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September 24, 2019

On the Job: Rebecca Cline at Belleville Public Library

Rebecca Cline is the president of AFSCME Local 1765.

Tell us about your job at the Belleville Public Library.

I’m the youth services coordinator. I supervise three people in the department and we’re in charge of library programming for children, from birth to age 21. We also do all the outreach for those ages, as well as special needs programing for children, youth and adults.

As the department head, I’m also in charge of collection development—ordering all the books that the children and youth are going to be reading. I keep busy!

What’s your inspiration to go to work every day?

I have the fun job at the library. I get to play. At three o’clock in the afternoon, someone else might be having a quiet day at their desk, but in the children’s department I’m probably putting together puzzles. It’s like being a kid again.

To be a successful youth services coordinator, you have to be able to play. You have to be willing to have fun and find programs that are fun for everyone else.

I’ve worked here since 2010. I started in circulation, moved to reference, then archives and I’ve been in my current position the last five years. Working with kids is a totally different challenge from everything else. You’re constantly trying to find something that’s going to grab their attention—a good book for story time will also have a game or a craft that goes with it. Then you’ve got to have something to get the older kids off their hand-held devices.

What’s your favorite part of the job?

My favorite part of my job is being in charge of the collection.

I use a portion of my budget to order more books on social justice issues. I try to tie in the work I do as president of our local union by ordering books on topics I think kids should know about, like labor history and equal rights.

One of my favorite recent additions is a fictional storybook about Mother Jones called On Our Way to Turtle Bay: Mother Jones and Her March for Children’s Rights. I come from a coal mining family, so my dad wouldn’t have it if we didn’t know who John L. Lewis and Mother Jones were. I want to make sure the children here do too.

How does your job provide a valuable public service?

We do a lot of outreach in the community. We reach out to schools, neighborhood associations, farmer’s markets and street festivals. We take our programs to children who might not have means to get to the library. They might have financial or other hindrances to coming in our doors, so we bring the experience to them.

We’ve provided creative writing classes, crafts, STEM activities, and more. We’ve got an event coming up where we partner with local high schools to provide kids with school supplies they might not be able to afford on their own.

 Finding something that finally resonates with a kid, that one topic, that one book that will keep them reading, instill a sense of belonging and teach them how to develop their interests, that’s the biggest reward in my job.

How does the union improve your workplace?

We are really on top of making sure that everybody is treated fairly regarding pay, discipline and discrimination. We fight to keep things fair for everybody in this building. I’m ready to step in whenever necessary.

You just have to be one step ahead, even a small step ahead, and it makes a world of difference. You need to know what you’re doing, go to the union trainings. I also take labor education classes over at U of I on the weekends to see if I can be better at what I do. Having just a little bit of knowledge makes a world of difference.

How has your union job impacted your family?

Not all the libraries around us are on our level. Quite a few only pay minimum wage and don’t have benefits. There’s a lot of turnover. Our union ensures that we’re able to put in a good, hard day and have a decent wage so I can keep the lights and air conditioning on at my house and still be able to travel and have fun.

I can get time off to be with my kids so we can be together and so I can provide the things they need from me. They’re both teenagers, they’re in band and have weekend travel, and it’s important that I can represent at the home front as well. Even though they’re getting older, they still need support.

Why are you active in the union?

We’re from Southern Illinois. My dad was with the United Mine Workers of America. So every job I’ve ever worked, if there was a union I made sure I was paying dues and contributing to the cause. And I tell my kids they better do the same.

We stand together so everybody gets to eat, that’s how this works. I went to UMWA rallies; people were on strike not earning money for months at a time. They had a sense of family together. So of course I was going to be active in the union.

I don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t fight for everybody here. My dad just passed away and he was so proud that I’m president of this local.