Meet a Member                                                              

February 2022
Vanessa Salo

What is your current position? Youth Services Assistant II

Where do you work? Alexandria Library

When did you first know that you wanted to work in the library field? I became interested in working in a library after being a frequent patron of my library. When I used to work as a nanny I would take the children to the library for storytime and check out books every week. I remember how excited the children were and how it made a difference in their lives. 

What is your favorite part of librarianship? I started by volunteering in the children's section. When there was a position in youth services available I applied right away. I love how working in a library allows me to use what I learned as a history major. The library branch where I work was the site of a historic sit-in. On August 21, 1939, 5 Black residents of Alexandria were arrested here when they asked to be issued a library card at the white only library and then peacefully sat at a table and began to read. We give presentations to visiting school groups about this historic event.  

What was your first library or library-related job? My current job is my first library job. I've been in my position as a youth services assistant since January 2018. 

What projects or programs are you currently working on at your library? My most popular program is called Art Explorers, which is a storytime where kids listen to a book about a famous artist from history, discuss their artwork, and then create their own art project inspired by their techniques. Art Explorers is featuring the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama for the month of March. We have two new white tables and we'll hand out dot stickers to all of our younger visitors. They can stick the dots anywhere on the table until they're completely covered in dots as a homage to Yayoi Kusama's Obliteration Rooms. The best part is that a new, permanent Kusama exhibit will debut at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden this year, which is only 10 miles away. We're hosting a drawing for a year-long membership to the museum and the Hirshhorn KIDS Program even donated a Yayoi Kusama craft kit for an additional prize. It's so exciting to partner with the Hirshhorn that shares such a similar philosophy for early art exposure and education. I'm scouring my closet for anything with polka dots!

What issue or topic in librarianship are you most interested in? Our library programming has been virtual since April 2020 and we're just beginning to transition into in-person activities. I've been a craft kit machine throughout the past two years. We've given away many art kits featuring contemporary artist Luchita Hurtado, prehistoric cave paintings, and most recently Horace Pippin, a Black artist whose sketchbooks are part of the Smithsonian Archives. I think it's important that a child from any background, income level, race, gender, etc can come to an art program to experiment with artistic techniques, learn about history, and see themselves represented. 

Why are you a member of VLA and what is the most important reason to you for being a member of VLA? My favorite reason for being a member of the VLA is serving as a member of the Jefferson Cup Committee. The Jefferson Cup is an award that honors biography, historical fiction, or American history books for children. The 10 person committee reads new titles that fit this description and decides on which book should be the award winner. I was so excited to be selected as the Region 5 representative for all of Northern Virginia. 

Please contact Vanessa Salo with any questions at [email protected]