Today I’m super excited to have Kelsey and Jenna on the blog, both of whom work for one of my favorite companies: Libro.fm! In case you don’t know, Libro.fm is a wonderful audiobook provider where all of your purchases go towards the independent bookstore of your choice. They’re a fantastic alternative to Audible and I basically beg everyone I meet to sign up for Libro.fm or make the switch from Audible! So today I’m psyched to be chatting with Jenna, a software developer at Libro.fm, and Kelsey, who does content marketing there. I love audiobooks for many reasons – they’re a fantastic way to get more reading into your day, the narrators add so much to the experience of a book, and they help make even the most mundane of chores (laundry, cleaning, etc) feel a lot more fun. That’s why I encourage anyone who loves reading to give audiobooks a try, and why I was super interested to learn about the types of jobs you can do at a company like this. Read on to learn more about Jenna and Kelsey and their roles at Libro.fm!
From College to Libro.fm
Kelsey: I studied English and Spanish as an undergraduate, served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Namibia, and then earned an MFA in fiction in graduate school. I moved across the country and worked as a bookseller in DC for a year before the effects of the pandemic. In April 2020, Libro.fm hired 11 booksellers who had been affected by COVID-19 to work a short-term contract, and I extended my contract with them afterwards to officially join the team!
Jenna: I went to graduate school for math, and that’s where I first learned some coding. After graduate school, I worked for the Washington State Auditor’s Office for a few years as a performance auditor. I knew I didn’t want to do that forever, and reached out to Libro.fm to see if they had any openings. I ended up filling a variety of roles before joining the tech team full time!
The Day to Day
Kelsey: My primary role is to manage our blog content, but I also provide customer support, copy write and edit communications, and process audiobook page content like bookseller recommendations. On a monthly basis, I help choose our monthly Advanced Listening Copy selections.
Jenna: On our team, we like to have two projects for each person at a time, so I’m usually focused on one of those. My team has daily standups where we get to check in with each other about what we’re all working on. Outside of my main dev project, I also help with ad-hoc data requests from the marketing team, cover customer support when it gets backed up, and help make the Advance Listener Copy picks each month.
Aside from a love of books, what skills are important at your job?
Kelsey: Attention to detail is key with editing content, as is a familiarity with grammar and style. Also, I just learned the keyboard shortcut for an em dash, and that’s changed the whole game for me (option+shift+(dash))!
Jenna: The ability to be flexible and go with the flow in a fast-paced environment.
The Best Parts:
Kelsey: Talking about books! From writing to bookselling to working as a school librarian in the Peace Corps, most of my career has been centered around literature. I love that working at Libro.fm allows me to engage in a new way with audiobooks.
Jenna: That I get to learn everyday! This is my first full time development job, so I’m constantly learning something new. Also I have great coworkers!
The Impact of Covid:
Kelsey: Bookselling is based on in-person interactions and that joy that happens when someone else loves a book that you do, or has never even heard of their next favorite read! Our bookselling partners drive the majority of Libro.fm’s decisions, and it’s hard to hear about bookstores struggling to adapt amidst the effects of the pandemic and the challenges of the past year.
Jenna: Covid has impacted so much, but Libro.fm was already a fully remote company before the pandemic, so I think we have probably been less affected than some other companies. While it hasn’t totally affected Libro.fm, many of our partner bookstores have had to shift to have more of an online presence and support a lot more orders.
What do you enjoy about audiobooks (versus paper books)?
Kelsey: Narrators can really make the stories come alive, and I love the tone and color their voices can add to the experience of a book.
Jenna: I love that audiobooks let you multitask! I definitely can’t multitask while reading a physical book, but with an audiobook, I can do the dishes, fold laundry, or walk the dog, while still reading.
Let’s chat audiobooks! What are your top 3-5 recommendations?
Kelsey: I’m currently reading Robert Jones, Jr.’s The Prophets, and I am loving that I get to spend time with a new character in each chapter. It’s a powerful story with bright details, and Karen Chilton’s narration seems to fit exactly right! I’m new to audiobooks, but I’m excited to circle back to Morgan Jerkins’s Wandering in Strange Lands. I initially read it in print and emerged feeling like I understood myself better through her journey; I know Jerkins’s narration will lend beautifully to sharing her own experience. I’m also about to treat myself to Ross Gay’s The Book of Delights, because who couldn’t use a little more delight these days—a little more gratitude, more glimmering moments of joy and peace?
Jenna: Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker – the story of a family where six of twelve children were diagnosed with schizophrenia, in parallel with the history of research of the disease.
The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson – a history of the Great Migration, this audiobook is long but so worth it. It closely follows three Black Americans who left the south at different times during the Great Migration, and intersperses additional history and stories throughout.
She Said by Jodi Kantor & Megan Twohey – a behind-the-scenes look at the investigative journalism that broke the Harvey Weinstein story, and the beginnings of the #MeToo movement.
Thank you so much to Kelsey and Jenna for sharing your stories! I love that Kelsey got started there because Libro hired 11 booksellers who had been impacted by the pandemic and she was one of them – how cool! I thought it was interesting to hear about these jobs because they’re at a book company, but different from what you would think when you hear that someone works in books. And I’m always happy to highlight the great work going on over at Libro.fm. I hope you all enjoyed this installment of Behind the Books and thanks as always for reading!