Branch Out

Fairfax County, Virginia

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Erin Julius,
Editor, Branch Out

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Our Library, Our Stories: Kylie Sparks

 

Learn about the many facets and faces of FCPL and our community — one story at a time. 

In the last issue of Branch Out we introduced this “Our Library, Our Stories” section, where you’ll find interviews with, personal narratives from, and articles about FCPL staff and users. With a county and a library system as large as ours, it’s especially important to highlight the individual experiences, unique backgrounds, and many diverse voices within them. So, we’re putting the spotlight on one person’s story about life and the library in each issue with the hope that it helps us all get to know and connect with each other just a little bit better. Our second story comes to us from FCPL staff member Kylie Sparks.

We want to share your stories, too! Click here for questions to prompt your story and instructions for how to submit to us. 

Kylie Sparks

Information Services Librarian | Chantilly Regional 

 

Youth Services Librarian Aliya Parvez at Tysons-Pimmit Regional LibraryQ. What are your favorite genres to read or to help library users explore? Why? 

A. International fiction, science fiction and fantasy, mysteries, LGBT, children’s fantasy books, and graphic novels. I love talking about any book I enjoyed reading and helping readers find books that they will love.

Q. How long have you worked at FCPL, and how would you summarize what you do? What enticed you to apply for a position at FCPL?

A. I have worked at FCPL for nearly four years. I coordinate the ELL (English Language Learner) program at Chantilly Regional, plan adult programs and provide reader’s advisory for visitors in the branch and through My Perfect Read, the library’s online reader’s advisory service. I also select and order ELL books for the collection. I was attracted to the job because I love working with English language learners. A surprise bonus is that I get to help a lot of children find chapter books, because so many families with young children come to our branch.

Q. How do you spend your free time?

A. I play tennis, learn languages by talking to tutors around the world on Skype, cohost LGBT meetup groups, attend virtual book clubs, hike, kayak, ice skate, read online news articles and listen to audiobooks while walking the dog.

Q. Tell us about your background. Where did you grew up and go to school? What did you study?

A. A. I was born in Washington, D.C., and have lived in several different cities including Portland, Oregon, Boston, and Canton, Ohio. I went to college in Richmond at Virginia Commonwealth University and studied history and women’s studies. I got my graduate degree from Simmons University in Boston.

Q. Did you have experience with the library or library staff when you were growing up? What attracted you to or inspires your work at the library? 

A. I begged my parents weekly to take me to the library. Each time I would get at least 10 books and the librarians always said, “Are you really going to read so many books?” And I really did, about one a day. I got my first job in a library when I was 16 — because I loved books. But I became a librarian because I love working with people. 

Q. Is there a particular moment or memory from your time with FCPL that stands out for you? 

A. Recently a woman from Bolivia came to the library. She needed help submitting an application for her daughter to go to a competitive magnet school, but she didn’t speak English and couldn’t find out how to start the application process. I was able to use my pandemic-acquired Spanish language skills to talk to her, then speak to the school to find out what she needed to do and explain it to her. 

She came back later in the week beaming from ear to ear; she had been able to turn in the application. She then asked for help finding English classes and getting a job. I was able to connect her with two Spanish-speaking teachers in the community, an organization that provides immigrant resources in Centreville, and information about online ELL classes. It was so thrilling to be able to use my language skills to connect with someone from another culture and be able to help her.

Q. What is the last book you read? The first? The worst? Tell us a few all-time favorites, too.

A.  The last book I read was The Western Alienation Merit Badge by Nancy Jo Cullen. The first books I have a strong memory of are Andrew Lang's Fairy Books. My all-time favorites include: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen; If I were You by Joan Aiken; Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte; Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie; and The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. As for the worst … If I don’t like a book, I stop reading it, which is why all my book reviews are pretty positive!

Q. What causes are important to you?

A. Causes that are important to me include: immigrant and refugee services; LGBT issues; feminism; literacy; public transportation; the environment; world hunger; antiracism; and alternatives to policing.

Q. Tell us about your career journey. Where did you work prior to FCPL and how did it ultimately lead you here?

A. I worked for a public library in high school and as an assistant stacks manager and book repair technician at a university library. I’ve also worked as a bookseller at a large independent bookstore and the visitor coordinator at an ecovillage. After getting my master’s degree I worked four part-time public library jobs at the same time before landing my first professional job as a young adult librarian. I have enjoyed parts of every job I have had. But being able to make a real difference in people’s lives as a professional librarian — first as a young adult librarian and now as an information librarian and ELL program manager — has turned my job into a vocation, something I am passionate about.

Q. Do you have a favorite program, service or resource offered by FCPL? Why? 

A. ELL (English Language Learner) conversation circles help people gain English listening and speaking skills and build confidence in their ability to speak the language. Many new immigrants have studied English for years, but — and you know this if you ever studied a foreign language in school — learning grammar and vocabulary is not the same thing as speaking a language. In our conversation circles people make friends, learn about American culture, connect with resources, and find ways to integrate into community life. 

Q. You’re hosting a dinner party. Which three people, living or dead, would you invite, and why?

A. This is kind of a daunting question. I think I’ll stick with living people who would be interesting to talk to: Thi Bui, Mira Jacobs and Trung Le Nguyen. All three created incredible graphic novels and have really interesting personal stories.

Q. Tell us something you are proud of and why. 

A.I’m proud of all the personal growth I have done in my life to overcome serious challenges in my personal life and not only survive but thrive. I’m proud of the work I’ve done in my profession, speaking three languages, having over 1,700 books on my Goodreads, and becoming a driver after the age of 50. And I’m pretty proud of my cooking, too.

Learn more about our staff by reading the first installment of Our Library, Our Stories featuring Tysons-Pimmit Regional Library Youth Services Librarian Aliya Parvez.

Fairfax Virtual Assistant