New librarian grateful for community support

  • By Tara Kinsell August 16, 2014
Newly hired Flenniken librarian Katie Pretz gives job search advice to college student Sean Smoggie of Carmichaels. - Tara Kinsell/Observer-Reporter Order a Print

CARMICHAELS – During her first week on the job, Katie Pretz realized how much the communty supports Flenniken Public Library in Carmichaels when the library’s bank balance increased by $32,000.

Pretz, who took the position as librarian Aug. 6, replacing Jessica Miller, came to Flenniken from the Citizens Library in Washington County, where she was in charge of teen programming and helped develop the TechWAGGIN technology training initiative for public libraries in Washington and Greene counties.

“The most shocking piece so far (in her new job) has been the result of the golf outing and the money it raised for the library,” the Maryland native said.

This annual fundraiser sponsored by the Friends of Flenniken Library raised just over $12,000. Three days later the library board learned its request for support from Cumberland Township was approved in the amount of $20,000.

Pretz said this was amazing at a time when so many libraries are seeing their funding cut. “This is $6,000 more than what Trinity School District cut for the funding of Citizens Library. It is three-fifths of what Chartiers cut from the Chartiers-Houston Community Library, one-third of their overall budget,” Pretz said.

“For me to come into a new library and see that kind of support from the community in just my first three days has been the biggest shock. These donations and that funding (from the township) show people here see the value in Flenniken Library.”

The funds from the golf outing have been earmarked to install a proper handicapped- accessible entrance to the library. Money from Cumberland Township will be used for other necessary capital improvements to the building.

Over the next four months Pretz said her focus will be on finding out what makes the library tick and work so well.

“This is a successful library. I’m not looking for any huge changes or updates at this time. I’m still going through the learning process,” she said. Pretz said the Flenniken staff has been very welcoming and willing to help teach her about the history of the area and other community-oriented details.

As she begins to make the rounds of the county at various events Pretz said she hopes to learn even more about Greene County and the needs of the patrons whom Flenniken serves.

“I’m very excited. I really didn’t expect to be in a head librarian position for another five to 10 years down the road. I love the small-community feel here and would like there to be more interaction with the community in bringing events to the library,” Pretz said. “We have a great space here.” She noted she is open to facilitating the use of the library for various speakers and events.

A needs survey will help Pretz determine what people who currently use the library, those who may have used it in the past, and those who have yet to use it, would like to see taking place there. That is one of the keys to spending library funds wisely, she said, by ensuring that programming will benefit the greatest number of people.

In addition to the needs survey, Pretz is planning to create what she calls a “no-to-yes list.”

“It is a way to poll patrons through daily interactions to let us know when we don’t do something,” Pretz said. She cited the example of a recent exchange with a patron who owed fines for late books.

“She asked if we take debit cards. We don’t. That was our no at this time. So, the question becomes, how do we get to yes?” Pretz said. “I’ve looked into ways to use debit and credit cards or a PayPal swipe. We have the iPads to do it. Then our no becomes a yes. Instead of making patrons run to an ATM for copies, faxes, donations, the book sale or fines, we can just take care of it here.”

Pretz said it is the little things that will make it easier for patrons to use the library that are as important as the larger ones.

“I’m sure most people aren’t aware that their (free) library card works like the member perks cards you get at stores. They have all of these free things available to them just by possessing a library card; DVDs, books, resume help, Wi-Fi, computers, online classes (and much more),” Pretz said. “One big goal is to bring more awareness out there that there is a great library here in Carmichaels with so many wonderful things going on.”

Tara Kinsell started her career in journalism with the National Geographic Insider Magazine and the Gaithersburg Gazette Newspaper in Montgomery County, Md. Tara has written and photographed sports, features and news stories for the Herald Standard, Greene County Messenger and Albert Gallatin Weekly. She holds degrees in journalism and graphic design from Waynesburg College, now Waynesburg University, and the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, respectively.


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