Ashley Krohn: Igniting Passions and Potential

Growing up, Ashley Krohn never considered a career as a librarian, but the more she explored the world the more she realized her passion was to educate and inspire others. Now, as a school librarian, Ashley helps young people explore the universe to find their place in the world.
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Ashley Krohn
School librarian for Edina Public Schools
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After college, Ashley Krohn spent time traveling the world, which helped her discover her passion for education and helping kids explore.
She sees libraries as a key resource to inspire kids while also helping them break out of their echo chambers to see other perspectives.
Rather than asking kids what careers interest them, Ashley asks kids what problems they want to solve, or what role they want to play in the community.
Ashley’s personal experiences with depression and anxiety have compelled her to speak out about the need for better mental health access in the United States.



IVAN STEGIC: Hi there! You’re listening to ONE OF 8 BILLION, a podcast about all of us! I’m your host, Ivan Stegic. This podcast is supported by TEN7, a technology studio whose mission is to Make Things That Matter. Online at

We all have a story, don’t we? We’ve all had successes and failures, joy and disappointment, love and sadness. And yet, we’ve all made it here… to right now! Our stories are one amongst eight billion others… eight billion other stories, each of them unique, each of them grand in their own way, and each of them a window into the humanity that connects us all. ONE OF 8 BILLION tells life stories from around the world.


Our story today is about Ashley Krohn, school librarian for Edina public schools, who is committed to inspiring young people to explore ideas and the world around them.


IVAN: Welcome to ONE OF 8 BILLION. If you wouldn't mind, please introduce yourself. Tell me what your name is and tell me what you're doing in life right now.

ASHLEY KROHN: My name is Ashley Krohn. My pronouns are she/her. And, what I'm doing in life right now is actually a huge moment of transition, at least in my work life. I previously had worked for Minneapolis Public Schools for 14 years, the last eight years spent heading up Minneapolis’ 67 school libraries, and through a frustrating series of events, that is no longer happening, and I'm now going to be a school librarian for Edina Public Schools. So, I'm switching from my roots of urban education to suburban education.

In terms of personal life, my husband and I eloped six months ago, and now I've been procrastinating on planning a wedding reception that's supposed to happen two months from yesterday.

IVAN: Congratulations. Those are monumental changes. So, wedding reception and a major work event as well.

ASHLEY: Yeah, and somewhere in there I'm also trying to finish my second master's degree, which I don't recommend going for a second one, just get one and be done.

IVAN: Can you talk a little bit about what precipitated the change from Minneapolis to Edina? It sounds like you were there for a long time. It sounds like there's a story there.

ASHLEY: Yeah, there definitely is. I started working in education in 2008. I had been traveling, volunteering abroad, doing what I kind of, cringe, and be like in my white savior type of mode. But I always enjoyed going to school and I really enjoyed putting things in front of kids or learners and them deciding what they wanted to learn. I wasn't the one who made them learn, they made the decision to learn whatever's put in front of them. So, it's how I started. And I started out assisting in a school library. And at the time, I was in school, because I was like I'm going to become an English teacher because I like books. And I like technology. And I don't know why somebody didn’t say hey, you should really be a librarian. I became a school librarian and then through someone leaving, and not a lot of people wanting to helm up an entire district’s libraries, I was like, “Yeah, I'll do that. I don't have a ton of experience, but I have a lot of passion.”

So that's what I did for the last eight years. And for anybody who has been paying attention to local Minneapolis or metro area Minnesota events, I actually took part of our teachers strike. So, I was on strike with all of my colleagues for three weeks in March, and we were really trying to get better learning conditions for students and better professional conditions for all educators, not just licensed staff but paraprofessionals, which I started out as, and specifically for our colleagues of color, because more paraprofessionals, or educational assistants tend to be people of color.

Minnesota has one of the highest rate of white teachers, 95% of licensed educators in the state of Minnesota are white folks. So, we were really trying to fight for our colleagues, and we had a lot of wins, but public education is very hard, but it is also very rewarding. And for me personally, through the last couple of years with the pandemic, there's always a part of you that's a socialist if you think about the shared resources for a library. But that has definitely exploded a lot more for me in the pandemic. And I am now, what I refer to myself as a baby, anti-capitalist.

