Sean Garvey, Local History Librarian
Get To Know…Sean Garvey, Local History Librarian Sean Garvey has been the library’s local history librarian since 2007, assisting many patrons with local history questions and conducting research for them. He is also a reference librarian who helps customers get the information they need, selects new materials for the library’s collection and plans library events and programs. The Local History Room is open Mondays 2-4 p.m., Wednesdays 10 a.m.–noon, Saturdays 1-3 p.m. and by appointment.
1. Why is it important for the library to promote local history? How do people most often use the Local History Room?
We are fortunate to have a dedicated space in the Tigard Public Library for a local history collection. Part of our mission is to foster lifelong learning and to provide an array of programs and services that encourage the development of well-rounded citizens. I can’t think of a more useful discipline than an appreciation for local history, no matter where you live.
The most frequent questions we get are people seeking obituaries or trying to track down people they went to school with in Tigard through the Tigard High yearbooks. We have created simple ways for the public to find a local obituary online for a late friend or family member or to locate old newspaper articles about people or events in Tigard.
2. Since you became the local history librarian, what improvements have you made to the Local History Room? What kind of resources would be necessary to better serve the public?
A few years ago the library began sharing some of our historic photograph and oral history collections with the public online. The City of Tigard’s Geographic Information System (GIS) team also helped us create an online, photographic “story map” of the people, places and events that have historically defined Tigard. That allows people to do research online.
One of the things we are looking into is digitizing our historic copies of the Tigard Times and Tigard Sentinel and that costs money. We also need to find out if we can get permission from the owner of The Tigard Times to digitize them. Many other libraries in the state have digitized their historic newspapers.
3. What do you say to people who say “why do we need to devote time and space to local history? Why should we care about something that happened 100 years ago?”
I recently came across a 2007 essay written by historian Arthur Schlesinger where he compared our nation’s history to an individual’s memory: He wrote that “as persons deprived of memory become disoriented and lost, not knowing where they have been and where they are going, so a nation denied a conception of the past will be disabled in dealing with its present and its future.” I think this concept of history and memory can be applied anywhere—to the City of Tigard, Washington County or the State of Oregon.
4. What is the most interesting local history question you’ve gotten?
One of the more interesting local history questions we’ve received inquired about a huge white mansion located on Bull Mountain. After some digging in our files, I came across some old newspaper articles about “Homewood,” a 14,000 square-foot mansion (the same size as the Tigard Library) designed in the 1920s by famed Northwest architect A.E. Doyle, whose many works are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Homewood was built for Leroy Fields, president of the Fields Motor Car Company in Portland. For over 50 years the mansion’s connection to Doyle was lost because the architect never left a trail in his personal papers or records. It was only when current owners discovered original blueprints in the house that they were able to connect the design to Doyle.
5. If you could tell people about one aspect of your job that they probably don’t know that you do, what would it be? Why is it important?
For the past two summers I have led small groups on interpretive walking tours of Tigard’s Main Street. On the tours I explain Main Street’s origins and development, as well as the people, businesses and events that occurred there over the past century. Main Street is the historic heart of Tigard, and its history explains much about why Tigard has long been a popular, growing location for a place to call home.
LISA ELLIOTT, YOUNG ADULT LIBRARIAN
Get To Know… Lisa Elliott—Young Adult Librarian
Lisa has headed the Library’s Young Adult program for 10 years. You may find her assisting Muggles or making magic with the Teen Library Council, who are the inspiration for many of the teen programs.
Q: Why is it important for the library to offer programs for teens?
For library programs, we consider teens to be young people in grades 6-12. This is quite a wide age range that includes 10 to18-year-olds, so of course they will have different needs depending on where they fall in that spectrum. We serve them in diverse ways.
However, the most valuable aspect of library programs for folks this age is the opportunity to experience some autonomy in a safe space. They actually have a biological, physical need for a place where they can be themselves, pursue their interests without judgment and interact with their peers. Their brains need this kind of exploration in order to become independent adults. (I swear I’m not making this up. It’s science.) So we plan programs that offer more guidance for younger teens and are more self-directed for older teens. We cater to their interests, ask for their ideas and try as much as possible to convey that this is their library, and they should feel empowered within it as they become informed citizens of the world.
