The Biography Section features interviews with Ferndale Library staff members; it celebrates the role they play and their contributions to the day-to-day work of the library, but also gives you a chance to get to know them better. This monthly feature was started last year by Youth Services Librarian Elissa Zimmer, and she is in the spotlight for October.
Elissa graduated from Wayne State and worked at the Fraser Public Library for four years; she started here in Ferndale in late 2016 as a part-time librarian, transitioned to a sub, but came back in to join our staff full-time in June of 2018. She coordinates a variety of programs and is develops our collections of juvenile picture books, board books, elementary-level fiction and graphic novels for young readers.
What do you love about working at FADL?
Did you know that I haven’t prepared any answers…? Even though I do this all the time! But, I love the creativity that comes with it, and the spontaneity of my team… I love the freedom that I have to do new and different things in my job.
Best or favorite part of your job?
It depends on the day! But:…the laughter that I share with my coworkers is one of the highlights of my job and I think also being able to watch kids grow, and forging relationships with families…
What was the biggest motivation for you to become a librarian?
(Pauses)… I just liked books so much and I liked hanging out in libraries when i was a kid; I guess I wanted to bring that to further generations of kids.
Why was it important to you to start the Biography Section?
Because people were tired of the (original employee-of-the-month format) and I thought that it would be nice to have something that would cycle through the entire staff, so that everyone would feel included, and seen, and valued. And I also like being able to interview people!
What is the most misunderstood aspect of your job?/What do people get wrong about your job?
I’m gonna speak specifically to Youth Services; sometimes people don’t realize that we do so many storytimes; obviously we’ve got storytimes for toddlers, but they might not realize we’re also doing storytimes for babies, and we also have the Music & Movement class which also correlates with early literacy and growing those reading skills. Also, not related to Youth Services, but…people might not know that we also have to provide help with computer skills.
Favorite collection or thing we circulate at FADL?
As the person who has…..over 100 items checked out right now? It’s very hard to pick a favorite…I’ve definitely grown an appreciation for nonfiction. But I also really like picture books; people get excited about picture books, you can’t keep them on the shelf!
Favorite thing that you’ve contributed to FADL, be it a program or a new collection or even just a single book that you added?
This isn’t specific to me but I’m happy to work in such a well-supported and well funded place where I don’t have to be picky; I get to be part of building collections that reflect the diversity of the world, whether that’s diversity that is present in this community or in the wider world. I think it’s beneficial that (young readers) are exposed to a range of different cultures from around the world.
Best book you’ve ever read?
I always go back to Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine. It is such an interesting retelling of the Cinderella story and I feel like Levine also just invented such interesting creatures…cuz there’s an ogre in it, and fairies and elves. I think I was in 5th or 6th grade when I read it, and I reread it a lot afterward.
What do you love about Ferndale as a community/city?
People love the library! That’s pretty nice. Also, it’s a pretty inclusive community, it’s progressive but still with a sort of small town feel…, which is nice–it doesn’t feel swallowed in the mix of the rest of Metro Detroit.
How do you spend your days off?
Hanging out with my cats, watching TV on the couch, cooking…, doing yoga… I cook all kinds of stuff, but I’m definitely not a baker because with baking you need to be very precise and I just like to throw a little bit of this and that in there and improvise. (She reports, immediately after this interview, that she’s about to bake some scones). With yoga, two of my friends dragged me to a class six years ago. I wound up specifically getting into (B.K.S.) Iyengar Yoga, and that was actually through a Google doodle for his birthday in December of 2015.
You just mentioned cats, which answers the pets question on your survey. How many, and what are their names?
Three cats… (pauses to roll eyes at self): I fit the (librarian) stereotype! Their names are Suman, Truman, and Evie.
What’s the best advice you ever received?
Even if you fail it’s not a bad thing if you still learn something from it…
If you were stuck on an island, what would you take with you?
A book… Chai… and…, I don’t know–I really don’t plan on ever being stuck on an island.
If I gave you $100, what would you spend it on?
Probably clothes… or…. a nice meal out…. And probably some coffee. I feel that makes me sounds so basic…but it’s probably true…
Top three bands?
Right now: James Blake / Chris Thile / Patrick Wolf
Patrick Wolf! Nice! Did you see him when he came to the Magic Bag about 10 years ago?
No, but I met him! When I studied abroad in London, my junior year of college. I was studying English and British History. I’m an anglophile…I’m obsessed with British culture.
…like Harry Potter & Downton Abbey?
No, no. Deeper than that. Those are just surface level. I’ve watched just about every British mystery series–they do it so well! But anyway, my goal, literally since I was a kid, was to go to England and study there. I finally made that a reality.
Favorite song to sing at karaoke?
I don’t have one. I’d just join in with a group (of friends).
