Pro Talk: Youth Services Specialist Job Provides Creative, Fun Outlet

This week, we're showcasing the profession of youth services.

As the job climate continues to change, there are several careers that many don’t know a lot of information about them. How did they get there? What kind of training did they undergo?

Well, Florissant Patch is attempting to answer these questions.

Each week, we’re speaking to a new professional or working person about their job, how they got and what they do.

This week, we spoke to Youth Services Specialist Jennifer Ilardi about her duties and how she got there.

1.    How long have you been in your position? 

I have been in my position of Youth Services Specialist at the Florissant Valley Branch of the St. Louis County Library for four and a half years.

2.   How did you get into your field? 

I feel very lucky to have been hired by the St. Louis County Library. I was looking for a full-time job that would fit my personality and allow me to be creative. On my way to my interview, I was pretty convinced that I would not be hired. I thought that I didn’t have the experience that the library was looking for, even though it was listed as an entry-level position. I’m glad I kept driving and gave it my all because this job, at this location, seems to be the perfect fit for me.

3.   What training or education did you receive for this position?

I don’t recall all of the requirements for this position when it was originally posted, but I thought I had a chance when I saw that it required experience in planning and implementing programs and a Bachelor’s Degree. I have my Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology from Maryville University and have been a part of planning and implementing programs from a very young age mainly in the form of theatrical productions. I also grew up in the small town of Louisiana, MO, where I was a frequent visitor to the library and very involved with my community through theater and volunteering. Even in second grade, I would skip recess to go to my first grade teacher’s classroom and read stories. You could say, I’ve been training all my life for this gig. Additionally, St. Louis County Library offers many opportunities to attend workshops with well-known contributors to library services to young people. 

4.   What are your main duties or responsibilities in this position?

As a Youth Services Specialist, my job is to promote, plan and implement programming that encourages children ages 0-17 to read and learn. In order to do this successfully, I partner with schools, daycares and other organizations to determine the needs for our community and how resources available through the library might be able to help. I present story times for babies and preschool kids, and I have a book discussion for 7-11 year old students. Another aspect of my job is coordinating our branch’s teen volunteers and planning programs that help teens explore media, including podcast and video production workshops. Home School Explorations is a program that I implement for the homeschooling families in the area to network with each other and discover how resources from the St. Louis County Library can contribute to their education experience. I am also responsible for hosting the variety of puppeteers, musicians, storytellers and presenters that the St. Louis County Library provides through our many program series including Art @ Your Library, Black History Month, Summer Reading Club, and more. 

I mainly do whatever I can to help young people become excited about exploring the world through the library and beyond. I encourage the entire community to join me.

5.   What tips would you give to someone interested in pursuing this as a career?

A Youth Services Specialist has to have a lot of patience and resourcefulness. We work with children in a capacity that is different than any other organization, and sometimes it is difficult to express to our community just how much we can contribute to a child’s overall educational experience through the wide variety of free services provided by the library. Good communication skills are essential. Every aspect of my job requires me to speak with people of all ages and backgrounds. Whether it is advocating for the library, delivering a presentation, introducing a performer, or merely surveying our community to determine the needs and wants of our customers, it’s important to be confident, persistent, positive, and creative.


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