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Emily Kalotai is looking forward to getting to know local teens through programming at the Hagaman Library where she was hired as the teen services and young adult librarian. (Photo by Fawn Gillespie )
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Emily Kalotai studied anthropology at the University of Connecticut, but upon graduating, she realized that was not where she wanted to build her career. She worked in several different jobs, taking time to give thought to what she wanted to do.
“I kept coming around to the idea of working in a library,” says Emily. “Originally what drew me in was that I thought I’d enjoy working in that environment, but as I started to look into what goes into being a librarian and helping people connect with the information they need, the more it sounded like something I really wanted to pursue.”
In the middle of 2016, Emily began online courses with San Jose University. A year and a half later, she had earned her master of library and information science degree. During that time, Emily began working at Fairchild Nichols Memorial Library in Trumbull as the circulation assistant, a position she held for about a year.
During that time, Emily saw a posting for a teen services and young adult librarian position at the Hagaman Memorial Library. She jumped at the chance to apply for the position as she had enjoyed that area of her coursework while in school. Emily went through the interview process and was hired, beginning her new position this past July.
“It seemed like they had a really good foundation for the teen program and I was excited to help build it up,” says Emily. “It’s an important age to focus on because it’s a point where you can really start to lose people as patrons. Our goal is to show them the appeal of libraries and keep them there as lifelong patrons and users of libraries.”
Upon starting her position, Emily continued with the teen programs that were already up and running, including the Teen Coffeehouses, an open mic opportunity, that are held each season. It was one of the first events Emily was able to take part in once she was hired.
“I had the opportunity to attend the one we had in August and I was floored by how talented the teens are,” says Emily. “I’m excited for them to be able to keep showcasing those talents.”
While there is not a confirmed date for the next Teen Coffeehouse, Emily is hoping to announce it shortly, noting it will be announced on the “Teen & Young Adult” page of the library website as well as on the library’s Facebook page. Emily also created a new Facebook group just for teens and text updates are also available.
Another initiative that was in place when Emily arrived are the advisory groups serving both teens and tweens. The Hagaman Teen Advisory Group (HTAG) meets Fridays from 3 to 5 p.m.
“HTAG does small service projects around the library like decorating the children’s room or helping out with programs for the Friends [of the East Haven Hagaman Library],” says Emily. “It’s a place for teens to give me feedback on what programs they’d like to see, what new books they’d like to see added to collections. It definitely gave me a way to start off running and figuring out where I should be focusing my attention and what kind of programs to set up in the future.”
There is also a Junior Teen Advisory Group (JTAG) for 6th- to 8th-graders that had been on hiatus. JTAG began meeting monthly again earlier this month is and meets on the first Thursday of the month from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
One program that Emily was excited to share with local teens is Dungeons & Dragons & Libraries, which was held on Sept. 24. Emily enjoys playing Dungeons & Dragons in her spare time and was excited to share that passion with teens. She also loves playing video games, which she says helps her connect with the teens and stay up to date on trends.
On Wednesday, Oct. 9 from 3 to 4 p.m., Emily will lead a group that will form a teen book club. At the first meeting, teens will decide about meeting dates and times as well as choose reading material.
Emily will bring back a program that has been successful in past years on Tuesday, Oct. 15 from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. According to the library website, “AtmosFEAR: the Harbingers is a unique, vintage board game, utilizing a VHS for its game clock and atmosphere. Each player must race to collect six color-coded keystones before the other players—and before time runs out. All the while, they are directed by the gatekeeper, who will do anything to trip the players up and win the game for himself.”
While Emily is excited about the upcoming programs and wants to see new faces joining the programs, her biggest goal is letting teens know that the library is a place for them—a place to hang out, do work, get information, or participate in programs.
“I want to convey that it’s a place that can really be of value—at the very least it’s having a place to come and exist without worrying about having to buy anything,” says Emily. “I want to try to focus on giving them a say in what the library can bring to them.”
In addition to getting to know the teens, Emily has met many members of the East Haven community. She is also grateful to her co-workers who have helped her find her place in her new position.
“The staff here has been wonderful and given me plenty of advice and has been very helpful,” says Emily, who lives in Shelton. “I’m starting to get to know East Haven and still learning more and more about the community. There seems to be a really good sense of community here with civically minded residents who are focused on making East Haven a good place to live and work.”
Though Emily has enjoyed meeting the staff and community members, her biggest focus is on the teens and young adults. Emily encourages local teens to ask for her when they’re in the library or find her at the library on Mondays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Tuesdays through Thursdays from 12:30 to 8 p.m.
She has enjoyed getting to know the teens involved in the HTAG and JTAG sessions, as well as those who have attended programs that have been held. Emily is hoping to see those numbers grow and to get even more input from more teens for what they’d like to see from the library.
“The programs will really develop depending on what the teens are interested in, but my goal is to build up the program in terms of what teens we have involved so we have a broad range of different ages and different interests to have something for everyone,” says Emily. “I want to keep the interest level up so teens know there is a program here and that we really want their input in what we’re doing moving forward.
“The most rewarding part so far has been the teens we have here,” adds Emily. “The group we have for HTAG and the programs so far have been absolutely lovely and so ready to help out. They really contribute to the library and the programs we have set up. It has been great working with them right from the start.”
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