The “Interview with a Christian School Librarian” is a series that features Christian school librarians and school library staff (both active and retired) from all over the country. The goal of this series is create a sense of community among Christian school librarians and to share our professional wisdom.
Steven Golden is a writer and an editor who previously worked with the State Library of Kansas, Heritage Christian School in Topeka, and the research library at Answers in Genesis. He blogs about literature and film at StevenEGolden.com.
Enjoy his interview below!
How long did you work in libraries and how did you get your start?
I worked in libraries for three years. My first experience was an internship with the State Library of Kansas assisting the Kansas Center for the Book with website design/evaluation. My first “real library job” was as a part-time cataloguer in the Heritage Christian School library in Topeka, Kansas (I was primarily an English teacher at the school). I also developed and taught library literacy for their students. In the summers, I worked as a temporary librarian (reference and cataloguing) at the Answers in Genesis research library in Petersburg, KY.
What was the most enjoyable part of your job?
I’m incredibly detail oriented, which made me very good at cataloguing. In those three years, I catalogued, repaired, and preserved over 3,000 books, in addition to my other duties in reference and instruction. Slowly but surely taking a disorganized mess of books and turning them into a usable collection was an incredibly rewarding experience, especially as I began teaching students to use their new OPAC, how to read call numbers, etc.
What was the biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge was convincing the school how important it was to have a working library—and a full-time school librarian. I was never moved into a full-time library position while I was there, because the funding was not made available. At my current company, where I am now an editor and writer, the value of our research library is still called into question, and funding for databases and institutional subscriptions is extremely hard to come by.
What piece of advice would you give to someone just starting off?
Libraries today want people who can wear many hats, so take advantage of any opportunity to learn skills from other librarians! I was blessed to have the cataloguer for the State Library of Kansas teaching my cataloguing course, so I learned very practical skills, which was not the norm. Any of us who have been through an MLS program know that the bulk of the coursework is dreaded “theory.” But my best training came from working with another cataloguer on the job. Additionally, I performed informational interviews with librarians in other areas, such as reference and instruction. They were able to share their own knowledge and wisdom with me. Those interactions prepared me for tasks not directly within my expertise.
Brag a bit! Tell me about the best thing you did at your library. Did you implement a program, a policy, or create something you’re proud of?
Teaching at a small school without a dedicated librarian meant that whoever had the skills and was willing to step up could do quite a bit more than in many organizations. At HCS, I developed a library literacy program for my students (grades 7-12). Additionally, as the school sought accreditation, I was able to assist in that by developing and presenting a collection development policy, choosing an OPAC, and cataloguing a large portion of the collection. I also found and implemented a faculty textbook checkout system, so that we could better track whether students had returned their books at the end of each school year.
What are some of the issues you deal with that you feel are unique to Christian school librarians?
I’m not sure how most Christian school libraries are run, but in my case, it was incredibly difficult to balance a very full teaching load against being in the library. And since money was scarce, hiring help or even being moved into a more dedicated position in the library was just not a possibility. Relying on volunteers (usually parents) to come in and help with circulation was risky and often resulted in lost books and a very disorganized collection at the end of a school day.
Do you have any thoughts on how Christian librarians in secular schools can be lights for Christ while adhering to workplace rules about sharing our faith?
Connect with your colleagues! You may not be allowed to share your faith unasked, but if you’re “eating with sinners” (Luke 5)—engaging them on topics, sharing in their joys, crying with them, encouraging them—questions about where you find your strength and encouragement are bound to come up.
My thanks to Steven for taking the time to answer my questions! If you’d like to be interviewed for this series, click here to let me know about your interest!