Q: How do you attract teens to the Library? What have been some of the most popular teen programs?
The strongest magnet for teens is other teens. If their friends are doing something, they want to do it, too. So while I write brochures, make outreach visits to school and post on social media, I rely on teen word-of-mouth to bring in the crowds. Anything from the wizarding world of Harry Potter or the long ago and far away world of Star Wars is a guaranteed hit. College prep workshops are also popular, as are gaming tournaments. And Teen Library Council has been shaping the teen program at this library for more than a decade.
Q: Please share a story about one memorable experience you’ve had while working with teens? Why was it memorable?
Last spring, Teen Library Council asked for an opportunity to read to little kids. We worked together to plan a Día de los Niños event, inviting kids to listen to some recently published picture books with diverse characters and earn stamps in a “passport” by visiting several activity stations. The teens worked hard to get the program ready, but due to some weird alchemy that we couldn’t explain, only one kid showed up. (Our weekend programs usually draw in dozens of kiddos and their families.).
What they might have seen as a disaster, they turned into an opportunity, and five teens gave this one child their complete focus and attention. They read her books, had deep conversations with her about her life and her family, talked with her about diversity, and during the sweetest few minutes of my career, spontaneously sang her lullabies in the first languages of their parents and grandparents, including Korean and French. That child left with five new heroes, and so did I.
Q: If you could tell people about one aspect of your job that they probably don’t know that you do, what would it be? Why is it important?
I have had countless interactions with teens who are trying to answer questions about themselves, courageously tackling issues fundamental to their identities. My role is to remain neutral and without judgment while being knowledgeable enough to offer resources and referrals.
Q: What is the biggest challenge in your job? Why is it a challenge?
The biggest challenge of my job also makes it incredibly rewarding. I am in a constant race to keep up with teens. Everything from their interests to the tools they use for communications are constantly changing, and those changes inform the kinds of programs and library materials that will appeal to them. I try to keep close to the cutting edge while accepting that I’ll never be as on-trend as the average teenager. This pace and variation suits me because there’s little I find more irritating than repetition. Old banana peels in the office garbage are more annoying, but that’s really it.
Amber Bell, Youth Services Supervisor
Get To Know…Amber Bell, Youth Services Supervisor
Q. Why are story times important?
When young children spend time with their families talking, singing, reading, writing, and playing together, it’s not just fun. It’s also helping children build essential skills they need in order to be ready to read when they enter school.
When library staff members present story times, they are not only sharing lively songs, reading books full of rich language, and providing hands-on exploration of materials. They are simultaneously modeling for parents and caregivers how to help build a child’s vocabulary, how to connect stories to a child’s own experience, and how to strengthen a child’s understanding and love of literature.
A baby chewing on a board book is demonstrating an appreciation for books. A toddler who bursts into song at home in the kitchen, after hearing that same song at story time every week, is showing their understanding of how the sounds in words work. A preschooler who can make shapes with their fingers while they sing a rhyme is exercising the small motor skills they will need in order to write the alphabet.
Q. Could you give some examples of children who have benefited from story times?
Every morning that there is a story time, we can see the endless benefits that story times provide. We see friends gathering together in a relaxed community space, and children who are not only building early literacy skills, but also social emotional skills as they make new friends and share a sense of wonder.
Q. So story times help kids learn to read, but what about the rest of the children's programs? Why does the library need them? Can't families find programs like that on their own?
When we plan programs for kids and families at the library, we aim to support patrons to be able to express their creativity by offering arts programs and to read for pleasure through our many book clubs. We consider how to help create a more walkable, interconnected community, by planning active programs and opportunities to get outside. But most importantly, we ask ourselves: would this program be fun? When a program is fun for us to plan, and exciting for kids to join in, then families will continue to gather at the library and the more time they spend here, the more useful we can be by providing vital information, offering intriguing events and being a vibrant part of the community.