There's always a certain level of exploitation of any person who works in an educational system. We've been defunding education for decades in the United States, and you get manipulated, because it's oh, it's for the kids. And what I've said to library staff is, “I want you to work your hours, and I want you to work hard, but you need to take your breaks, you need to take your lunches. And you also need to demonstrate to students like I get to have a break, I get to be a full whole human being,” because that's what we want for them. And I also don't want them to become exploited or manipulated.

I think these last few months, and then definitely these last few years, it’s just really shown that it was a really hard and toxic work environment. And my job had actually been reclassified, and I reapplied for it. And as I was waiting to hear back because it took them three months to interview me and two weeks after my interview to contact me, I was like well, I'm not going to wait around anymore. And I've heard great things about Edina, every single school has a librarian. Whereas in Minneapolis, it's less than half. And they were so excited.

I had a friend from Edina say, “I really think you should apply. We would really love to have you,” and to interview and even in the interview to get such good responses. I got a call in less than 48 hours. I interviewed on a Friday afternoon; I got a phone call on a Sunday afternoon offering me the job. And I was like yeah, I'm going to go somewhere where I'm wanted, and people are excited. 

IVAN: Appreciated.

ASHLEY: Versus. Yeah, having that persistent feeling of whatever I'm doing is not enough. But I'm not getting enough coaching on how to learn how to do better. So, it was hard to leave. I've been with them for 14 years. It's the only school district I've worked for which I feel like, as a millennial, I feel like a lot of people in my generation have changed jobs every few years. And I hear that's a great way to make more money. But yeah, so it's a big change. And I'm excited, and I'm a little nervous, but I keep being met with excitement and support from my new co-workers. And my husband is super psyched, because he's looking forward to me maybe not working 10-hour days, sometimes 12 to 14, depending on the time of year. I'm like I can have a real life? What is this?

IVAN: When is your first day?

ASHLEY: My first day is a week from tomorrow. So, in eight days, mid-August, I will start this new position with a little less responsibility. I'll go from being in charge of 67 libraries to one.

IVAN: And do you get to go into the library and see actual people in your job? Or does it start out virtually? What does that on-boarding look like?

ASHLEY: Yeah, so most school districts do new teacher orientation, or new teacher workshops. And with COVID, it depends on the district and the number of people but for Edina, we'll be going in face to face, and we'll get to just do a lot of onboarding. I think the first day is around a lot of our technology and the tools that are available to us. I'm told that all of the school librarians during lunch are the media specialists, we get called a lot of different names, hopefully good ones. But they introduce themselves, because a lot of schools don't have a school librarian. And some people have never had one in their career. They're like, so wait, what do y'all do?

And I think sometimes people have old school notions of a librarian, because if you had positive or negative experiences as a kid, I mean, I'm in my late 30s and we started doing some technology, but the library was still mostly focused on books. But now it's about information in all of its forms and inquiry and exploration. And that includes books, but it's so much more. Minnesota is one of 19 states that doesn't require a school librarian, and yet, we're in a literacy crisis, if you've been paying attention to the news. I don't think it's the only reason why we're having a literacy crisis in the state of Minnesota but in this instance, correlation and causation, they go hand in hand.

IVAN: I grew up in South Africa and they taught us about the Dewey Decimal System, way back in the 80s. And that was a wonderful foundation for me. And I loved going to the library and looking for books. And for some reason, I remember 808.9, as one of the sections that I had some responsibility of finding some literature in. Do they teach the Dewey Decimal System these days? Is there a beginner's introduction to how to use a library? And how to find the information for children? Or is it like, go to the library and figure it out?

ASHLEY: No, if you are a librarian who really cares about kids accessing or anyone accessing information, one of those deeply held librarians or library values, because there's so many people who work in a library, not just the title librarian, it really is about equitable access and arranging your materials in a way that whoever your patrons or your audience is, can access things. There are a lot of problems with the Dewey Decimal System. It was created in the 1800s. Dewey was a man with a lot of biases, like we all have, but even more. He was very Christian focused. And so, while we do teach kids about that, it's not that it’s, this is a great system, it’s just this is a system we use.

