March 16, 2018

Joanna Axelrod | Movers & Shakers 2011 – Marketers

Library Journal March 15, 2011: Joanna Axelrod, Mover & Shaker

Texting Librarian

Whether she’s moderating a book club or texting reminders to teenage community volunteers, youth services librarian Joanna Axelrod speaks the language of teens and tweens. She finds out what they want and develops services so the Escondido Public Library can meet those needs.

“You can’t be intimidated or hesitant to get in their faces and talk to them,” says Axelrod. “Developing personal relationships, especially with teens, is so important.”

Those relationships are the key to giving teens positive adult role models, obtaining honest feedback about library collections, and getting youth to participate, Axelrod says.

Axelrod earned “street cred” with teens in 2008, when she won a regional texting championship, says Cynthia Smith, deputy city librarian. The “Texting Librarian,” as the Escondido library has dubbed her, is constantly improving her tech skills, Smith says. (Axelrod says that she types 90 words a minute and sends 1500 texts a month.) Her tech savvy not only earns her respect from teens, it also gives her new tools to incorporate into her programs.

But Axelrod’s success is more about people skills than technology. When she became a youth librarian in 2007, she expanded the existing teen library advisory council. The renamed Crafty C.A.T.S. (Community Action Teen Services) participants had a new focus—Escondido. Teens and tweens of both genders paint over graffiti and knit caps for newborns and chemotherapy patients and blankets for the local animal shelter.

Axelrod also started the monthly In BeT(w)een Book Club (at the library and online) and put on a “Twilight” prom.

“She’s just the personification of what teen librarians need to be doing,” Smith says. “She takes kids to the next level and actually gets them interested in reading.”

As a result, the number of teens who signed up for the summer reading program increased from 206 in 2007 to 537 in 2010. Historically, about a third of the teens completed the program, but under Axelrod’s leadership, 55 percent have, says Smith. And 50 teens volunteered to help with the library’s 2010 summer children’s reading program. Axelrod has shared tips on engaging teens and tweens at California Library Association and American Library Association conferences.

Her attitude picks up where her actions leave off. “I’m the antithesis of the stereotypical librarian,” Axelrod says. “I’m young, energetic, outgoing, loud, and personable. These qualities really work to my advantage.”


Joanna Axelrod, Escondido Public Library, CA

CURRENT POSITION Youth Services Librarian II

DEGREE Master of Science in Information, summa cum laude, University of Michigan School of Information, Ann Arbor, 2005

COLLEAGUES CALL HER “Library Barbie” for wearing stylish sparkly fashion

FOLLOW @escolibrary;