or other materials that they will really love.  Furthermore, being able to show enthusiasm in their presence in the library, teaching them that they matter, and we love to help them is really a great thing I look forward to every day.

Are there any important aspects of your job that you would like to make a point on?

I would like to make a point that libraries are for everybody.  As a librarian, I see hundreds of different types of people on a daily basis.  As such, I have a desire to provide them with what they need. Libraries are a hub of diversity, and I want to accept that diversity through literature, programming, and interactions.  Library Science is a thriving field, and people should not be afraid to try to join it! We are a lovely bunch, and we are the quiet movers and shakers of the community. If you want to make a difference, become a librarian!

For Stony Brook students interested in your line of work, what is your advice for what they should study or do at this point in their education?

Stony Brook students who want to be librarians should immediately go out in search of a job in a library.  Until they are in the Library Science program, they cannot work as a librarian. However, they could definitely get a job as a page, a clerk, a librarian assistant, or something else of that sort.  In that way, they can get their foot in the door, get some experience in the field they want, and hopefully get to move up the ladder in that library or others. It worked for me!

In regards to studying, any major can be an undergrad for MLS.  One of my coworkers was a dance major before becoming a librarian!  However, if they want to maximize their experience, I would suggest English, potentially on the teaching track.  I did not take the teaching track myself because I did not want to work in the schools, but if they want to be a school librarian, they need the teaching certificate, and might as well get it before their masters.

What skills did you acquire through your studies at Stony Brook? Do you find that you are able to employ them in your job or day-to-day life?

Formulating a cohesive and grammatically correct sentence, extracting details from books [i.e. analysis], and interpretation. I learned to work with ESL students while working at the Writing Center at SBU, and became adept at both interpreting what they were trying to get across, and simplifying how I was explaining an answer. Having the skills to understand them and simplify my answers has been invaluable.

What was your favorite aspect of studying at Stony Brook. Did you have a favorite subject, or text?

My favorite aspect of studying at Stony Brook was the sheer intensity of the professors.  I don’t mean how hard they made the classes, but rather their palpable passion for the topic.  Professor Videbaek in particular was a glory to behold, her knowledge was unsurpassed, and her English nerdy t-shirts were a daily giggle. She was not the only one; all the English professors I worked with had such a love for the topic, they fostered that love in me as well, making my semesters a joy.  I believe my favorite class was Science Fiction with Professor Videbaek. The texts we read were fascinating- I especially loved The Illustrated Man- and the rousing discussions we had in class were electrifying!

What was an important experience of your at Stony Brook?

A life-changing experience was when I took a class with Professor Bente Videbaek, and received my first C+ grade on a draft of a paper. I lost it. After Professor Videbaek compassionately gave me some pointers, and after pulling myself together, I was determined to try to get the grade raised. I worked harder on that paper than probably any other I wrote since, because I wanted to prove to both myself and Professor Videbaek that I could be a good English Major, or even a great one.  When I got the final paper back with an A, I was so excited. Professor Videbaek, who knew I had been struggling, came up to me and said, “See, I knew you could do better!”. Her actions in both giving me that C+, and then the A, showed me that with hard work and focus, I could be an amazing writer. She had seen my potential and pushed me to be the type of student I am today. I am forever grateful for that momentary failure that ended in celebratory success.


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