And we really want to teach kids more about how information is organized so they can apply that anywhere else. Because the public library in Hennepin County uses something called Library of Congress, which to me is even more confusing, and then a bookstore organizes it differently. And there's actually been a rise in school libraries to reorganize their materials by genre, because it really makes more sense for kids. If you're going to go into the fiction section and people just organize it by the author's last name, you have to know who the author is. But if you're like, Oh, we're going to put all of our humor books together and all of our adventures, and your kid is like, “I really love fantasy,” you're like, “Oh, let me come over to this whole section.” And then instead of you trying to look something up in the catalog and find that one book, and it's not near anything else, you get to actually explore it.

And there are even people who are Ditching Dewey is what it's called, and trying to think of new ways to organize materials that make sense, so that like materials are together and easy to find. Because I would rather a student or an adult, or anyone who's seeking out information, spend more time looking through the actual books and figuring out is this a book or a material, whatever it may be that I want to read or listen to, then how do I even find this thing?

Imagine if you went into the grocery store and they're like, we're just going to organize everything alphabetically by brand, but like materials aren't together, or like maybe the refrigerated stuff is all together, and the non-perishables, but it's all just mixed up, it's going to get a pair of like things together to make it easier for folks. And then it's the job of library staff to, especially for kids, to encourage them to explore new things like, Oh, you like this? Have you tried this? Have you tried that? And so that's a slow opening. Because sometimes kids are really like I like what I like. And then you get kids who are like I don't know, I'm into this, or I'm into that. And I love something that makes me feel alive. And, what makes me want to do what I want to do is I love, especially for younger kids, their enthusiasm and their curiosity in the world. I want to continue to nurture that.

Students come to us with so many interests, and so much history already, they’ve already experienced even as five-year-olds they've experienced so much. So how do we build on what they already have and help expand what's going on in their local and global community because it really is such a global world.

IVAN: I love this idea of exposing kids and adults to different ideas and diverse opinions and things that you might not be interested in now, but that you could be interested because someone else mentioned it to you. And it feels like that's the complete opposite of what we have online as a rule of thumb. Everywhere you go online, everything's about personalization, isn't it? Put your preferences in here, and we'll show you stuff that's like what you like. And it's very different than what you just described, which is Oh, you'll like this. And you might like this. But have you tried this? And it's totally different than what you were expecting. It almost feels like the online world is creating more of an echo chamber than I originally thought, because of this preference personalization stuff.

ASHLEY: Yeah, it's one of those things that really frustrated me. I have a distinct memory of, I don't know how many years ago, but I think it was like Google or something or hearing about how the algorithm was changing, so that they were going to start feeding you more things similar to your history. And I remember being like but what if I don't want that? What if I do want to come across things that I'm exposed to differently, and I think it has absolutely contributed to the polarization that the United States is facing right now. And I'm trying to figure out how I'm going to teach that to younger kids. It's a little bit easier for middle school and high school kids to teach them about, so the algorithm is going to be pushing you to do similar things. And talking to kids, I like to frame it as “Do you like being told what to do?” Because developmentally, when you get to that sort of teen years, you're pushing back even more on boundaries, and you're really trying to become your own independent person.

And so, I just flip that, and I say, “I want to help you become more independent. But let me tell you about how your search engines or social media or whatever, YouTube, and everything else is really trying to push you their agenda, and it really is rooted in capitalism in what they're trying to sell to you. So here are some skills I can teach you. Let me pull back the veil a little bit and teach you more about how you can reclaim what you want to look at or how you can perform searches in order to find more information.”

And then also talking to kids a little bit about their digital footprint and how it is so much harder now than it was 10, 15 years ago to not be sharing all of your data constantly. And so how can you start to reclaim that a little bit. Although I have my own strong opinions about things, it is my job as an educator to be able to share with kids so they can make the world what they want it to be. So they get to choose the type of world that they want to live in. But to really apply that critical eye.

When I think about the rise of social media, I did my undergrad in Boston. And so that was when Facebook was just starting and we were the first of 25 schools to be invited. So, what is it, 16, 17, 18 years? So long. And just thinking about how all of that has changed over time, but really deciding what do you want out there? And it's interesting, too, for parents, do you realize what you're doing when you're sharing photos and the information you're sharing about your kid. And, I've seen so many friends and people on the internet who used to share a lot more, but as their kids got older, and could start saying no, I don't want that and how the role of consent plays into all of that.

