By Ron Hayes

Maybe we shouldn’t call them libraries anymore.
The word comes from the Latin librarius, meaning “of books.” But libraries haven’t been about just books for years. They’re DVDs and CDs and computers and even yoga classes — all free.
This year, the Florida Library Association named the Boynton Beach City Library its “2022 Library of the Year.”
“They strive to meet their patrons where they are needed most,” the FLA said in presenting the award, “whether that meant working out of a temporary site while their new building was being constructed, providing virtual programming during the pandemic, or creating free resources to kick-start local entrepreneurs.
“They took a year of inevitable change and transformed it into a challenge to be the library their community needs.”
“They” are the librarians, of course, dedicated professionals who make libraries so much more than books.
To honor their service, we asked a few of our area librarians to tell us about themselves.

Meet the librarians

Q&As by Ron Hayes

 

10745941495?profile=RESIZE_710x‘There are many out there that think, why do we need libraries? I tell them what libraries offer today and invite them to come and tour the Boynton Beach City Library. I promise them they will be amazed at what we offer here. It is the best bang for your tax buck,’ says Craig Clark, the library director. Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star

Craig Clark, director, Boynton Beach City Library

Education: Master of library and information science administration degree from Wayne State University in Detroit.
Where did you work before getting this job?
I was an administrative assistant to the library director and a reference librarian at Macomb County Library in Clinton Township, Michigan, from 1994-1997, and an assistant branch manager and a regional branch manager at St. Louis Public Library in Missouri from 1997 to 2004.
What first made you want to become a librarian?
When I worked for the library director at the Macomb County Library in the administration office, the thought of being an information detective was exciting to me, so I decided to pursue a master’s degree in library and information science. I also enjoyed working in the library atmosphere and helping people improve their lives by providing assistance to library users. This fulfills me still today!
How has the profession changed since your first job?
Since 1994, the library field has transformed and expanded into many exciting areas. We not only lend books in many formats, we improve lives by providing a pathway for someone to get their high school diploma, help people find a job, teach how people can start their own small business, develop and improve their personal brand, providing machines and technologies in our Creative Edge Studio that people can use at the library and cannot afford on their own, learn how to sew, improve technology skills, and much more.
What’s your biggest professional challenge?
Getting the word out to the community about the many programs and services the library has to offer is very challenging. I speak to many people that have not been in a library since they were a child or in high school.
There are many out there that think, why do we need libraries? I tell them what libraries offer today and invite them to come and tour the Boynton Beach City Library. I promise them they will be amazed at what we offer here. It is the best bang for your tax buck.
What is the future for libraries? Will we see a day when almost all books are borrowed by download?
The future of libraries is bright. There will always be people that will need assistance with life skills, technology training, finding a job, etc. I do not believe there will be a day when all books will be digital. You may be surprised how many people still love holding a print book in their hands, including myself. I do not believe the print book will ever go away.
When library users ask you to recommend a novel, do you have a favorite answer?
I ask open-ended questions to determine what subjects they are interested in reading about. Librarians call this “the reference interview.” I like reading biographies and autobiographies. Librarians are experts at getting people to express what their true interests are.

 

10745947494?profile=RESIZE_710xHelen Silver is collection services librarian at the Boca Raton Public Library. ‘It’s like I get paid to enjoy a hobby, even though — despite popular belief — I don’t read all day,‘ she says of her job. Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star

Helen Silver, collections librarian, Boca Raton Public Library

Education: Bachelor of arts degree in history from FAU and a master’s in library and information science from the University of South Florida.
Where did you work before getting this job?
I was a student assistant at FAU’s Wimberly Library for about a year and have been at the Boca Raton Public Library for more than 20 years.
What first made you want to become a librarian?
I’ve always been a reader and library user growing up, so for my friends and family this career choice was no surprise.
It’s like I get paid to enjoy a hobby, even though — despite popular belief — I don’t read all day.
How has the profession changed since your first job?
Almost every business needs to adapt to changing times and demands. Libraries are no exception. A recent turning point for libraries was the arrival of digital content, and libraries were challenged with incorporating this new technology into the collection. While books continue to be the backbone, physical collections now include nontraditional library items such as board games, hotspots, puzzles, toys, cake pans and much more.
What’s your biggest professional challenge?
I am the buyer for the Boca library, and besides budgeting, the recent challenges are reviewing and filtering through the numerous social issues and hot topic books that are being released. It can be exhausting at times, like watching the news 24/7.
What is the future for libraries? Will we see a day when almost all books are borrowed by download?
I hope not in my lifetime. I don’t foresee this happening anytime soon. There is still a demand for physical books, and many people enjoy reading from both formats, print and digital, depending on their current needs. Having choices is still preferable. Media formats like DVDs, CDs and audiobooks I don’t see lasting for very long, but physical books will still be around for a while.
When library users ask you to recommend a novel, do you have a favorite answer?
I immediately ask what the person likes to read and go from there. I can usually recommend at least one book or author based on the preferred genre, even if it’s something I haven’t read. Because I’m a buyer, I can answer based on what I know has been popular or well-reviewed.
For me, I can’t pick one book as a favorite at this point because I’ve read many great books, and it’s not fair to pick just one.
I do love the Harry Potter series.

