Monday, March 19, 2012

Meet Tessa

Tessa Michaelson Schmidt was recently hired as Wisconsin's  brand new Youth and Special Needs Consultant.

YSS: Welcome back to the state Tessa!  The last time we saw you was at the CCBC creating fun podcasts among your many duties.  Where did you head after that?
 I headed for the hills!  Well, the mountains rather.  My husband was offered a wonderful job in southwest Colorado.  We moved to Pagosa Springs, a small town in the Four Corners area in 2009.  Being in that part of the country was such a change for us.  We really embraced all of the new opportunities—everything from hiking in national forests and parks, eating lots of chili peppers, enjoying small town life (such as the county fair), and soaking up the high altitude sunshine.  I was extremely fortunate to land a job at the public library in our rural and resort community as a librarian and later became the assistant library director.   I managed the children’s and young adult collections as well as performed a host of other programming, technology, and management duties. 

YSS: What other library –and work - experiences have you had in your career?
 Should I reveal that I used to be something exciting like a waterskiing show performer or librarian to the stars?  In truth, my career path has always reflected my passions for libraries and learning.  I graduated from the School of Education at UW-Madison with a BS in Elementary Education.  I was a teacher at Wingra School, a progressive K-8 school in Madison.  Teaching at Wingra was inspiring and invigorating, but I always knew that I would go back to school.  So, after a few years of teaching third, fourth, fifth, and sixth graders, I enrolled in the School of Library and Information Sciences (SLIS) at UW-Madison to get my MLS.  As graduation approached, I was offered a job back at Wingra as a school library media specialist where I team-taught integrated classroom curriculum in the school library and tech lab.  It was fast-paced, fun, and creative work.   Around this time, a position for a new librarian at the CCBC opened up.  The CCBC has had a special place in my heart for many years.  I worked there as a student reference assistant while I was an undergrad and grad student.  I was the intellectual freedom coordinator and I also served on the advisory board and the Friends’ board.  And then I got to be a CCBC librarian.  It was absolutely glorious.  I thoroughly enjoyed my role as a state library consultant talking with librarians and educators about high quality books for children and teens. 

YSS: What interested you the most when you saw the job posting for the Youth Special Needs state consultant position?
 Being away from Wisconsin last year amidst the turmoil was hard—I wanted to be here and fight for my state.  When I heard about this position, my first thought was, “This is how I can serve Wisconsin libraries. I have to do this!”  The opportunity to support the important work performed by librarians all around the state in the areas of youth services and special needs appealed to me.  Having worn the shoes of a teacher, school librarian, state library consultant, public librarian, and public library administrator, I felt that I could readily identify with a lot of folks on a lot of issues.  I felt that I was a good fit for the job with my experiences, passion for literacy and literature, and technology interests.   These are details about what I’m bringing to the position, however.   I also believe that this is not just about what I have to offer, but what we have to offer each other.   Clearly we’ve seen the evidence that we have to stick together. 

YSS: Do you have thoughts and plans on where you would like to put energy and effort in the youth side of your new position?
 I’m developing a small project called the Wisconsin Youth Services Showcase that will probably go live in April.  It is an online venue that identifies and spotlights ordinary and extraordinary things that Wisconsin youth librarians are doing.  Because a lot of librarians are trying to do more with less, I wanted to showcase the good stuff that is happening right here, right now.  I hope that this project will help Wisconsin youth services librarians become more familiar with each others’ work.  There is no need to reinvent the wheel by yourself all the time.  I want to help build more connections for us to learn, share, and create together. 

YSS: What message(s) would you like to share with youth librarians in particular?
 At this moment, my main goal is to listen.  I want to hear about what is going on in libraries and library systems.  I want input on the best ways to communicate and what kind of information you want to know about.  I’m happy to have conversations in person, by email, and over the phone. I’m trying to get out in the field as much as I can even though travel is tricky.  So, my message to everyone is to please be in touch!  I want to hear from you—ideas, issues, questions, concerns, suggestions…you name it, I’m listening.

YSS: What are some of your favorite outside-of-work activities?
 Right now I’m enjoying all things Wisconsin and being with family and friends.  It has been fun to see what has changed in Madison in the past 2 years.  There are lots of new restaurants to try!  My husband and I are headed up to Door County next month and I’m looking forward to the drive and the destination.   Besides enjoying the “newness” of being back home, my hobbies include cooking and baking, camping, running, biking, hiking, crafting, reading, travel, and anything related to Scandinavia. 

YSS: Anything else you’d like to share with YSS members?
 Thank you for the warm welcome.  I’m glad to be here, as well as be here for you!

Contact Information:

Tessa Michaelson Schmidt
Youth and Special Services Consultant
Wisconsin DPI, Public Library Development
125 South Webster Street, PO Box 7841
Madison, WI 53707-7841
P: (608) 267-5077
F: (608) 267-9207

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