And so, I find this stuff kind of fascinating, and I think, unfortunately, there's a certain level of control we won't be able to have based on how much we're participating, but there are ways that you can take back that control. And it's also a way to get civically involved because I think a lot of our legislators are pretty old and don't understand this. So, we have to say, “Hey, you should be protecting us,” or “This isn't okay,” or “Maybe it's time for you to retire and bring some new blood in.”

IVAN: Maybe an opinion that is actually valid and knows about the circumstances of our daily technology use and all of the effects that they have in how they're used. I'm so glad to be talking to you about this, because when I think of a librarian, I think of that person I used to visit at the library when I needed a book. And, you're describing to me and opening my eyes to a role in society that is much bigger and much larger and much more important than what I usually think and the connotations that I have around a librarian. So, thank you for doing that for me.

ASHLEY: That’s what I’m here for.

IVAN: So, let's talk about where life started for you. So, you've been in Minneapolis for at least the last 14 years working at Minneapolis Public Schools. You did mention Boston for undergrad. Where were you born? Where did you grow up?

ASHLEY: I was actually born and raised at least until the age of six in Minneapolis. So I grew up in the city at a young age and then my parents decided that they wanted to move us out to the southwestern suburbs of Minnesota. And while it was nice to have more space for a long time, I missed being an actual city kid. So I ended up graduating from Eden Prairie High School and the best advice I ever received, from my godmother's daughter, was to go as far away as you could stand for college.

So, for me, I only thought as wide as the United States, at least at the beginning, so I was like you know what, I'm going to go to Boston, because as a kid like those first few years growing up in a city, I was privileged enough that both my parents owned their own businesses and so we traveled a lot, when I was a kid. We did really long road trips. So, I had incredible bladder control. Let's go on a road trip, I can go for a while, I don't like to stop the car until we get to half a tank of gas.

I’m the youngest of three, technically five, because my dad has two kids from his first marriage. I have two older brothers and then a half-sister and a half-brother. Grew up in that kind of a family. Very encouraged to read and seek out information. I played sports when I was a kid. I always say I was good enough to know I wasn't good enough to be great. And I maybe took that a little bit too much to heart being like I'm just not good enough, which seems to be the thing, that's the cloud or the specter in the back of my head.

I ended up studying film at Boston University, and I loved being in a bigger city. Compared to New York City it’s a lot smaller, but it's much bigger and much more dense than Minneapolis. And I thought yeah I'm going to do that and I'm not going to come back to Minneapolis. And after I graduated, it was like do I want to go to New York or LA, and I'd spent a semester in London, and I'd spent a summer living in Germany with an ex-boyfriend. And I was like yeah, I'm just going to leave Minnesota and I'm never going to come back.

I chose LA because it's the center of the film and television industry, and it was not for me. Let me tell you. I loved it, but I don't have that passion. People kept saying, you just got to give LA two years, and then you'll love it. And if I don't know after a few months like two years is just I've been brainwashed into thinking I love it. So, I sold my car and a lot of my stuff, and I moved back home.

I was privileged enough to be able to live at home with my parents, and then I spent 10 months using their house as a base and just going to travel and at one point I just spent six months traveling. And, I traveled through the Middle East, I spent three months volunteering in Tanzania, the aforementioned white savior thing I'm still trying to get over, and I had gone to South Africa for six weeks, gorgeous country and then I went back for a month and my parents actually came with me. Honestly my dad's not a big traveler, he'll do the US but international travel, like, he’s, I’ll go to Europe, but… So, that was a big deal for him to come to South Africa. And then I came back, and I realized I wanted to teach, and I thought I'll just get my Masters in Minnesota and I'll get my teaching license, and I'll just move somewhere else, and actually fell in love with it as an adult?

When I came back, it was 14 years, that's where I've been, I've been living in Minneapolis, and my husband and I bought a house in North Minneapolis a year and a half ago and I love being a homeowner. I found out that I like having really crisp sidewalk edges with the grass. I don't know, you just hit your late 30s and there are weird things that are satisfying to you.

IVAN: I know how you feel. Have you ever tried real edgers? Not like the ones with the little plastic piece of nylon that comes out, but that one that has the hardcore metal edge. It's an edger? I do it once a year.

