[Editor’s note: Diane is a long time valued member of the VOYA Editorial Advisory Board and a frequent contributor.]
Way back in the 1970s, I was a high school English teacher in New Jersey. I also coached the Drama Club and directed the school plays. After three years, I knew that I wanted to work with teens, books, and reading, but not in this capacity. I had worked in the college library for a period of time when I was an undergraduate at Glassboro State College, and found it so interesting that I actually got permission to take the MLS graduate level Cataloging & Classification course as an elective! Little did I know at the time that I was definitely bound for different career track—in libraries.
This was confirmed after getting married in 1978 and moving to Fort Collins, Colorado for a short period of time. It was short because though I was hired by the Fort Collins Public Library as a Reference Assistant (and loved my job), my supervisor was so encouraging for me to get my MLS that I resigned after a few months and we headed back to New Jersey where my husband and I still had residency. I enrolled in library school at Rutgers and received the George LaMonte Scholarship from the New Jersey Library Association to help pay for it. I also discovered that the Young Adult Librarian at the Rutherford Free Public Library—who was my YA librarian when I was growing up—was about to retire. My friend’s mother encouraged me to go and ask about the job, even though it was not yet posted (and I did not have my degree). When I did, the library director interviewed me on the spot, and offered me the job for minimum wage, including benefits. She also said that they would work my schedule around my classes at Rutgers, and that I could do my library school work at the library when things were quiet. What a deal, I thought, and took the offer.
As I was learning the ropes of teen and other library services on the job, I was attending Rutgers. In my quest to become a bona fide Young Adult Librarian, I took two courses, Young Adult Programming and Young Adult Literature. These were both taught by Mary Kay Chelton, and a couple of times when she was absent, by Dorothy Broderick. VOYA was in its fledgling stages (see Mary Kay’s biography, below), and I heard all about it and got to read it as part of my classes. When I graduated in 1980, I became a VOYA reviewer and contributor, and have not looked back.
After a half-year stint as the Young Adult/Reference Librarian at the Reading Public Library in Massachusetts, the passage of Proposition 2 ½ threatened loss of funding for my job. I decided to look elsewhere and became the Young Adult Coordinator at the City of Mesa Library in Arizona. I stayed at that job for almost 25 years, from December 1980 until June 2005, when I accepted a voluntary severance package due to declining city revenues. I stayed on for two more years as a member of the Friends of the Library Board, and as a volunteer to keep the Young Adult Advisory Council (YAAC), the teen literary magazine, and a few other teen-oriented programs afloat. During this time, my first book, Library Teen Advisory Groups (Scarecrow, 2005), was published, and I also gave local and national library workshops on this topic and on general teen library participation.
Through the years and up to the present time, I have enjoyed being active in professional organizations at the local, state, and national levels. This includes serving as the 2005 Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of the National Council of Teachers of English (ALAN) President; serving on YALSA’s 2005 Printz Award and 2009 Morris Award committees; continual involvement in YALSA’s Teens’ Top Ten/YA Galley Project since 1999 (when it was just a pilot project); receiving the 2005 YALSA Sagebrush Award for a notable program promoting teen literature; being the recipient of the first Rising Moon Outstanding Youth Services Librarian Award from the Arizona Library Association in 1998 (an association in which I had a long and very involved membership)—and of course, serving as a charter appointee on the VOYA Board. I have shared my knowledge and expertise through numerous articles and book reviews published in the professional journals, among them VOYA, The ALAN Review, and School Library Journal, and taught/teach in-person and virtual library courses for several colleges/universities. Recently, my second book, Teen-Centered Library Service: Putting Youth Participation into Practice (Libraries Unlimited, 2010), was published.
I balance all of this professional involvement by taking time every day for the other things I love doing, such as reading, hiking, running, biking, walking, or other activities—and spending time with our sweet dog Hamilton, who is a whippet. I also try to keep up with what’s happening in the life of our busy son who is a student at Arizona State University (and former YAAC member, I might add—he presented on a teen book reviewing panel at ALA in New Orleans in 2006, along with three other teens, and was on the cover of the August 2006 issue of VOYA ). I am not the workaholic my husband accuses me of being! I simply get extreme pleasure from my career as well as the other elements of my life.
At the present time, I am enjoying my job as Teen Services Librarian at the Harmony Library branch of the Poudre River Public Library District in Fort Collins, Colorado, where, among other great things, I am blessed to work with an amazing group of teenagers who belong to the library’s Interesting Reader Society teen advisory group. By the way, this is the same library in Fort Collins that I worked for back in 1978, now under the auspices of a three-branch library district and with a new name reflecting that change. I am also excited to be a member of Colorado Young Adult Advocates in Libraries (C’YAAL) and the Colorado Library Association. My husband and I have come full circle, and are happy to be back in Colorado!
Diane P. Tuccillo, June 20, 2010