Since becoming the library director at the L.P. Fisher Public Library in Woodstock almost three years ago, Jenn Carson has transformed the library into a hub of community activity. She's a yoga teacher, author, artist, and programming specialist. Jenn has become an internationally recognized expert in the trending field of physical literacy. Her new book "Get Your Community Moving: Physical Literacy Programs for All Ages", just released by the American Library Association (https://www.alastore.ala.org/content/get-your-community-moving-physical-literacy-programs-all-ages), is a ground-breaking guide based on her work in programming at the library in Woodstock. She is currently at work on a book specifically about creating yoga programs in libraries to be published by Rowman & Littlefield next year. These accomplishments have been fuelled by a dedication and love for her community.
For more about Jenn, check out her three websites:
Over ten years ago, I started making the connection between physical, mental, and emotional health and how impacting one affects all the others. They are, in fact, inseparable. This is when I started thinking about whole-person literacy, or what I call "the human gestalt" and how libraries and librarians are in the perfect position to address these literacy needs in the community.
What are you most proud of professionally? And who or why?
I am most proud of the publication of my book "Get Your Community Moving: Physical Literacy Programs for All Ages" (ALA Editions, 2018) by the American Library Association. I spent 10 years writing it in my head and 1 year getting it into a legible, linear document I could share with others.
What's your vision for Atlantic Canada in 10 years? What’s our biggest opportunity now?
Tight community connections. Our biggest strength lies in our small size, our ability to share resources, and the diverse talents of our multicultural, multilingual residents. We don't need to try to compete with bigger provinces. We have our own charm, and once we stop being ashamed of ourselves and what we don't have, we can start focusing on what we do have. And we need people in power who feel the same way and who have the skills to do something about it. And then people will want to come here. And those who are already here will want to stay.
What was your greatest stage of growth? What made it a shift for you?
I'm in a constant state of growth. I make shifts daily, weekly, sometimes hourly. There is so much I don't know. So much I am looking forward to.
What's your favourite or most read book or podcast?
That's the world's hardest question for a librarian. So many books for so many reasons. Here's a start: "The Places That Scare You" by Pema Chödrön. "The Answer to How is Yes" by Peter Block. "Playing in the Unified Field" by Carla Hannaford. "Flaubert's Parrot" by Julian Barnes. Podcast: The One You Feed by Eric Zimmer.
What's your deepest learning from this past year? How did/will you apply it?
Suzuki Roshi tells the story of how the best way to be with livestock is to give them lots of pasture to roam. The same goes for people. Don't try to control them or herd them too tightly, they will revolt. Don't ignore them, that is the worst thing you can do. Just watch them and learn from them. Let them make their mistakes, help them when they ask for it. Be the safe space. Be the watchful farmer. It is how I try to parent. It is how I try to lead. Sometimes I fail.
Who's inspired you, directly or indirectly? How have they inspired you?
Every librarian, daycare worker, teacher, coach, and countless others that serve their community are my inspiration—by showing up and doing the hard work— despite being overworked, underpaid, short-staffed, and overwhelmed. These are my people.
What would you have done differently?
I would have wasted less time taking things personally. I wish I was more disciplined about some things, less disciplined about others.
What were your priorities and how did they help you overcome some of the struggles you've faced?
My priority has always been to make beautiful things: beautiful spaces, beautiful events, beautiful art, beautiful writing, beautiful relationships. And "beautiful" doesn't necessarily mean in the superficial aesthetic sense. Substitute "meaningful" or "functional" or "life-giving" for beautiful. It all works.
I am motivated by pure selfishness. This is the kind of world I want to live in. Where people feel safe and loved and inspired.
How have you recovered from fractured professional relationships? What uncomfortable truths have you learned about yourself in those experiences?
Communication. It all comes down to being able to dialogue, with others and with yourself. If people know they can talk to you about anything, truly anything, even the hard things (perhaps, especially the hard things), then you have a foundation you can build on. I've learned how much I need to improve my ability to communicate effectively, with others and with myself. Knowing how to say "I'm sorry" when you really mean it (not just because you want something you didn't get, but are truly, humbly sorry). Knowing how to accept it when others can't say that. Being present and listening to what is and not what you want to hear. Having patience. So much patience. Growth is slow for all of us.
programming librarian, physical literacy researcher, author, yoga teacher, mother, jiu-jitsu fanatic