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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The face behind the shelves; a librarian's perspective

Karen Smith has been working at the Downingtown Library for over twenty years. Recently she was kind enough to allow me to invade her teen group and discuss my upcoming novel (among other things).

Many book lovers aspire to work among the shelves of a library -to have access to countless pages of literature -to inspire others to find the magic in books.  By tapping Karen's extensive experience in the field, I hope to open the window for those enticed by the lure of literature and allow them a peek inside.

What is your official position/title at the library?
 I am Program coordinator and circulation desk clerk.

How did you find the position? 
 I had returned to the States after teaching school overseas for 12 years and my sister told me the library was looking for volunteers. I applied and was hired instead of being a volunteer. At the beginning I only worked every other Saturday.

What is your favorite part of the job?

 I love talking to people about books and suggesting new authors. I read a wide range of genres and can usually suggest an author to just about anyone.

How are you handling the digitization of books? Does the library offer or plan to offer e-lending or something similar? 
Each of the Chester County libraries has seven Nooks that can be checked out just as you would check out a book. Each Nook has seven books loaded onto it. You can have the Nook for three weeks. The Nooks have a designated genre: science fiction, historical fiction, thriller, romance, biography, fiction and nonfiction. They have been very popular and are constantly circulating. Patrons can also download eBooks and audio books from the CCLS website.

Your library is heavily involved in community offerings and events. What are some of the more enjoyable/successful events run at your location?
  A very popular adult program has been the Introduction to Tai Chi with 24 participants. Our Ghost Hunting program is also a crowd pleaser.
Can  you tell me more about the ghost hunting?

We have had several paranormal groups come through the building and "look for ghosts". After they have assembled their findings they come and speak. Each group seems to find something different but they all have found evidence of friendly spirits. The house was built in 1800 and was part of the Underground Railroad. It was also a school and a boarding school and a doctor's office. Many people have passed through the building.

On March 24th the Chester County Paranormal Investigators will be investigating. The library is having a raffle as a fund raiser. Two names will be chosen and each winner may bring a friend and go on the ghost hunt with the CCPI group. Tickets are on sale at the library. $3.00 per ticket and 2 for $5.00. Winners will be chosen on March 21st.

Is the library publicly funded, privately funded, a combination?
 The library is funded by the state and local governments. I don’t know what the proportion is. The library also depends on the Annual Giving Campaign.

In light of the current economic situation, are there any budgetary concerns with the library? (less donations/less funding) and if so, is there a plan to raise capitol via fundraising, grants etc.
 There have been cuts to the library budget from the State.  I know that grants have been considered in order to fund our new library.

Do you offer any teen literacy programs? 
I have a teen program that meets every Wednesday evening from 6:30 to 7:30. I had intended it to be a time to discuss books as well as do projects for the library. The kids will mention books in passing but prefer to do fun things. They make decorations for all of the major holidays for the children’s library. They help out with the book sales…moving boxes of books, they have bake sales. They have become more of a service group rather than a literacy group.
Do you recall a day or moment where you experienced something so fulfilling with respect to your position that you thought; now that's why I'm here?

It happens every day. A day doesn’t go by that I don’t help someone select a book or chat with someone about a book they have read, or help someone on the computer, or find materials for a school project. Sometimes when I am shelving I come across a book that I haven’t read and it is a hidden gem. And there was the time when a teen said “Wednesdays are the best day because I get to come here for an hour.”

What is your favorite book (all time?)
 Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, I have read it at least 10 times…no exaggeration.

What are you currently reading? 
 Stephen King’s 11/22/63. It is excellent.

Paper or digital? 
Definitely paper.

Is there anything in the future (new programs, technology or something else) that's got you excited?
 The library is in the process of procuring a new building. I love this old building but it is too small for our community needs. It is exciting to think about all of the programs that we will be able to offer with larger meeting rooms and no stairs.

If you watch television, do you have a favorite show? 

All time favorite was Lost. I still miss the characters. Now my favorite show is Burn Notice.

If you could be any character in any book, who would you be and why?

 I would love to be Jack Reacher from the Lee Child novels. He is independent and off the grid. Travels with a toothbrush in his shirt pocket and only owns the clothes on his back.

Twilight or Hunger Games? 

Hunger Games.
Harry Potter or Percy Jackson? 
Harry Potter.

Do you have any advice for students thinking of pursuing a library science degree?
Read, read, read and spend lots of time in a library. Shadow a librarian for a week. Make sure that the program you are in offers an MLS.

If you're interested in the Ghost Hunting raffle, swing by and pick up tickets!
30 E. Lancaster Ave.
Downingtown, PA 19335-2946
Phone: (610) 269-2741

If you have any questions, Karen welcomes your emails.



As always, find interviews, writing samples, videos, contests and more on my re-vamped website.

In bookstores 6-5-2012

1 comment:

  1. This is a great interview! I would love to work in a library!