Q. About what percent of children who begin story times when they are babies or toddlers continue to come to them until they are 6?
Over time, we’ve seen many families grow. The tiniest infant coming to Book Babies grows into the older, sophisticated Family Story Time helper as new siblings arrive and join the crew.
Q. Do you have more demand for story times than you can meet? If so, about how many children do you have to turn away?
Story times at the library are so well loved that sometimes we have a hard time squeezing everyone in. We do what we can to encourage families to come on time, or to wait for a second session if the first one fills up. Even so, our hardest job is turning away disappointed families, which we must do at least a few times a week.
Q. What would the consequences be if some story times were eliminated?
It’s hard to imagine letting go of a single story time session. However, if the library needed to pare down story times, we would lose the ability to support many families in the community. With fewer story times, we would serve fewer families. We might also lose the ability to offer story times on the weekends, the only time when some working families are able to attend.
Ann-Marie Anderson, Adult Services Librarian
Get To Know…Ann-Marie Anderson, Adult Services Librarian
Ann-Marie has worked at the Tigard Library for 13 years. She coordinates the library’s senior outreach services and visits assisted living centers around town several times a year. She also manages the library’s Friendly Visitor program in addition to her reference work.
1. What would you say are the most important services the library offers seniors?
Our Large Print collection is well-utilized by seniors, and our audiobooks are also popular with those who may have a visual impairment. Our library events and classes also provide a wonderful way for seniors to stay engaged with their community and to enjoy free educational and cultural opportunities in a welcoming, accessible environment. The Library's homebound delivery services are an important way for seniors who are in assisted living or who can no longer drive to still receive library materials. For example, our Friendly Visitor homebound service volunteers help pick out books, deliver them and even chat about reading with homebound patrons!
2. Why is it important for the library to offer programs to seniors?
The American population is aging, statistically speaking. Library programs are an important part of healthy aging. They offer a fun way for aging adults to continue to learn, to be creative, mentally stimulated and to stay socially engaged. Plus, older adults have a lot to share! Many programs, such as crafting workshops and conversation projects about important issues, offer an opportunity for intergenerational conversations.
3. What are some of the most popular programs that seniors attend?
Some recent programs that have had a large percentage of senior attendance have included an estate planning presentation by a local attorney who provided an overview of information such as living trusts versus wills, a workshop on Medicare insurance options for those retiring or turning 65, and during tax season, free tax filing assistance with AARP volunteers. Our tech classes and one-on-one gadget help sessions have a steady flow of seniors learning how to keep in touch online with family and friends, download ebooks, or to use the internet to find information. Cultural and music performances are also super popular with seniors! Some recent ones were a Czech holiday concert, a Tualatin Valley Community Band concert, and a holiday concert with Aaron Meyer, which offered a rare free opportunity to see this popular local rock violinist.
4. What do you do on your visits to assisted living facilities? What kinds of things to the residents ask for?
I provide information about enrolling in our homebound library services, share some upcoming events and classes we offer at the library and invite them to attend. I also provide tech help to show how to download library e-books. I demonstrate how to use the Talking Book and Braille Library digital player that is available free from the state for the legally blind. And to provide a little entertainment and whet their reading interest, I "booktalk" a few recent great books! The residents ask for information about how to get a library card and other library services, and sometimes ask for reading recommendations as well.
5. What might the consequences be if the library had to reduce the number of programs it offers adults?
The library is that rare "third place" where the community can meet, everyone is welcome, and there’s no cost barrier. Reducing programs would mean reducing opportunities for seniors to engage with their community and to experience high-quality, free educational, cultural and recreational programs.
Kari Kunst, Youth Services Librarian
Get To Know… Kari Kunst, Youth Services Librarian
1) What is S.T.E.A.M? Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math
It’s highly encompassing. S.T.E.A.M programs help develop 21st century skills. Critical thinking, problem solving, the ability to break problems into smaller parts and identify patterns. Skills that are very important to being successful in S.T.E.A.M careers.
