|CLA Elections 2015 - Jennifer Baker|
I have worked in libraries for 25 years doing pretty much everything from shelving to administration. Throughout my experience I have had a love/hate relationship with the profession. I passionately love “librarianship”…what it stands for, what we do, why we do it, and the variety of ways of how. I love feeling that what we do has intrinsic, critical value and importance. Yet throughout my career I have also been continually frustrated with bureaucratic roadblocks, well-intentioned though ineffective leadership, disjointed efforts to fix ill-defined problems, and good old-fashioned whining.
I considered myself an optimist. Yet after many years of beating my head against various walls I understand the negativity that creeps into the thinking of otherwise great leaders in our profession. That is the basis of my concern. Although there are people in the world who are definitively negative in their approach to life, I believe many of us are just cynical. And more importantly, I believe that cynics are at heart disappointed optimists, many of them seeking an opportunity to be hopeful.
We are better connected than we have ever been before, yet there is still a huge disconnect between the front lines and the decision makers, locally and statewide. And many people recognize this. Over the years we have all heard the different battle cries: think outside the box, embed, defy gravity, make some noise, be the change, reimagine, transform, and, of course, make it happen.
There is a convergence of people now who want to “make it happen.” I have tried to be one of those people since day one of my career. The problem: “IT” is a moving target. The only way we will ever define IT and achieve IT is if we do it together, set aside our apathy, overcome our cynicism, turn our backs on the pessimists, and embrace optimism. I’m not running for CLA secretary because in 2016 we will face a critical juncture or unprecedented change, a crossroads or paradigm shift. I believe every day at the micro-individual-level and the macro-state-level we meet new opportunities and it’s time to collectively grab the brass ring. I want to work *with* the library community to figure out what IT is and MAKE IT HAPPEN!
I am not one of those people who grew up knowing she wanted to be a librarian. Although I did grow up visiting my community library and reading voraciously, I actually became a librarian because I was flunking a college ballet class. Now there’s obviously more to that story, but my point is that I found the balance, strength, flexibility, and, even grace, I lacked in a tutu in the library world and for that I will forever be grateful to three people: my mother who tucked the library employment application into the stack of ballet books she picked up for me, the assistant branch manager who took a chance on a pink-haired, going-nowhere college kid who brought her boyfriend to a page interview, and the dance master who, while in all other things was an arrogant jerk, allowed me to write a paper to save my undergraduate GPA.
Since my accidental introduction to the profession I have had incredible opportunities to work in many types of libraries with many amazing people. I have worked in large, urban libraries and small, rural ones, in youth services and adult, in public service and technical, on the frontlines and as an administrator. Three of the most amazing people I have met due to my career are my husband, Anthony Halstead (A classic love story: he was in reference; I was in children’s), and our two beautiful sons Nicolas and Ryan.
I am extremely proud of all the things I have accomplished in libraries but here are a few of my favorite highlights: helping the St. Helena Public Library achieve the honor of being the first California library to be named a finalist for Best Small Library in America in 2014, winning the Best-in-Show PRExcellence Award for our Harry Potter Cover-to-Cover Readathon program in 2011, and propelling Elsie the Library Cat from shelter rescue to internet stardom.
I am a team-focused, people-person. In all of the work I have done, win or lose, my favorite part has always been the day-to-day interactions with talented individuals who make what we do fun, exciting, and fulfilling. I believe the key to success for California libraries is in people: people in the stacks whether they be shelving or browsing; people in our communities who have library cards, shop on Amazon, or don’t read at all. There truly is something here for everyone—even uncoordinated, 19-year-old, wannabe ballerinas.