ASHLEY: Yeah, we just bought one, because I was saying I don't want one of those push things. I've been in a weird number of car accidents for someone as young as I am, and I was like, I want an electric one. It's a plugin one, so the batteries don't die. And that was my weekend activity. And honestly, the last position I was in for eight years, it was a lot of a desk job and a lot of just digital work, and you don't actually get to see the things you're fighting for impact students like face. To be able to do work and then see it and just ripping grass out of the ground. It’s something primal and immediate and it is so satisfying. I did not know I would love yard work as much as I do. I was like, I'll do the inside of the house and you do the outside and that's how we're going to tag team it.

IVAN: That's awesome. That's so great. Did you ever think you were going to be a librarian when you were young? You described the story of how you ended up with a master's degree and how you ended up being an educator. But did being a librarian or being an educator ever cross your mind when you were much younger?

ASHLEY: I don't ever remember saying I want to be a teacher, or I want to be a librarian. I enjoyed school and I think I was good at it. I was good at fulfilling what the typical expectations are. I knew that I always wanted to help people. I get a lot of meaning and satisfaction from helping others. And I think that also stems from a place of, I think we all have like certain traumatic events in our life and joyous events, just things that the movie Inside Out would call core memories. And I think it stems from a time when I wasn't able to help myself. And so, I was like, Well, I'm going to try to help others.

So for a long time, I thought I wanted to be a psychologist, and I highly recommend therapy to everyone, and I wish it was more accessible, and I wish that our country actually cared about healthcare. But that's what I thought I was going to do. I think it was one of those things maybe in the back of my mind, but it wasn't until I was volunteering abroad, and basically working in like school situation that I realized how much I actually like kids. They're really fascinating, and curious, and unfiltered. They say things that are so surprising. And even though I don't have my own kids, and I actually don't want to have my own, I get to do that through work. And then I just get to come home and just rest and be in control of everything. It was really interesting.

What I do appreciate now is I think when I was growing up, we asked kids, what do you want to be when you grow up? And I've really, suggested by other people, I've really shifted to what kind of problems do you want to solve? Or what role do you want to play in your community, especially since there are jobs now that are really popular that didn't exist five years ago. So, I think that's been an interesting shift to ask kids, because I think that helps them realize there are many different career pathways that they could take based on these interests that they have.

IVAN: I like the way of framing that as what role do you want to have and how do you want to contribute to society and to your community? As opposed to what job do you want? What title do you want that defines you? Because it just feels a whole lot healthier to talk about what role and what problems you want to solve. So thank you for that. You are shifting the way I think about stuff, I love it.

ASHLEY: That's good. That's because other people shifted it for me. It's moving from that individualistic culture that I think is so dominant in the US to more of that community-minded, because honestly, for me, if the pandemic has shown us anything, it's really that we are all interconnected, and we do depend on each other. So how can we help care for one another and care for ourselves?

IVAN: And how can we have the greatest effect on our community as well? And if you think about the title of our podcast, it's ONE OF 8 BILLION, and eight billion’s a huge number. And it makes me feel really small, in some cases, when I think of the relationship between myself and eight billion other humans, and it also makes me feel disconnected. But it also makes me feel connected because I know that these other eight billion humans out there are very much like me and are experiencing problems and situations and love and joy and sorrow, just the way that I do. How does being ONE OF 8 BILLION make you feel?

ASHLEY: I would say I have similar feelings, both the connection and disconnection. I have a distinct memory as a kid. I can’t remember how old I was, it was before I was 10, but realizing that every other person I saw had as rich of a life as I did, right? They have family and they have friends, and they have dreams and fears and aspirations. And so that helped me to feel more connected with others, even folks who I wouldn't meet. But it can feel like Oh, I'm just one of many. And I think sometimes I can vacillate between the two. But when I try to think about being one of eight billion, I guess I tend to think a little bit more in metaphor, like thinking about, if we’re each grain of sand individually it's very small, but when we come together, we make a beach. Or, if you think about each rain droplets, but then we all come together and make an ocean. And there are ways that we impact each other, and it's going to have a different kind of impact on their local community, or some people are going to have impacts on their country or globally in deciding what they want to do. I feel like I had a mid-20s crisis and I had a later 30s crisis of Oh, who do I want to be? What do I want to do? How do I fit in the world? And hitting this point where I've aged out of that 18 to 35 demographic that just seems like so many things are targeted to.

