What do you think of when you hear the word “library”? Some think of books, elderly librarians, a quiet place. Before I began my internship with Heights Libraries, I thought that the only use for a library was to check out and read books. Through this experience, I’ve learned that there is so much more than just checking out books. Through its programs, events, and opportunities, Heights Libraries provides a comforting environment that fits the needs of all. In addition to what it offers, there are also so many moving pieces to the productivity of the library. For three months, I’ve had the chance to interact with administration, employees, and customers of Heights Libraries. Those three months changed my life and my outlook on what the library is.
As an intern at the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library through Youth Opportunities Unlimited (Y.O.U), I assisted the director, Nancy Levin. Being a part of the library family for over 20 years, Nancy has been able to work with others to promote the library and all it has to offer. Through discussions and shadowing, I’ve witnessed her passion and drive for what she does. Her goal is for the library to continue to grow in customer accommodation. To achieve this goal, she has conducted training and strategies focused on racial, religious, and social equality. She has also conducted surveys for members of the community to fill out so that their input is made a priority. Her goal, along with other administration staff, is to continue to make the library an open and safe community for all. She is most proud of helping the library go “fine free.”
To understand how the library affects its customers, I wanted to build relationships with the staff and discuss their daily interactions. Kaitlin is a circulation assistant for the University Heights branch. She describes circulation staff as “front of the line for customers.” They are the welcoming faces, the ones who are there to answer questions and assist customers. Kaitlin expressed how she, too, had the same belief of what the library was before her experience working there. Her favorite thing about the library is how much it has changed over the years. It has become a strong combination of a traditional library and a community center. She has been able to witness how the library directly affects its customers, accommodating the needs of all. It can be a quiet place for those who need it, but it can also be an energizing and active place for others. The Circulation Department helps people get passports along with checking books in and out, finding their way around the building, and solving problems with accounts.
One of the things I love most about the library is the Children’s Department. There is so much energy and optimism in that department. Along with many of the staff, Kornela has a strong passion for serving her customers. When Kornela began her career as a librarian in the Children’s Department, she didn’t realize how much she would enjoy it. She was a regular customer of the library, and now she conducts fun activities like Storytime and Homework Helpers, interacting with hundreds of children. “The Children’s Department keeps everyone on their toes,” she stated when asked about the best things about her job. Through interviewing her and observing the children and teen departments, I learned that the library provides children and teens with a place where they can go between school and home, get their homework done, and have fun.
There are so many activities and programs at Heights Libraries that are free and open to all in the community. For instance, one activity I would love to participate in is Tai Chi. Offered for teens and adults, Tai Chi is beneficial for health and meditation.
It is vital for us as citizens to take advantage of these things. Not only has the library provided useful programs and events, but it has also become a community center for all. A place where children can come after school to eat, read, and have fun while they wait for their parents to get home, where college students can sit and study for their next test, even a place where someone can sit down, read the newspaper, and enjoy a cup of coffee. My internship experience exposed me to this wonderful atmosphere and community. It showed me that there is so much more to the library than a quiet place to read. It is the place that has taught me professionalism, leadership, patience, and other necessary skills for success in the workforce.
Kionna Byous is a senior at Lutheran East High School who came to the library through the Y.O.U PEEKE program.