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One on One with Jordan Baker

Maureen Curtis

How long have you been at the Estevan Public Library?

Just over two years. I started April 13.

What is your position/role at the library?

Children's program co-ordinator.

What programs do you run at the library?

I run the regular programs all year long, such as Toddler Time which is 18-months to three-years-old. And Story Time, which is three-years to five-years-old. And then I started a new program last September called Baby Lap Time. That's for pre-walker babies and their caregivers. It's a 20 minute program. It's a brief program, due to the attention span of babies, obviously. I read a story, we do finger play, it's very interactive. So, the caregivers stay for coffee and cookies and stuff after and socialize. It's kind of like a social event for the moms, too. There are a lot of new people coming into Estevan and they find that they like coming to the library and interacting.

What's the need to have programs for children and toddlers?

It is a part of early literacy. Introducing your child as early as possible to reading, to books. It all helps with their readiness skills for reading. And it's a good social aspect for the kids too.

I also run a science/space program, usually about once a month. It's called Cool Kid Concoctions and we make all kinds of things. We even made homemade pumpkin pies one time for Thanksgiving.

How did Cool Kid Concoctions begin?

I pretty much started that after I started working here, a couple of months after I started working here so it's been going on for two years now. That brings in a lot of kids.

When creating new programs, do you go through forms and manuals, or do you come up with them up yourself?

It's a combination of both. The Internet is very helpful, and I do a lot of reading. A lot of it you just play by ear. I have a lot of experience back in Ontario where I'm from. I worked in the school system for 20 years. I was fortunate enough to have a background that gave me some experience when I first started working here. And I love working with kids, so it's the perfect combination. I love reading.

What were you doing in the school system?

I was a teacher's assistant. In junior kindergarten and senior kindergarten.

What sort of reception did Cool Kid Concoctions receive when you first introduced it?

It was overwhelming. I started off taking 30 kids at a time and I found that that was a really high number. To me it's important to give the kids a lot of one on one and if they get frustrated with something that they feel they can't complete or they can't do, it's not fun for them. So I brought the numbers down on the most part to 20, depending on the skill level and the type of activity we're doing. I'll keep the numbers down a bit, just because you need more interaction, you need more one on one time. There's measuring involved, there's reading. I'll have recipes up where they'll read along with me. And also I like to put out a bunch of books that are theme-related too. And yeah, because the response was so overwhelming, that really gave me the push to keep it going, to keep trying different things. We've made flubber, silly putty, soap, play dough. Actually, in July we're making homemade bubbles and spray chalk.

How are you finding and choosing these activities?

Google is my best friend. And I have a lot of resources that I brought from Ontario when we moved. And of course, in a library you have a lot of resources also. So that's a blessing too.

How many kids do you usually get out?

It's always a full program. Usually there's a waiting list. I'll tell parents "sign up right away, as soon as you see it advertised, sign up." So now, I've got a program on July 18 and it's already full.

Is that a monthly program?

I try to make it monthly, depending on when there's Mother's Day or Father's Day, or other holiday events going on. Depending on my calendar, I try to do it once a month. I might even call a Mother's Day thing a Cool Concoction, if we're making something for Mother's Day for instance.

How do you evaluate the success of a program?

I think the only time that I've had that happen is the one time we ran out of sugar. We were making cookie mix in a jar and we ran out of sugar. I underestimated the amount. But we had three things, it was Santa's workshop and we had 30 kids and we were doing three different major crafts in that time period.

I think the success is when I say to them, "Hey, are you guys having fun?" when I get a full turnout, or when people phone and cancel at the last minute and feel bad about it, but they've got a replacement for me. I think that pretty much sums up the success of your program, when they walk out with a smile on their faces. Next time I see them for another program, I'll say "how did Mom like this?" or "how did you enjoy that?" and I get a very positive response. It's really, really worthwhile.

What do you really love about this job?

I love the fact that I can plan my own programs for the most part. The library is really good about giving me the opportunities to do that on my own. All the libraries in the southeast region will help each other out with ideas and stuff. I love the fact that I do my own advertising, for the most part. And I love working with kids. The nice part of it is that I've got a wide range. I'm not always in with a certain age group all the time, everyday. The freedom to plan the programs I want to do, that I think will entice kids to come into the library, I think that's the best part.

Is there anything that you don't like about the job?

No, I don't think so. I don't think I've been here long enough to feel that way. No, I think it's very, very positive working here in the library. Good staff, the staff help out if I have a big craft I have to have planned, the staff are more than willing to help cut out things, help do things. We work together.

What brought you to Estevan?

Employment for my husband. I had a good job and I was going to be there until I retired. I thought I would never have another good job, but I was fortunate enough to find this place at the library. Really fortunate, I really enjoy it here.

Did you consider getting back into the school system?

That was a big component when we first moved out here. I was really debating did I really want to go back into the school system, or did I want to branch out and try something else. I'm really glad that I took the opportunity to apply here because another really big benefit of getting on here is that I really increased my computer skills. You know, when you work in kindergarten you don't really need heavy-duty computer skills. That was one thing I learned a lot, and I also do my own advertising. I'd never had to do that before. It's a bonus and looks good on a resume.

Was that a bit of a learning curve?

It was, but a very positive one. It was scary at first, but we all have to take the jump sometime. I enjoy it. When you get positive feedback from parents, too, that makes it 10 times more worthwhile. When parents are telling you that their children can't wait to come to Story Time, or that they enjoy Story Time so much and when can we sign up next, that's when you know something's working.

Are there any improvements you think you can make to any of the programs?

There's always room for improvement and it's a learning process. So if I find that there's more of a need for something, then definitely I'm going to focus on that. I like to ask the older kids too, when we've done a program, "you know, if you guys have a suggestion, if there's something you really want to do, say a Guitar Hero tournament or something, come to me, let me know. Phone me. Give me some ideas and I'll work with that." I'm more than willing. If a bunch of kids came up to me and said "can we do something like this?" I'll go out of my way to make it happen.

Do you get a lot of feedback from the kids in the program?

Ya, I do. Very positive, that's what makes it worth while. From the parents too. If they don't say anything for a while, then I ask.

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