Meet the Librarian Co-Designers: Jean Slavkovsky

June 1, 2021

For the fourth and final edition of our meet the co-designers series, we’re featuring Jean Slavkovsky from Malden Public Library!

This spring, we kicked off a new series where we highlighted some of the librarians who participated in the co-design process with us. You can read more about the co-design process in a previous post. For our fourth edition, we’re featuring Jean Slavkovsky from Malden Public Library in Massachusetts. Though we have yet to meet Jean in person, the PLIX team has gotten to know her well over the past year. Along with co-designing Beautiful Symmetry, she’s participated in lots of our workshops and has run many PLIX activities for her patrons.

Starting this month, we will be sending out free materials to a small cohort of librarians to beta-test Beautiful Symmetry! Want to get involved in beta-testing? Sign up now!

Let's meet Jean...

The wonderful Jean!
The wonderful Jean!

Tell us a bit about your role at your library. What's your favorite part of your job? How is "making" part of your role?

I am an Adult Services Librarian at the Malden Public Library in Malden, Massachusetts. My responsibilities ensure not one day is quite like the other: I help patrons find answers, use technology, and navigate the world; I order fiction, literature, graphic novels and high-demand books for our adult collection; I run programs and events, make displays, and manage our volunteer program; I produce digital content, including videos, resource guides, and posts, and help curate our social media presence. Making is an increasingly important part of my job now that digital marketing has become the primary means for reaching our patrons, not only letting them know what we have to offer, but how to use it, and to enrich and inspire our community.

While I love so much of my job, my favorite part has to be collaborating with my coworkers to find new ways to help our patrons. Working in libraries is so much more rewarding when you can do it with inspiring coworkers who feed off of each others' creativity and passion for public libraries to the benefit of our community.

What excites you about creative learning?

Creative learning is at the crux of what public libraries are for. When a person walks through our door or visits our website, they are there because they want something, need something. While we provide resources and guidance, the patron chooses what they will do with that information. Creative learning's emphasis on choosing your own adventure and collaborative nature mirror the public library's mission to empower our patrons and foster community.

Why were you interested in participating in the co-design to begin with?

I had never participated in a co-design process with non-librarians before and was intrigued by the idea of working with scientists and educators using the more open-ended creative learning model to create new programs. I have been trying to find ways to better engage Malden's scientific and math-oriented patrons as well as our artist community, and collaborating with MIT's PLIX team has been illuminating and energizing.

What is one interesting thing you learned from participating in the co-design?

I learned that structure can sometimes inhibit the learning process. By designing programs with open-ended outcomes, our programming better matches our mission to support patron-driven lifelong learning.

What other PLIX activity are you most excited to run with your patrons? Any remix ideas you'd like to share?

I look forward to running paper circuits with our patrons. By requiring so little to get started and endless outcomes, I look forward to seeing what our patrons come up with.

Favorite book/article/poem/essay you’ve read during lockdown?

The most important book I've read this year is "How to Be an Antiracist" by Ibram X. Kendi. Dr. Kendi asks us to look at ourselves and at the societal structures that have been designed to encourage disparities, biases, and hatred. This long collective pause is an opportunity for our nation to look within, examine our history and present, and work together to create a more equitable, free country. We cannot fix something until we know that it is broken and how it is broken; and the more who know, the better chance that we can fix it.