Like all of us, the last few months have brought dramatic changes to Nathan Jones’ life. What sets him apart is his history of embracing change, and using it to grow – personally and professionally.
Nathan’s job as youth services librarian for Forest Grove City Library puts him in charge of planning and implementing all activities for families with kids up to age 12. He loves the variety his (pre-COVID) position offered, which included working with schools, planning activities in the library and ordering children’s books.
Since March, he’s had to swiftly innovate ways to convert live events into online offerings and create new ways for his young patrons to engage with the library and learning.
“The good thing [about the pandemic] is that it’s given us the opportunity to take a hard look at how we do things … and how we could do them better.”
For Jones and the library’s reference team that has meant acquiring software and technology to create and launch online story times and other virtual events, and record how-to videos on using the library’s e-books and movies. Staff have also been studying the results of a patron needs survey and completing projects for when patrons return to the building.
Despite his obvious love for his job, Jones didn’t always see himself working in a library. “I shadowed people during high school to learn about possible careers,” he recalls. “I shadowed a librarian and remember leaving thinking … well, that’s not it.”
But after earning an undergraduate degree in Educational Studies from the University of Oregon, he also discovered he didn’t want to teach. After working in a preschool for a few years, Jones returned to school for an M.S. in Library Science from the University of North Texas, which he completed in 2009.
Nathan’s family life has also changed this year, with the birth of his daughter Eleanor.
In the past, his leisure time was mainly spent outdoors and tinkering in his woodshop. Now he has taken up a different hobby.
“I got a microscope and a high-powered camera so I could take microscopic pictures – pollen, pond water, a piece of fern,” he says. “I realized my other hobbies would take me away from my daughter for long periods of time. I can do this with her in the room with me.”
Ironically, this children’s librarian confesses he didn’t read many kids’ books growing up. “I was different as a kid. I started with picture books and magazines like Ranger Rick. Then I kind of took a reading hiatus in middle school. By high school, I was reading college textbooks, Clive Cussler and Richard Marcinko.”
That doesn’t mean he doesn’t enjoy connecting his young patrons with great books. “I can’t wait until a kid can walk in again and tell me she needs a book,” he says.
“Being in the building without kids is eerie and weird. The magic happens when they’re excited to learn about whales … or discover other new things. A library is just a book warehouse without people in it. Being able to help is what gives this work meaning.”