[image1-right]As outreach coordinator for The Center for Children’s Books (CCB), Tad Andracki can tell you about upcoming events at the CCB or volunteer opportunities through the CCB’s various community partners. As a reviewer for The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (BCCB), he can tell you all about the latest plot twist in the most popular young adult book series. And as a former atmospheric sciences major, he might be able to explain why the Champaign-Urbana area tends to dodge the worst of the Midwest’s infamous springtime storms.
“It’s true that we tend to see fewer tornadoes here than in other parts of the state,” said Andracki. “The common assumption is that we’re in some sort of valley, but that’s not actually true, nor would it necessarily affect the storms. We’re just at the edge of Tornado Alley, so by the time the storm reaches us, it has already expended much of its energy.”
While the nuances of funnel cloud formations don’t necessarily translate directly to the library world, the information field has always been on Andracki’s radar. “I worked as a library assistant during high school, and even as a kid, I told my mother that I was going to be a librarian someday,” said Andracki.
“So while I chose to pursue a science degree as an undergrad, I think I always knew I was going to end up looking into the LIS field.” His work at the undergraduate library while getting his bachelor’s degree further solidified his desire to become a library professional.
Andracki’s realization that he found youth services particularly appealing came while taking a children’s literature course with former GSLIS adjunct professor, Debbie Reese. “I figured out that I had never really stopped reading children’s books and that I was still very much enjoying them. So by the time I got to GSLIS, I knew I wanted to focus on youth services, both the programming and the literature.”
Andracki’s roles as CCB outreach coordinator and BCCB reviewer allow him to do just that. Last fall, he helped organize the Youth Literature Festival, an event that brought over twenty well-known authors of children’s literature to the area and was attended by over a thousand people.
“The festival was particularly rewarding,” said Andracki. “It was great to see the authors interacting with the kids in so many different ways and being able to reach that many people was also just amazing.”
Andracki also is involved in other creative collaborations. He provides resources and story times for the Odyssey Project, a community program that offers humanities education to individuals whose income falls at or near the poverty level and includes free childcare and transportation. He participates in the monthly Spanish Story Time at the Urbana Free Library, offered in conjunction with the University’s Center for Latin and Caribbean Studies. He also maintains the CCB’s relationship with the TAP In Leadership Academy, an after-school and summer enrichment program for youth; this year, he is conducting a book club with the students.
“All of these projects are doing valuable work, particularly with underserved communities. The goals of these programs dovetail with the mission of the CCB, and I feel lucky to gain professional experience while strengthening ties in the community,” said Andracki.
In addition to his outreach activities, Andracki is deeply invested in the study and academic research of children’s literature. This past spring, he began reviewing books for the BCCB, a national review journal managed at GSLIS that assists youth services librarians in building their collections. In June, he presented a paper, “Playing with Everything: Childhood, Biopower, and Animacy in The Brave Little Toaster,” at the Children’s Literature Association’s annual conference, drawing upon his scholarship in queer studies, affect theory, and posthumanism to examine the cultural mores of childhood play. In November, he will attend the annual conference for the American Association of School Libraries (AASL) and participate in the session “Queer Library Alliance Goes to School” with Rae-Anne Montague, GSLIS assistant dean for student affairs. Andracki also is a co-founder of the GSLIS Queer Book Club, which began in January 2013.
After graduation, Andracki hopes to find a job as a youth librarian in a public library, preferably working in outreach and community engagement. He’ll still keep an eye on the weather, but he will be professionally engaged in children’s literature, come rain or shine.