IVAN: That’s arbitrary?

ASHLEY: Yes, absolutely arbitrary. And, like, why is the US so youth obsessed? But sometimes I think Oh, I had so many fewer responsibilities? And does that mean I have less opportunity or possibility? And that's something that really makes me feel alive, the idea of possibility. I don't drink or take any substances like that anymore. But I always say the thing that always gets me the most high is possibility. Anything could happen. Oh, my gosh. And then that's also balanced with having an anxiety disorder and being like, Oh, my God, anything can happen. Right? I'm trying as much as I can to acknowledge it, try not to judge it, but also say, oh, yeah, there's so much.

And when I think of this time of transition and remaking, actually in therapy this morning talking about how do I feel about this transition? And what do I want in this new job or in any new situation? And we can always start anew in any moment. But I think larger moments of transition allow us time to think about who we want to be? And how do I want to impact myself and the people around me, and I'm moving to a different pond, if you will. And so how am I, as my one droplet, going to interact with this community and make positive change? And I'm going to make mistakes. And how do I know how to apologize and change my actions in order to continue to make a positive impact on those around me while also really trying not to overwork myself and not get burned out?

Because there's only one of eight billion, but there's only one of me. And as far as I know, this is the only life I get. And so how am I going to live a life that feels meaningful to me, while also ensuring that my life is not only having a positive impact but isn't negatively impacting others in a significant way?

IVAN: I love the metaphor that you talked about of one grain of sand amongst others making a beach and one droplet amongst others making an ocean. It really materializes that idea in your brain. At least it reminds me that those grains of sand and those droplets in the ocean really only can affect the local community of droplets and the local community of grains of sand around them. And we have to work together to make a bigger impact, even around our community. So, I appreciate that visualization. You mentioned two struggles or crises that you had in your 20s, and 30s. What has been your greatest struggle in life?

ASHLEY: Ooh, that is a great question. I would say initially, it's a hard one but since being back in therapy, I've been talking about that. I think, my greatest struggle, or at least something that jumps out right now, and this is from a very privileged point of view. I am a white upper middle class woman who grew up in a family who had more than enough. So, there are many things that haven't been a struggle for me. I think some of my biggest struggles have come from my own mental health struggles, or just believing that I'm not good enough.

I don’t know how it is for you, or for anyone who's listening, but if you haven't ever had depression or anxiety, which I have had since a very young age, it’s essentially a couple of voices just talking to you and telling you that you're not good enough, and everybody thinks you're the worst. And then just trying to fight that, because they’re so often that you think, But it's coming from me, so it must be true. To me these illnesses are something that I will probably live with my whole life, I take medication for them. I have stopped imbibing certain substances and I don't even drink caffeine anymore. I’m just seeing how things positively and negatively impact my health, but there is always that fight. And they're liars, honestly, it's what it is. It preys on your biggest fears and your insecurities, and it tries to make you believe that is all that you are.

Whereas I for a very long time, I just thought I was only those things, and I was trying to present a mask to the rest of the world because I also have, I think like many people, a desperate need for love and belonging. And I think we all should be able to be loved and belong but there's this other voice saying, but no one will like you if you really show them who you are, and why? Think of all these stupid things you did, or stupid things you said, and you ruminate when you are unmedicated and have not had therapy and things like that.

And so, I think that's probably my biggest and most ongoing struggle, is just that internal thing. And I've been privileged enough to do a lot of therapy and to be able to get to a place where it's like nope, you're just lying to me and I'm not going to listen to that liar in my head or just like hearing it and not judging it or absorbing it and just saying okay, yep, that's what you're going to say, or just having some times when you're like, I'm just really sad. Sometimes you want to be like, Why? I'm like, there isn't really a reason, or I guess, if you want to go scientific, it's this chemical in my body that’s out of balance, blah, blah, blah. But what I do appreciate is for a really long time, I was focusing more on covering that up and trying to appear like I was fitting in, and I was spending more energy appearing like I was, “normal” than actually dealing with the causes or the ways that would actually make me healthier.

