Interview with Julie Winczewski


Jacqueline Lemus-Govea, Writer

The last couple of years have come with many changes and challenges, the library has also seen its fair share of big changes in staffing. The 2021-22 school year made way for a new school librarian: Julie Winczewski.

Winczewski was born and raised in the Portland area. She and her fiance, Eric Bates (a CHS floater teacher) have 3 pets. Their names are Komali (eight-year-old cockatiel), Picasso (five-year-old cat), and Escher (two-and-a-half- year-old cat). In her free time, Winczewski enjoys doing activities that help her unwind from her busy work schedule. “I’ve been trying to read more. I love just being outside. I love just sitting in the sun, I could sit in the sun for 20 minutes and just do nothing. I like coloring, doing crossword puzzles, so in my spare time I just try to do relaxing, very lowkey, very [minimal], just to kind of zone out,” said Winczewski.
When Winczewski was first exploring potential career paths, she wasn’t opposed to working within a library setting, but she wasn’t exactly sold on the idea either. She explained that it was mainly between becoming a librarian or a veterinary technician. Despite having an immense love for animals, Winczewski wasn’t sure if she could handle the medical side of being involved with animals. After having given her options some thought, she found that she felt most strongly with libraries and decided to continue that career she had been previously working in.

Before coming to CHS, Winczewski worked at her childhood library for about nine years. She started off as a library assistant and worked with a small team of around eight people. Winczewski mentioned that even though there were ups and downs in the time she worked there, she found her experience working at a public library to be very rewarding. Despite having worked in libraries for nine years, that isn’t considered very long in library-focused fields.

“There’s usually people who have 15-20 years [of experience]. It’s very different…so the fact that this job even came up, I knew I needed to jump on it.”
There are a number of reasons that contribute to that scarcity and competitiveness library jobs have. For starters, they are super hard to come by. Winczewski explained that people in library positions don’t retire early. They usually wait decades before deciding to retire. That is why she felt that she needed to spring into action when she found that there was an opening at CHS.

One of the main reasons Winczewski wanted to try work at a high school level was to challenge herself and try something new. Especially because she said that she feels there is a level of honesty that students and staff in high schools can have that is hard to achieve with younger grade levels.

“You can have actual conversations and in depth conversations. That’s what I really wanted. Just to be one-on-one and real with people,” Winczewski said. “It was a multitude of things, but honestly, [it was] probably proximity and just that it came up, but it didn’t hurt that it was a high school. I knew I wanted that, at least.”

There have also been many challenges since Winczewski started working here. She was hired in late October, after the school year had already started, which made it especially difficult. This is because she had to establish new norms and adjust to some already established norms, the workload, and the type of work she was going to be doing.

“The responsibility level is night and day. [At] my previous job there was someone else that would do the final decision and in this job it’s just me and if I make a decision I’ve got to go with it, so that’s very different. It’s also just been a very hard year in general,” said Winczewski.

She also said that some of the main things she does throughout her days include textbook circulation, budget, meeting with teachers, meetings with other staff and administration, and Chromebook distribution. As you can see, her days are packed from the start to the end.

Nonetheless, Winczewski said that the students, teachers, and staff have been very understanding about her capacity and hectic schedule. Specifically, she mentioned that principal Mairi Scott-Agurrie, Anne Havercamp, Zach Ramberg, and Terry Schloth have been a huge help in her transition to CHS..

“Mairi, the principal, she’s amazing. Zach [Ramberg], he’s amazing, he’s the one that I work most closely with. He’s always reassured me and…. If I have any questions or concerns I know that I can go to him, which is a huge thing,” said Winczewski. “Terry is a great support, he checks in with me and makes sure that I am getting what I need so the library and students can be successful. [Havercamp’s] office is in the library, she’s been great. She’s been really helping me kind of navigate what previous librarians did.”

Winczewski also has some really exciting plans she wants to do with the library. In particular, she expressed the desire to bring more color and brightness to the library. She started this process by purchasing really comfy coral-colored chairs that we sat on during our interview.

“I would eventually love to get more of a hangout space [made]…. I got two charging stations. I want it to be more student-focused, I want stuff for [students].” said Winczewski. “You can come in here and charge your Chromebook, you can come in here and charge your phones, or if you need to do a group project there’s round tables you can do that with, adjustable wipe boards.”

With that being said, Winczewski mentioned that though she wants to create a place where students feel safe and welcome, she also doesn’t want it to become a pattern where students go to the library to skip classes. Finding that balance will be a challenge, but Winczewski is willing to go through those challenges because she knows that little things are what make a difference in people’s day-to-day lives .

“If that helps you guys through your day, that’s what’s important because school is supposed to be a safe space. School is supposed to be somewhere where you guys feel safe, you can decompress if you need to, you can come to the staff, you don’t feel pressured, you don’t feel anxious about it, and that’s what I want,” Winczewski said.

Being around books all day is a goldmine for someone who loves reading, but ironically Winczewski has found it difficult to read since she is pretty exhausted after her workday. Nonetheless, when she can, she enjoys reading feel-good novels, thrillers, and mysteries (can’t be insanely complicated). Winczewski said, “Mysteries can be a hit or miss, it can [either] be really, really good or, ‘I saw this coming on the first page, this is not interesting.’”

Because this is her first time at CHS, Winczewski asks for patience from students, teachers, and staff these first couple of years, so she can get into a routine and is more efficient as well as helpful for everybody. We are honored to welcome Winczewski to the CHS family and are excited to see all of the wonderful things she contributes to the school and her community as she gains knowledge and expertise as she navigates throughout the school.