Tag Archives: mentoring

How the Library helped me be a better Big Sister

Volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters has been a big part of my life for years. I was “matched” with my first “Little” right out of college, and we were matched for two years until her family moved out of state.  A few years later, I decided to sign up again, and I’ve been a Big Sis to Lindalee for nearly two years. Spending time with her twice per month is definitely a highlight for me.


Original artwork by Lindalee

Together, we’re into dog walking, cupcake making, car singalongs and bowling; and of course, chatting about our lives, talking about school (Linda is very into Accelerated Reader and multiplication these days) and generally having a good time.

Big Brothers Big Sisters does a great job of hooking up volunteers with resources they need, and even gives tickets to events on occasion, but even so, it can sometimes be a challenge to keep our activities new and fresh (especially in bad weather when we can’t really go outside). Enter: the Library.

One of the easiest things to do when I’m not sure what to plan for an outing is to pull up the library website or app and check on which locations have something going on that my lil’ sis is interested in. We’ve visited a number of different libraries this way, and it’s great! Lego club, maker programs and sensory story time have all been favorites. After we’re done, we read some books and spend time playing games together on the computer (and we once spent nearly 45 minutes googling pictures of baby bats — surprisingly adorable). It’s been really convenient that Linda doesn’t need her own library card to use a computer, so we’re able to explore no matter where we go.

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Lindalee drew this after a attending a bug-themed Story time at the Main library. Afterwards, we played with lots of toys and she used fun-smelling markers on this colorful creation.

The library also helps out when we go on long drives. Because my Little Sis lives about 45 minutes away from me, it can be a haul to get to some of the activities we enjoy.  When I know we’ll  be in the car for a long time, I pick up some of her go-tos like Diary of Wimpy Kid or Dork Diaries, or even just some fun, short picture books to keep her (and I) amused while she reads out loud during the ride. (A recent favorite was I Love Dogs.)

As Linda has gotten more interested in baking and cooking with me, I’ll grab some cookbooks, and we’ll look through them together, read the recipes, shop for ingredients and make some delicious treats. (She also enjoys browsing cookbooks in the car, too.) Recent cookbooks we’ve chosen include  The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook, Smart Cookie and Baking with Kids.

Finally, although Big Brothers Big Sisters does check in with me to make sure everything is going okay, it’s also nice to know I can grab some books on mentoring, how to navigate conversations, or even how to come up with new activities. (I’ve found that browsing parenting books can be useful for mentors, too!)  Here are a few titles that look good to me — I’d love to hear any recommendations anyone has!

p.s. if you live in Pittsburgh and you’re interested in getting involved, Big Brothers Big Sisters is always looking for new mentors. You can get started here.





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Springtime is for Job-Hunting

As an intern and soon-to-be graduating grad student, I’ve had my share of worries when it comes to the job market. After earning my undergraduate degree a few years ago, I had two part-time jobs: retail sales associate and substitute teacher’s aide. As much as part-time employment is the dream of every college graduate, I aspired to find passion in my work. So I asked myself: what did I like about my jobs?

I liked answering questions and conversing with customers. I liked stocking shelves and “facing the store,” which is the fun retail way of saying you want to keep everything neat, organized and presentable to the public. Working as an aide in elementary and high school classrooms, I enjoyed watching and encouraging the learning process. As I recalled once working as a desk assistant in a university library and made connections to my current skills and interests, I suppose it isn’t a big mystery how I came to study library science.

Considering my options as I’m about to enter the professional workforce once again, I was drawn to reading Sean Aiken’s The One-Week Job Project. As a young man not sure what he wants to do with the rest of his life, he embarks on a one-year journey to take one new job for every week in the year. After 52 weeks and 52 jobs, he hopes he can learn enough from his constantly changing employers and co-workers to discover what he enjoys, what he would like to avoid, and what makes him passionate about going to work every day.

Like Aiken, I learned that if you take time to consider where you are in life, whether you’re pleased or wanting more, you can always benefit from a little self-assessment. And sometimes you might find yourself packing a bag and hitting the road, whether for fun or for grad school (like me!). I met a lot of new people on my own self-assessing adventure and learned a lot about life and work as well. Most importantly I learned that no matter a person’s role–friend, colleague or manager–the ability to positively influence another, whether personally or professionally, is one of the best qualities that anyone could have and share…and one quality I look forward to bringing to my next employer.

Happy springtime everyone!



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