It was probably about 10 years ago, I started really being like, you know what, I'm so tired of doing that. And I'm expending way too much energy so I'm going to focus more of my energy on how to get healthier and how to live with this and how to reduce a lot of my symptoms or the things that exacerbate it, and I'm going to be a little bit more honest. And I was able to be vulnerable with people that I trusted, and then that kind of expanded and expanded. And now I try to talk a little bit more openly just beyond like friends, or sometimes you’re talking about it to the void of the internet, like on Twitter or whatever else where you're like, oh, I have however many followers but like, I don't know, somebody just go to shout into the void and at least trying to be open about that.

I've had a positive response from people who aren't just close friends and they're like, oh thank you for sharing that sometimes it feels like you're the only one. I was like, Yeah, cause your mental health issues want to isolate you. And again, that's why community is so important. So, it just comes back to community and connection for me.

IVAN: It does. It does. Thank you so much for sharing that and for answering so honestly and for being vulnerable. It’s a question I ask, and I am grateful that you were able to answer it. And I want to try to flip the script a little bit and ask you, what is bringing you joy these days? And is there anything that you're reading that brings you joy?

ASHLEY: Yeah, thank you for asking that. And I also love asking that question. I recently attended my 20-year high school reunion and folks were asking, Well, how are you? Whatever. And I would just say, what's bringing you joy? So, I love that you're asking me that. What is bringing me joy? We have a 10 year old ginger colored, a little redheaded Pomeranian who is my baby, and so I love him along with our 16 year old cat. The cat is newer to us, we adopted him a year and a half ago. And he's still pretty spry, loves to chase flies and stuff.

I definitely have somewhat of an addiction to the internet or social media and I'm trying to work on that. So, I'm trying to reconnect and just go out into our backyard and not be looking at my device, but just be sitting in the backyard and just listening to the sounds of the city and looking at our ridiculous amount of free wood that we've gathered, because my husband and I both love wood burning fires. We have a wood burning fireplace and we have a fire pit outdoors and I love the smell, I love the smell of it. My absolute favorite thing in the world is to be like nighttime, and you have a fire, and you can also hear running water. So natural. So it's like a lake or a river or you're down by the ocean. I love to go to Lake Superior, if I can be on the lake and have a fire and you hear those waves, it is all my favorite things.

IVAN: The crack of that wood and that fire. You just can't replicate that crack. I don't know how else to explain it, but you know exactly what I'm talking about.

ASHLEY: Yes, it's primal. And it also connects you to history for however long we've had fire, like someone else has experienced this before me and after me. Long after I'm gone this experience will exist. I love having experiences that connect me to others. I feel like when you go see live music or things like that, you're like, I am individually exploring this, but we're all experiencing it together. So that's bringing me a lot of joy.

The last year I've just been rereading some of my favorite things, but just stuff that's easy for me to read, because I've just needed that with how burned out I've been feeling with work and the pandemic. So, there's a series that's light romance, but also a mystery called the Parasol Protectorate written by Gail Carriger. And it takes place in late 1800s England except it's also kind of steam punky and vampires and werewolves exist. It’s like okay but Ashley haven’t vampires, aren't they over? And I'm like yeah, but it transports me to this little world, and I get to escape for a little bit. And then of course I intersperse that with professional reading, and I read a bunch of kids’ books.

It was some weekend, and we were just stopping by the grocery store and Baby Cakes is this black-owned mobile bookstore and I had heard about it, but I had never seen them, I hadn’t been doing an event with them. And so, when we pulled in, we were actually pulling into our library to drop books off and then in a high pitched voice I said to my husband, “Baby Cakes, park the car. I got to go over there.”

I just read this beautiful book called Eyes That Speak to the Stars by Joanna Ho and it's a picture book for kids and it's a companion to her other best-selling book Eyes That Kiss in the Corners. I think books or reading, or information is a great way to both connect and escape. So that's what I do it for. But I would also say I watch a ridiculous amount of TV for perhaps any human but maybe even for the stereotype of a librarian but it's that film and TV background. What did I recently watch? It's just kind of fluff kind of things. The two more like serious series that I watched were both on Apple TV and one is Defending Jacob, it’s like a murder mystery thriller, type thing that was adapted from a book.

