Christopher Spear, Library Assistant
Youth Services at the Main Library
Can you share a little bit about your background and experience at TADL?
My work at TADL began in October 1989, where I was a substitute and later part-time. Most of the first three years, I worked in the Circulation department and for a short time in the Sight & Sound collection at the Traverse City Library on Sixth Street. What I really liked was working with kids, so I asked to move to the Children’s department. Around 1999, I became a full-time employee and it’s been a real joy. In fact, in the mid-2000’s, I did a rotation and worked in every library in the District, including the Member libraries. Not many people can say that they did that!
You’ve worked in the Youth Services department for quite a while. What is the most noticeable change that you’ve observed over that time?
The one thing that I’ve noticed is that kids and families are very busy today. I remember when we had a very active Teen Advisory Board, but attendance waned because of teen work schedules and other activities. Just a few years ago, we started programs for Tweens (youth ages 9-12), and now I’m seeing that attendance is starting to be affected by the same dynamics…families have busy lives, with so much to do!
Has anything about kids and families endured and remain un-changed?
The engine that drives the library is still children and families. Literacy, reading and discovery are timeless skills. I remember when e-books and e-readers first came into wide distribution, experts were predicting the demise of paper books. For the most part, the e-book notoriety is gone and kids love interacting with physical books!
The other thing that’s timeless, is browsing and reading a large collection of books. It’s so much fun when a kid comes into the library and says, “I’ve read (or re-read) ALL of the Harry Potter books!” And that’s true of many popular series of books.
What’s your favorite part of your role at the library?
There are two things that are really great. The first is, when you are discussing a topic and I can see that light (bulb) go off in a kid’s eyes. Or finding a book, whether fiction or nonfiction, that unlocks a young person’s interests and passions.
The second thing is explaining the Dewey Decimal System to kids. I ask them if they like cats (or dogs), and if they say “yes,” I tell them that cats (or dogs) are in classification number 636 on the shelf at our library. But if they go to another library, and they’re looking for cat books, they will be found in 636. Kids think that’s pretty cool.
What new resources or materials for youth and families do you think are the most exciting?
We recently added Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEM/STEAM) kits at the Main Library. These are very exciting and popular for kids and families to check out and take home to experiment with. So, these kinds of materials supplement reading by incorporating play or experimentation, which is really great.
What do you like to do when you’re not working at the library?
I love to be outside in nature, and my favorite thing is anything to do with water. I like to SCUBA dive, and I especially like to surf. When the wind is out of the south, I love to go to Frankfort, MI, and go surfing in my wetsuit. The best thing is…no sharks!
What is the best kept secret of the Library?
The best kept secret has to be MeL, the Michigan e-Libary. It’s a collaborative project between the Library of Michigan, Michigan Department of Education, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Through MeLCat, you have access to a universe of books and e-resources that you can borrow from over one hundred different libraries in Michigan! So, your library card is a powerful tool to access so much more than what we offer locally.