Best book-to-movie adaptation?
That’s not a question for me… We should take that one out. I just don’t watch a lot of movies, and pretty much any book to movie adaption I’ve wound up mad about. Outlander, though, the TV series, was pretty true to the book, but after season 2 they completely veered off from it and it was really aggravating…
Chocolate or vanilla?
Chocolate. You already knew I’d say that. (the Interviewer once chose vanilla and was rebuked for it)
Beach or woods?
Favorite pizza topping?
Favorite Picture Book that came out this year?
I love the trend of female empowerment that is happening in picture books lately. Dear Girl by Amy Krouse Rosenthal!
I Will Be Fierce by Bea Birdsong
Rock What Ya Got by Samantha Berger
You can find Elissa in the Kids Corner where she leads storytimes and answers reference questions for parents and young readers. Sometimes she’s in the Community Room, though, leading our ‘Uprooted: Music & Movement’ storytimes, and also she’s sometimes collaborating with Adult Services Librarians for a variety of other programs. She wears a lot of hats, (metaphorically, not figuratively…, in fact, we didn’t cover the topic of how she doesn’t wear hats in this interview, but that’s for next year. Thanks for reading).
As part of the Biography Section, we invite other staff members to give their kudos to Elissa. Here is what they had to say:
Kerrie: Elissa‘s a fun person to be around and I enjoy working with her. I like that she keeps me busy with her gigantic book orders for me to process. Her fashion sense is top-notch and I am often entertained by her random dances and gestures throughout the day.
Marigold: Elissa is such a fun, energetic person! Anytime you’re around her, laughter will ensue.
Ed: I appreciate Elissa‘s positive energy and the way she continually looks for ways that she can improve herself professionally while benefiting the library at the same time.
Jordan: Elissa’s super creative and is always searching to expand the kind of programs YS offers. She’s consistently willing to help out her coworkers in any way she can and has her hands in a ton of different projects all around the library.
Kathleen: Elissa has the most EXPLOSIVE laugh I’ve ever heard! Sometimes I think someone is crying out for help, and then when I realize it’s Elissa’s laugh, I’m delighted. She has an openness to fun – even the enjoyment she gets from de-newing books, so she greets me with anticipation when I enter the children’s area. She appreciates concerns I bring to her and keeps me informed on the progress of changes she makes. She worked at the library for awhile, then left, and came back, and I’m so glad she did!
Everett: When you first meet Elissa you see a chipper, humorful, enthusiastic individual, but once you get to know her you find that she is also highly resilient, a team player, and eager to learn new things (and actually put that learning to good use). She is full of surprises and I think that is one thing that makes her not just a good librarian, but a great person to work with. Keep being you Elissa!
Tekedra: Elissa is wonderfully silly, endlessly creative and a real cheerleader for Ferndale Library and her position within the YS programs. She works hard to make the youth program exciting and engaging for the patrons. She never fails to make me laugh and to remind me of how important we are to the community. ❤
Andrea: Elissa is always great for mood boosting, always bringing positive energy to liven up the library. She’s always doing the interviewing for the Biography Section and it’s nice seeing her get the proper recognition for what she does.
Susan: Elissa is lots of fun to work with. She brings a great energy to YS whether it is doing uprooted, thinking up fun programs for kids and teens (hello, escape rooms, hot-sauce tasting, and cursive writing class). Plus. she reads A LOT of books in her collection and the library in general, so she’s super-prepared when it comes to reader advisory for kids and teens. She likes to look for ways to jump-start new library projects. She was the brains behind these interviews 🙂 She is also very organized when it comes to cooking and sharing recipes, ask her for ideas and she’ll happily connect you with one of her many foodie blogs, food-related instagram or websites she’s discovered.
Kelly: Elissa is the ultimate team player. She’s always looping people into teams, including as many people as possible in discussions and brainstorming. I’ve also never seen anyone check out as many books as she does.
Michelle: I’m always impressed with the way Elissa brings big ideas to life. She’s ambitiously imaginative, yet detail-oriented enough to execute things smoothly. Plus she’s just super cool and fun work with.
Jasmine: Eiissa is a Readers’ Advisory Juggernaut! Her love of reading has definitely rubbed off on me, and motivated me to read more books than ever.
Darlene: Elissa’s enthusiasm is contagious. She’s always eager to do more and try new and challenging tasks. Her desire to grow as a librarian and a leader is inspiring and also keeps me on my toes. She’s also a great lunch buddy, keeps the tissues full in the kitchen, and makes the best faces!
Aby: Elissa is great! She always gets me to laugh and she’s easy to talk to. I can also say that she holds the record for reading the most books. Every delivery has at least a small stack of things for her. It makes me want to read more, and her book suggestions are always on point.