And the other one was We Crashed, which my brother was actually an editor on it. So that was based on a podcast, and it's about the rise and fall of We Work. And so, both of those, they're really compelling. I didn't know the total story about We Work, but I knew that it was crash and burn. But even though you know what's going to happen, to still be interested in it, and to still be drawn in, to me, that is really good media or art. And I'm not always consuming art when I'm consuming media, but I'm usually enjoying myself, and I always have the captions turned on, because I've been watching media with captions for 20 years.

IVAN: I love captions. They're the absolute best.

ASHLEY: They’re so great. Yeah. They’re accessible.

IVAN: Exactly, they're accessible. But I love the ones that are audio described as well, where you get the descriptions of things that happen in the scenes. And the thing that I always think about is, there is a human somewhere, who thought about the scene, added their own creativity and their own sort of personality to the way that they described the humming, or the buzzing, or whatever it was that was being described.

ASHLEY: Yeah, I really enjoy it. My dad started losing his hearing when I was in high school, he was 47 when I was born, so I have a much older dad. So having that for a while has been so great. And I also like to say I like to read my TV. Yeah, it is interesting, because now there are so many programs that can do it but to have those full audio descriptions, you really do need a human being you can't just have an interpretation by AI. And maybe it'll get to some point, but I do like the idea that there is a human being. And I also get really upset when it's not exact about what someone says. Like one of my favorite movies is Clue, and the DVD versus what’s streaming on Prime, they have different closed captioning tracks and they're changing stuff. They're actually changing the jokes. And I'm like no, it's not as funny, you need to have what they said. It's a weird thing I get into,

IVAN: I agree. Oh, my gosh, thank you for sharing those books, we'll have them in the show notes. I've had such a wonderful time talking to you and learning about your past and how important a librarian is in our day and age as an educator and as someone who's really teaching our kids about the online world as well. It’s not just about books. So, thank you so much for spending your time with me today. I'm so grateful.

ASHLEY: Well, thank you so much for having me. And if anyone else wants to get involved in your library, school or public, just remember to contact your local representatives, because sadly libraries are always being underfunded. So, make sure that you have access to information because it's paid with your tax dollars and that's what you deserve.

IVAN: Yes, thank you, I appreciate that plug. That's awesome. My wife and I were just talking about what we would do if we won a lottery. And she came up with the idea of making user-focused libraries that had factual information and books of many different kinds, but in rural parts of the United States, libraries in rural America that desperately need real data, real information. And I'm like, Okay, let's do it. Two dollars, buy a Powerball, let's do it.

ASHLEY: Let's do it. That sounds great. Do that, get the resources and get someone from the community who can run it because you can always have books, but it's also important to have that person who helps connect people with it. I'll join her. If I win the lottery. I’ll also start something, and we'll join up. 



IVAN: I hope you’ll join us in the next episode of ONE OF 8 BILLION… when we hear from the multi-talented Kamlika Chandla, an artist, writer, educator and business owner based in Minneapolis.

KAMLIKA CHANDLA: From very early on, I was always very fascinated by what is beyond us and  very interested in science.  in fact, I was one of the first Indian  ambassadors to be sent to NASA  and things like the supernova or just metaphysics or the model of the universe. These were the books I was reading at 13 and 14.

To your question about being one in eight billion  I feel that there is that sense of connectedness.   It just doesn't stop to baffling me even today that  we are unique. We may be different  but yet there is none like us  we have our own genotype where there's just one of us. And  then at the same time, I think it grounds you because it helps you understand that the human essence is really the same  across the 8 billion that, we don't even see.


This has been ONE OF 8 BILLION, a podcast about all of us... online at Join us again next time as we listen to one of eight billion other stories!

ONE OF 8 BILLION is supported by TEN7, a technology studio whose mission is to Make Things That Matter. Find out more at I’m Ivan Stegic. Thank you for listening.


This is episode 141 of ONE OF 8 BILLION. It was recorded on August 9, 2022 and first published on August 31, 2022. Audio length is 44 minutes. Transcription by Roxanne Chumucas. Summary, highlights and editing by Brian Lucas. Music by Lexfunk. Produced by Jonathan Freed.

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