As the library system grows and the formats of reading and youth education change, Shalin says he’s excited to work through the changes and help provide free educational services throughout the year.
Name: Thomas Shalin
Profession: Youth Services Coordinator for the Bartow County Library System
Family: My wife, Katie, and two boys, Owen, age 7 and Henry, age 5.
Education: Masters in Library and Information Science — San Jose State University
What brought you into the role of youth services coordinator?
A. I love stories and I love children’s books. I love libraries. All throughout my life I’ve been a big library user, especially in college. I’d easily check out as many if not more children’s books as I would research materials for my projects. When I graduated, I worked for some time doing film and TV production jobs, but that love of books and stories never left. I grew tired of the TV production grind, so when I found out that I needed a degree to become a librarian, I went back to school and here I am.
What are some of the responsibilities of youth services coordinator?
A. It’s a very multifaceted job. You have to wear a lot of different hats. One minute you’re a performer and a storyteller, one minute you’re a researcher, one minute you’re a manager, one minute you’re an artist, one minute, you’re doing public relations, and one minute you’re cleaning up mysterious messes and spills on the carpet. The list goes on and on. I think some people might think librarians can sit around and read books all day. Ah, if only that were the case. There’s also the stereotype that librarians are quiet and introverted, but to work in a children’s department, nothing could be further from the truth. You have to be patient and like talking to people, especially kids. Kids are awesome. Kids are hilarious. Our teens are also really fun and interesting to talk to. You can’t be scared of them either. They’re up front with you and will tell it like it is.
I oversee the Youth Services Department which involves planning programming for kids, teens and families, doing collection development and promoting the library. We try to have a wide range of programming for all ages, from infants through teens. We definitely stay busy. I also am in charge of the youth collection development for our system which consists of ordering new books and materials and updating and replacing outdated, damaged and lost ones. We are always promoting the library, creating fliers, doing outreach to schools, and looking for ways to partner with our community. I think we do a lot at our library but I also feel that is so much more work to do and so much that we would love to try. If only we had more people, more money and more time in our day. I love my job. Where else can you get paid to tell stories, plan puppet shows, make awesome crafts, see live reptiles, order fantastic books and so much more, all while helping kids become better readers.
What do you feel are the greatest services the library provides to young people in the community?
A. Free access to books, materials and computers. Those things bring opportunity. Opportunities to learn something new, opportunities to be inspired, opportunities to become a better reader and a better student, opportunities for teens to connect, study, find a job or hang out with their friends, and opportunities for families to come together and connect through stories. It’s so important for kids, especially younger kids to have access to reading materials and to be read to. By providing those things free of charge, it empowers families to be able to better support their kids academically and empowers kids with self-confidence. All free of charge.
How have you seen the needs and requests of youth change in regard to library services?
A. We have a big demand for teen fiction, from both teens and adults. E-reader use is growing with our teen patrons and we are always in the process of acquiring e-books. A lot of people still don’t know you can download e-books and audiobooks from our website, but you can. We try to get as much new online material as possible. We also have library mobile apps like BookMyne and also one for our library website. From a programming perspective, we try to offer things and experiences that you can’t readily do at home. That seems to be really what teens want out of a library program. We have a great Teen Advisory Board that assists us with teen program ideas and planning. As far as younger kids and families go, we try to meet the demands for reading material and report material. There’s always a constant demand for those things.
What is your greatest achievement?
A. Having a wonderful family.
What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
A. I am a big music fan and love all genres. There is nearly not enough time to discover all of the music that is out there, but I’m always listening and looking for new and wonderful things to listen to. I have more than 3,000 CDs and records. I still buy music on vinyl records sometimes (remember those?) and some bands sometimes will only release new music on cassette, so I have to dust off the old boom box from time to time to play those. Whatever the format, whatever the style of music, I’m there.
Where is your favorite place to be in Bartow?
A. The library, of course. And at any school or daycare telling stories to kids and letting them know about the library. And Swheat Market.
What was the favorite book of your youth and who is your favorite author?
A. I discovered Daniel Pinkwater in fourth grade. He’s my favorite author and has written over 80 books. “Fat Men from Space” was one of his first books that I read. His books are extremely creative, funny and make kids think about the world around them. “The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death” is another one that is just stupendous. I can’t really say enough about how much I love his books. I was also a big fan of Richard Scarry when I was very young. “The Great Pie Robbery,” “The Supermarket Mystery” and “Busiest People Ever” were some of my faves. Those books are still great.
Do you have a personal philosophy?
A. Be thankful for what you have and then take whatever you have to offer the world and make a difference in your own way. Making the world a better place starts with you.