Staff Spotlight: Jennifer Oglesby

Staff Spotlight interviews Livingston Parish Library employees so you can better get to know the people that are serving you both behind the scenes and at each of our five branches.

Jennifer Oglesby likes to help people. As the first digital services librarian in Livingston Parish Library history, it’s the first part of the job description.

Oglesby oversees the Denham Springs-Walker Branch’s brand new Idea Lab, a space that houses technology available for patrons to create different projects. A graduate from LSU with her Master of Library and Information Sciences degree in 2014, she demonstrates different technologies in the lab, teaches people how to use them, and even assists people with their projects.

Read on to learn more about the Idea Lab, how Oglesby became a digital services librarian, and what she gets up to outside the library!

Livingston Parish Library: What is the Idea Lab?

Jennifer Oglesby: The idea of the Idea Lab is to have technology and make it available to the general public, especially things you may not be able to have on your own because they may be expensive or uncommon or just a little odd to have in your house, but that you need every once in a while.

We have two 3D printers. We have a 3D scanner, so we can take an object that already exists and, if there is a broken piece or something, scan it and make a new one for you. We have a sewing machine. It’s easy to use, but it does a lot. We are getting a button maker. We are still researching and looking at other things to get next year.

LPL: The Idea Lab also has virtual reality. Tell me a little about that.

JO: The virtual reality is awesome! You have a headset and you get two controllers. They are odd-looking remotes, but you can manipulate the space you will be seeing through your visor with them. It’s got some really fun games, and a lot of educational things. There’s a preview of one with this giant whale that swims by you with all of these ocean creatures that’s really neat. There’s a Google-Earth one that’s like Google Street View, but immersive where you are there. You could go to the Great Wall of China if you wanted! There are a ton of programs out there, and because we are a library, we’re always looking for more good things to add to our collection.

LPL: What are the hours for the Idea Lab?

JO: We are open Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and Tuesday and Thursday from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

We are also doing one-on-one sessions when we don’t have regular open lab hours or specialized programs going on. So if someone wants to come in and see the 3D printer but they can only make it on a Tuesday morning, that’s fine. Just let me know and we can get you set up with that. If someone needs a sewing machine for a couple of hours and they can’t make it during lab time or if someone is ahead of them in line and they can’t stay and wait, they can book a lab time for that.

LPL: Why is the Idea Lab important?

JO: The Idea Lab is important because all of these technologies are coming out, all of these new things, some of which people have heard of, and some that people haven’t. Some of these technologies are hard to get as an individual, but these are things you are going to be seeing in the world more and more. Maybe at your workplace, in future environments, or students may be encountering this at school. If we have it at the library, you can start working with it and getting familiar with it. You’ll be ready to go. You’ll be able to train other people at your workplace or show others at your school how to use this, or, if you aren’t teaching someone else, use this technology in a way that’s an advantage to you.

The Idea Lab is important for practical reasons, too. Sometimes you need to sew a button on something and you don’t have a sewing machine. You don’t need this all of the time, but it’s available if you do need it. You probably don’t need to 3D-print a special part for your door every single day, but for that one day you do, it’s important, and it’s available to you then.

LPL: So what if I don’t know anything about how to use a sewing machine or a 3D printer? Can I learn at the Idea Lab?

JO: Absolutely! That’s part of the reason we are there. We will be happy to show you everything we’ve got and tell you everything we know about it. We’ll get you started and help you with your projects.

LPL: Why did you decide to become a librarian?

JO: When I first started out, I knew I wanted to do something I could help people with. I already loved books and reading, so I was already aware of libraries. I decided “Sounds like a great idea. Let’s do that.” When I was in library school, I knew I wanted to be in libraries but I wasn’t quite sure where. I actually considered business libraries for a while, which is not at all what I want to do. I realized when I was talking about libraries, I meant public libraries. I was thinking reference-type work, where you help people with their research, find out what they need to know, and show them how to use the tools they need to help them accomplish their goals and improve their lives and the community at large. I really want to help with that.

LPL: So how did those initial goals expand into digital services?

JO: When I started here, [at the Denham Springs-Walker Branch] I was between circulation and reference most of the time. We had the computers at reference at the time, so I worked with them a lot and it turns out I’m pretty good with computers. And I like working with computers. I like solving problems and figuring out what’s going on with them, and I like learning about new technologies and showing people, hey, there’s a new tool for that. We can do something that sounds complicated in a pretty easy way.

We started looking at getting an Idea Lab and I was asked if I was interested in working with that. Absolutely, I was, and it has been fantastic so far! I love working with the 3D printers and I am very excited to see what else we can get ahold of to work with.

LPL: What are your hobbies outside the library?

JO: I am learning to play Dungeons and Dragons. I am so excited about this! There are a couple of other people at the library who know how to play and they have been very patient answering my questions about absolutely everything. I am also just over halfway through in my quest to watch every single Doctor Who episode ever made!

LPL: Favorite book/genre?

JO: I could never come up with a favorite book. My favorite genre is science fiction with a healthy dose of fantasy. I tried hard sci-fi but if you go too technical, you lose me. I think I’m into technology, but then I run across a very involved description of a ray gun and I don’t know what’s happening. I really love graphic novels, especially superhero ones. The X-Men, Inhumans, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Ms. Marvel are my favorites. My poor family has to suffer through me telling them everything about it!

LPL: Book or eBook?

JO: There is no “or.” They’re all books. I do like the familiarity of a paper book but I like the convenience of an eBook, especially the ones you can just scroll through. I think it’s easier to tune out everything around me with an eBook and focus on that. But I want the story. If one is checked out and the other is available, I will take whatever format you’ve got!

LPL: Cat or Dog?

JO: Cats. Our neighbor’s cat adopted us and that ended the debate forever.

LPL: Favorite candy?

JO: Mounds Bar.

LPL: Favorite piece of Idea Lab equipment?

JO: The 3D printers! I really love our printers. One of them is named TooJay after my favorite droid from Star Wars and one of them is named Ishkar because we thought it sounded awesome.

LPL: What are your goals for the Idea Lab?

JO: Long-term, I want to improve everybody’s digital and technological literacy across the spectrum. There are all these people I see every day and they have such cool ideas! I want them to be able to take those ideas and spread them as far as they want. If they have these tools, they can do a lot more.

LPL: What do you think of the term “maker”? Do you think the Idea Lab will inspire more people to become makers?

JO: I think it definitely will. “Maker” is a really broad term. I was really confused when I first encountered it because it’s almost saying, “You’re a human,” because people make things. But I have this idea that it’s promoting more creativity, especially in adults. I think people aren’t always encouraged to keep creating. Little kids are encouraged to draw things and make things and show those things off. We don’t do that as much with teens and adults. So I like that it is being pushed for people to keep on working on things that they love. You think of a whole idea and say, “This should exist; I want this!” We have the tools to help you bring it to life now.

LPL: If there were one thing you would want people to know about the Idea Lab and what we are doing at the library right now, what would it be?

JO: It’s here! The Idea Lab is here and it’s yours. If you want to come use it, please do. If you want to learn how to use anything, that’s what we are here for!