Our Staff Spotlight shines on Shannon, Johnson County Library's Early Literacy Coordinating Librarian.
As an information specialist, Shannon loved hosting in-person Storytimes and found her greatest joy working with the youngest learners at Lackman and then at Lenexa City Center. When Early Literacy Coordinating Librarian Bradley Debrick (fans know him as Mr. Bradley) retired in late 2019, she considered applying for the job as her next career step.
But then the pandemic hit and the position was frozen. During most of 2020, Shannon served on an early literacy team and also on the online programming and events planning team.
Those initiatives gave her additional experience and confidence to apply when the early literacy librarian position opened again in late 2020. She got the job and started in February of this year.
“I coordinate the programming, outreach and system-wide initiatives for the early literacy aged group, birth to age 6,” she explained. “The foundation is the 6 by 6 Ready to Read program. The whole system works to put the 6 by 6 program into action.”
She brings key skills and strengths to the role. Before obtaining a master’s degree in library and information studies, she majored in business administration in college. She really enjoys creating, administering and coordinating systems. She’s methodical, organized and calm under pressure.
She says she benefits from an excellent team of more than 20 youth information specialists who are passionate, innovative and work well together. Everyone’s goal is to give children the skills they need to learn to read by their 6th birthday.
“The early literacy side of things already has a very strong foundation,” she said, “but I get to work with staff and help coordinate so we can continue to grow and adapt along with that foundation.”
Her priorities include equity, diversity and sustainability.
Many children engage with the Library alongside a parent or caregiver. But Shannon is mindful that lots of kids don’t have those opportunities. So, the outreach to preschools, daycare centers and Head Start is important.
“We’ve been finding unique ways to connect with patrons,” she said, citing early literacy kits provided for partner agencies.
“A lot of the outreach is we try really hard to meet the underserved population,” she said. “Those are the kids who don’t get to come to the Library, so we bring the Library to them.”
One of her priorities is to continue engagement with those outside agencies, to adapt the early literacy program as the community changes.
Providing diverse books, materials and programming is also a priority.
Before the pandemic, in-person Storytimes were huge draws. In 2020, virtual Storytimes became a new way to connect, and the Library provided Storytime bags for over 300 families to pick up at the branches.
In-person Storytimes will definitely resume when it is safe, but online Storytimes will likely continue as an alternative for those without easy access to the branches. So Shannon is focused on creating a sustainable schedule of both online and in-person offerings that works for staff and the public.
“We’ll be evaluating the best balance for the whole system,” she said.
When she contemplates the future, of course she sees challenges ahead. But Shannon is optimistic.
“As we look to returning to more in-person services, I’m really looking forward to how we’re going to grow and change and adapt to serve those youngest patrons of Johnson County,” she said, “and working with amazing staff to achieve that.”