 

10745948881?profile=RESIZE_710xBefore Mykal Banta was promoted to executive director, he championed an innovative program to bring books to homeless people and other citizens in a laundromat. Coastal Star file photo

Mykal Banta, executive director, Delray Beach Public Library

Education: BA with a concentration in journalism from Wayne State University in Detroit and a master’s in library science from State University of New York at Albany.
What jobs did you work before getting this one?
I’ve been with the Delray Beach Public Library since September 1994, when I was hired as the head of reference. Four years later I was promoted to assistant director, which I held until being named executive director this year.
What first made you want to become a librarian?
I have loved libraries since I was a small boy. One of my most vivid memories is being read to by my elementary school librarian, “Mr. Mike.” Also, my mother was a librarian before me, so I consider library work a kind of legacy.
How has the profession changed since your first job?
The largest change I have seen is the amount of programming and outreach modern libraries do.
What’s your biggest professional challenge?
The largest challenge I face as a librarian today is the same challenge every librarian has accepted enthusiastically since the first public library opened its door: to give every person that walks through our door the best verified and trustworthy information available, as well as the greatest literature in the world, all with the goal of offering everyone the opportunity to lead happier, healthier and more enriching lives.
What is the future for libraries? Will we see a day when almost all books are borrowed by download?
No. Print books have proven a surprisingly durable and beloved format. Readers still love a book in their hands. Readers use digital books upon occasion, often for convenience, but they love the print book always.
When library users ask you to recommend a novel, do you have a favorite answer?
The answer is often different depending on the person seeking a recommendation. A skilled librarian will tailor their response, depending on the patron’s likes and preferences. If you're asking me what my favorite novel is, I often say The Iliad by Homer or, depending on my mood, The Plague by Albert Camus.

Lois Albertson, director, Highland Beach Library
Education: Master’s degree in library and information science from the University of South Florida
10745952270?profile=RESIZE_180x180Where did you work before getting this job?
I came to the library world later in my career. After previous jobs in editing and web content management, I worked as the director of continuing education for the Southeast Florida Library Information Network. I became the director of the Highland Beach Library in 2016.
What first made you want to become a librarian?
I always loved books and reading and thought it would be wonderful to be a librarian. I volunteered at the Highland Beach Library for years before I ever considered a career change. Working at SEFLIN gave me the opportunity to learn all about the profession and interact with library staff from around the state.
How has the profession changed since your first job?
The Highland Beach Library has transformed to become the community gathering place for our residents and neighbors. Managing events and setting up audiovisual equipment for concerts and movies was not taught in library school, but it should be. Sometimes we feel like roadies for the band!
What’s your biggest professional challenge?
I am very fortunate to work in a community where the residents, elected officials and town staff are so supportive of the library. My library staff is amazing, and it is a pleasure to come to work every day. When a challenge arises, we all work together to figure it out.
What is the future for libraries? Will we see a day when almost all books are borrowed by download?
I don’t see that happening in Highland Beach. Patrons of all ages tell me that they prefer to read a physical book. I view e-books as an additional format, rather than a replacement for print books.
When library users ask you to recommend a novel, do you have a favorite answer?
I love mysteries and thrillers. Some of my favorite authors that I love to recommend are Lisa Jewell, Clare Mackintosh and Lucy Clarke.

 

Kristine Kreidler, director, Lantana Public Library

Education: The Lantana native received a master’s degree in library science from Florida State and a bachelor’s in English and women’s studies from FAU.
Where did you work before getting this job?
10745952700?profile=RESIZE_180x180My first job at a library was at the Broward County African-American Research Library and Cultural Center, working with the business librarian. I then worked for the Boynton Beach City Library as the teen librarian. I learned so much from them and it is still my favorite part of my career. After the assistant director and my mentor, Anne Watts, left, I became the youth services manager for the Boca Raton Public Library for a year, and then after Sid Patchett passed away, a friend sent me the job posting for Lantana and I knew that’s where I should be.
What first made you want to become a librarian?
I had fully intended to get my MFA [master of fine arts] in writing, but my friend was dating the youth services manager from the West Palm Mandel Library, Jennifer McQuown, and one night we got to talking and she was so passionate about public librarianship that I decided to look into it. Around the same time, I went to a recruiting session for the FBI and they also talked about how they needed librarians.
How has the profession changed since your first job?
It honestly hasn’t changed too much since I only started 11 years ago. There are more streaming services, DVD collections have started to dwindle and give way to streaming, but we were doing yoga and offering digital skills workshops 11 years ago.
What do you see in the future for libraries? Will we see a day when almost all books are borrowed by download?
No, not unless paywalls disappear. Until then, libraries will be here providing equitable access to all members of our community and evolving to meet their needs. Do we really want to trust Google or Amazon or another corporation to be the torch holders for knowledge, art and access to information?
What’s your biggest professional challenge?
Funding. We have this beautiful library set to open this fall and I am the only full-time employee. It’s hard to rely on a part-time employee working 15 hours a week to do much except work the front desk. But the community wants programs like story times and classes, and we have been doing that with a grant-funded position, but that ends this September.
When library users ask you to recommend a novel, do you have a favorite answer?
Oh, man, so many! As an English major, I think a lot of the modern classics come into play for me, like Zadie Smith’s White Teeth, Ian McEwan’s Atonement, Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. But whatever you do, don’t read The Kite Runner in public! So sad you’ll ugly cry.

 

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