Who she is: Margaret Martin, Mercer Island Library children’s librarian.
What she does: I work with all ages, helping with various reference questions at the desk, and help people find information. The biggest responsibilities are helping find that right book for a child. Reader’s Advisory is a big part of what I do. Another part is helping kids 0-5 with early learning through our story times.
How long have you worked at the Mercer Island Library? Twelve years. I’ve been an official children’s librarian since 1993.
Where are you from? I grew up in Seattle. I was born in Virginia, but have spent most of my life in Seattle.
Why did you choose to be a librarian? I ended up working in a college library, and I loved it and decided to go into library science. I had planned to go into teaching, which I did — I loved both teaching and library science. When Friends of the Library found out I wanted to go to library school to become a librarian, they supported me and I got a scholarship to go. My mom really instilled my love of reading at an early age; to read aloud and share. One of the things that would happen — I would go into the library as a teenager and the librarian wasn’t very helpful, so I decided that I wanted to be a librarian. Every one question is important and every child is important.
What is the first thing you do when you arrive at work in the morning? On Tuesday and Wednesday, it’s get ready for story time. I hit the ground running when I get there — getting books set up and getting rhymes out and props, and prepare to receive the kids. Other days I’m checking, writing, working on a book blog, and sometimes I’m put on the desk right away when I get there. There’s no day that’s the same, and that’s what is so rewarding about the job.
What is the best part of your job? I love people — helping people find information, having kids come to the library and doing tours, and going to the schools. That’s a favorite part — working with the schools. We do a global reading challenge and lots of different reading programs, and I love working with the preschoolers and the babies and toddlers; it’s all such an honor. Another thing I love doing is working with such a fabulous staff. I learn so much from my colleagues.
What do you like best about working with children? You just get so much from kids. I love sharing stories and book talks and having schools come to the library, and just that magic that happens in sharing a book and the give and take between the kids as the audience and the storyteller. A story is the listeners and the storyteller, and together they create the magic of the story. I love the enthusiasm that kids have and the excitement that kids have when they come to the library — and just watching their eyes sparkle when they hear a story and go through a song or rhyme, and seeing their exuberance.
What is the most challenging part of being the children’s librarian? Trying to help kids find things at the very last minute if they have a report that’s due at the last minute, and we don’t have enough books on the shelf, and they’re required to find two books on the topic. It’s a challenge and it takes a little more time. It’s nice when teachers give us the heads up that we’re going to be inundated with kids coming asking for report information. Right now, a challenge is helping our patrons through our new catalog system (Evergreen), a brand new circulation system that ultimately will give us what we need. For now, the transition through it is a challenge for staff and patrons alike.
What do people need to know or understand about the library? We want to be there for them to help them, and we care about giving them the best service … if I can’t find something for them, I’ll tap into my colleagues or our library system to help them. Sometimes that elusive piece of information is hard to find, but we do our best. Right now, our catalog system is going to service them very well, but we ask for their patience in working through it with us. I say this not only for kids but for parents and patrons, too.
What is one of the most humorous incidents that has happened to you at the library? During story time, a squirrel got into the library right after school got out, and the school kids were here. They kind of went wild before we could get the squirrel out.
What in particular do you notice people are reading, watching or listening to?
There are so many series, and the Percy Jackson series has been so popular … and Rick Riordan has been so popular, among the kids; everybody wants to read those books. Kids love magic and adventure, and series. The Alex Rider series has been very popular, too, by Anthony Horowitz. We do have some good books for kids that they can listen to online; stories called Tumble books. We have lots of books on tape. Harry Potter has been checked out constantly by adults and kids, but there’s so many more than that — there are so many other great books.