Meet Sharon Chastain, Children’s Librarian

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Meet Sharon Chastain, Children's Librarian on LibraryAdventure.com

Welcome to the first post in The Library Adventure’s brand-new series of monthly interviews with library professionals. Today’s interviewee is Sharon Chastain, a Children’s Librarian at the Maple Valley Library in the King County Library System in Washington state. I have long admired Sharon’s energetic story time videos on her library system’s Tell Me a Story website, and I’m so pleased to have her joining us here on the blog. I asked Sharon a few questions about her role at her current library, as well as her journey toward librarianship. Here is our exchange.

Meet Sharon Chastain, Children's Librarian on LibraryAdventure.com

Sharon Chastain

The Library Adventure: Please give a brief description of your current position.

Sharon: My responsibilities include public programming within the library and outreach to child cares, schools, events, etc. Public programming can include hiring performers or designing and presenting a class, event or program myself. I also maintain the children’s collection (ages 0 – 12) through weeding and purchasing. The public service desk doesn’t play the same role in my work as it did in the past. I’ve been freed up to focus on the public programming and collection maintenance bits of my work.

TLA: Whom does your library serve?

Sharon: Our library is located in a smallish town about 40 minutes out from Seattle. We have a mix of very poor and very affluent people living pretty much side by side giving us quite a mix of demographics using the library. We are also a great place to raise a family so we have a ton of kids in Maple Valley which is great for me as a children’s librarian! Our community doesn’t have a lot of community spaces so the library along with the nearby local park tends to be a hub of community activity.

TLA: What is unique about your library and/or its collection?

Sharon: Because we are busting at the seams with kids in this community the driving influence in the library tends to be families.  Kids, kids, kids.  It’s an active (often noisy), engaging, fun place to be for families who leave with armloads of books, music and movies. But we also have lots of senior citizens and people just looking for high speed internet for balance.

The building itself is stunning. It was designed (with huge community input) by architect Jim Cutler. It is designed to bring the outside in and the inside out with huge windows, most of the original trees and all native plantings. Our parking lot is interesting enough to be used as a programming element all on its own.

The building is also designed to have a small footprint even with 10,000 square feet. Our rain drainage system is designed to have low impact on our city drainage system. All water that falls on our roof and lot stays pretty much right here draining right back into the ground around the building.

We have a “moss pond” that the kids love to play in but it’s really just a drainage pit…but pretty. The plants were protected throughout construction (smaller plants being babysat at homes around the area and at the high school and local arboretum) so we look like we’ve been in this spot forever but really it is only 12 years. The library itself has been in Maple Valley in one form or another for 60+ years but our current site is the most beautiful.

TLA: Describe your path to librarianship.

Sharon: It never occurred to me to be a librarian until I’d finished my BA and had taught for awhile. But the University of Washington has a Master’s of Library Science and when I was looking at the next level, the idea of having such a degree took hold. More options are available if you are a teacher and a librarian so I went for it.

It was one of the best times I had in all my years at college. Librarians come from all walks of life, tend to be intellectually curious, outgoing and sometimes downright wild so fun was had by all. I taught for a year as junior high English teacher and school librarian before landing my first Children’s Librarian job in the King County Library System. It was like the Disney Land of library systems!  I worked at two small rural libraries before moving into a full time children’s position where I’ve been ever since. 20+ years later I’m still having fun as well as living and working in my own town.

TLA: What is one thing you wish library users knew?

Sharon: Where the bathrooms are without me telling them (and that they are acoustically perfect and they should sing while they are in there).

TLA: Give a quick plug for a favorite library resource.

Sharon: My favorite library resource is the Tell Me a Story website. In my story times we sing a lot and parents are always asking…what was that tune again? Tell Me a Story is where they can go to see songs and rhymes we’ve used and with smart phones it has gotten so much easier to access a song on the fly.

Sometimes even with a video of me doing the song so their kids can sing along with me in the car. There are so many good books, rhymes and songs that it is an excellent resource for preschool teachers, other librarians (including me) as well as parents.

Special thanks to Sharon for joining us here at The Library Adventure! For more about Sharon – and some great shots of her library – watch this great YouTube video. Don’t forget to check back next month to meet another librarian!

About Katie Fitzgerald

Katie Fitzgerald holds degrees in English and library science, and has worked in small town and big city libraries, serving both children and teens. You can read her book reviews and posts about story time, picture books, and early literacy at Story Time Secrets. Also follow her blog on Facebook for kidlit quotations, story time suggestions, and interesting links.

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