Good Bye, Miss Jamilla!

Shaw (Watha T. Daniel) Library

Good Bye, Miss Jamilla!

It's a sad week in the Watha T. Daniel children's room, because we are getting ready to  say goodbye to Miss Jamilla.

Jamilla Coleman has worked in the children's room as a Library Associate for three and a half years, and she will be truly missed.  I sat down with my dear coworker to ask her some questions so the community can get to know her better, even as we send her on her way.

Jamilla ColemanWhat is your educational background?
JC:  I come from a family of teachers.  My mom, aunt, and both grandmothers all were teachers, and my grandfather was a principal. My other grandfather was a social worker and I have other family members with a background in public service.  I considered being a teacher, but don't regret going into the library field. 
My undergraduate degree is in English from Spelman College, I also took a lot of classes in Spanish which have been really helpful at the library.  I am working on my master's in library science, though I've take a baby hiatus.

So, where are you going?
JC:  I will be the new administrative support assistant in neighborhood library services, at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library.

How do you see yourself in the library, and how has working here fit your goals?
JC: I used to be a writer and an editor working in New York when I was younger. I wanted to have my own magazine, I also dreamed of working for Essence -- that was my favorite. I ended up getting a job as an assistant editor at Oprah's magazine. It made me realize that even though I learned a lot about the editing world, about working in the real world, I wanted to be out there and make my own stories.
Being at the library has allowed me to do that, to hear other people's stories because it's one of the most fascinating places I have ever worked.  Before being hired at DC Public Library, I worked for a nonprofit called Writers in Schools that brought authors into D.C. schools. I realized I feel most useful when I am helping people. The public library is paid community service, and it's an adventure.

What are some of your other skills and talents?
JC: I wanted to be an artist when I was little, because I can draw, even though it’s a skill I haven’t used in a long time.  Being artistic comes in handy at the library, making displays and doing crafts. I also knit, and took dance for 10 years.  All of this makes me playful and imaginative, which helps when working with children.

How do you see the future of public libraries, and how do you feel about the move to digitization?
JC: I am really excited about libraries' move towards digitization, however we also need to stay analog on some level.  It's like how public pay phones are disappearing, or how Metro charges you an extra dollar when you don't use SmarTrip as we move towards eliminating cash. The library likes to be on the cutting edge of technology, but at the same time we are one of the last bastions of dying technologies, because we serve all people -- elderly, poor and people with low literacy. We still need to provide basic information literacy, even though we get excited about the heights of information literacy.

I really agree with everything you are saying!
JC:  I was in New York on Sept. 11 and you couldn't use your cell phone. I actually did use a pay phone to call my mom. I was a Girl Scout and I still say, always be prepared.  I don't like to feel dependent on new technologies. 

What are your ambitions for the future?
JC: A lot of librarians want to write a best seller or a screenplay. Those are lofty goals, but I do want to get cracking on one or the other. A lot of writers have told me, you just need to start, and if I had taken their advice I would have gotten it done years ago! 
But I do still hope to be a part of DC Public Library as well.  D.C. libraries are part of the real D.C.  The changes happening here are great, but don’t get me started on who is being excluded from some of the other plans that are going on.  The libraries always embrace everyone and I like being a part of that. 

What’s your book about?
JC: I don't know, but when I think about authors whose style I admire I would like to write like Jennifer Weiner. In my opinion, she writes intelligent chick lit. My other favorites are Betty Smith, who wrote A Tree Grows in Brooklyn; JK Rowling; Edward P. Jones; and Zora Neale Hurston. 

From some of Jamilla's fans:
"Miss Jamilla helped out a lot in sewing class.  She had creative ideas and was enthusiastic about what we could do with our projects. She will be missed."
-- Kyla, age 13

"Miss Jamilla is very nice to everybody.  She helps us with our homework and does art with us.  I love Miss Jamilla."
-- Alcia, age 8

"Why are you leaving, Miss Jamilla? She corrects wrong from right. She signed me up for sewing class. Once I started doing it, it was fun and we made money."
-- Troy, age 12

"I saw her when her belly was fat.  And then when the baby came out, I was the first kid to meet him. I will miss Miss Jamilla helping me and extending my time on the computer."
-- Amari, age 9
Photo credit:  Casey Danielson