Like in Code Club, kids are learning design and computational thinking skills used in problem-solving. They are being exposed to basic coding language, how to think about the logic of coding, getting hands-on experience with robots, and peaking their interest in trying out new things at each meeting.
2) Why are S.T.E.A.M programs important?
We’re able to offer kids a safe, fun place to explore S.T.E.A.M. concepts. It’s free. It’s hands-on. It’s informal and they can explore and build their confidence. S.T.E.A.M. is important in school and it will be important in careers. There are so many openings in S.T.E.A.M. careers, but there are not enough students who are getting trained adequately. Women and girls are underrepresented, as well as students of color and other minority groups.
3) In addition to Coding Club, what other kinds of S.T.E.A.M. programs does the library offer?
We’ve offered tech programs for all ages like the Hour of Code. Kids and families can play with robots and with coding games on the Hour of Code website and try things out that are accessible for all ages.
We also offer Thinker Tinker labs all summer long. Librarians plan a series of stations that kids can explore. One example would be a Sink or Float program, exploring the science of which materials float and what don’t. Magnetism is another one. A popular one has been the wrecking ball, where you could explore how pendulums work by swinging a wrecking ball and knocking things down.
We also offer S.T.E.A.M in some of our Tween programs. We recently did a Slime-making lab. It’s partly a fun, popular thing right now and also explores the concepts of how different ingredients go together to create these kinds of odd-feeling substances. And some of the story times explore math and science concepts for younger kids.
4) Can you share any anecdotes or stories about any children who have attended S.T.E.A.M programs and what they’ve gotten out of them? Has there been a light bulb moment?
Seeing kids who don’t know each other at the beginning all huddled around a computer, kind of pointing at the little robot and Aah! They finally got something to work! They feel a sense of pride in that accomplishment of just getting something to go.
Recently in our Lego S.T.E.A.M. Zone, we had Snap Circuits. There were these two four-year-olds and that’s kind of on the young end of the spectrum for Snap Circuits. You could tell their grown-up wasn’t quite sure if they were going to be able to figure it out, but they just worked through it and Grandma worked through it with them, and they built a circuit that made a little flying saucer fly off into the air. They were so excited.
5) What’s your goal when you plan these programs?
I think my goal is to tap into something that’s going to be fun and engaging. Behind that, I’m looking at OK, is there a particular skill I would like them to get out of it beyond just exploring something? With Coding Club, there often is because some of the same kids come to multiple meetings. My general goal is to spark curiosity and have them be excited about trying something new.
To get an inside view of Coding Club and other library programs, check out the programs here.
Holly Campbell-Polivka, Youth Services Librarian
Get To Know… Holly Campbell-Polivka, Youth Services Librarian
1) Why are story times important?
First of all, they’re sort of a big gateway to the library. People who may not use the library hear about story time. They want to come to the library and then they discover all of the other things that the library has to offer.
There’s a lot of early literacy involved with story times and early literacy doesn’t mean a two-year-old knowing how to read. It’s skills that kids have in order to learn how to read.
As a person who offers story times, I model for parents or caregivers how to practice early literacy with their kids. I also offer one early literacy tip each time, like share rhyming books because words that rhyme teach kids how to play with sounds. In order to be able to read, they need to be able to recognize the distinction between sounds.
2) What do you think the biggest benefit is for children and parents?
Story times encourage kids to enjoy books because it’s in a fun environment. Everyone is enjoying themselves while they’re reading. It’s important while they’re learning to read later that they do enjoy books. And just being exposed to words and literacy and books is a big part of story time.
One big benefit of story times is the social part of it. A lot of friendships have developed in story times. Many parents whose kids may not be in pre-school and may not have a lot of contact with other parents come to story times. They make friends. The children make friends; they learn how to socialize with other kids.
3) Any anecdotes about how you’ve seen a particular child develop after being in story times for a couple of years?
One little boy in particular comes to story times with his older sister and baby brother. He is now 4 and has been coming since he was a baby. His sister is now 7, and his brother is almost 3. His sister was always very verbal, and though he often sat in the front row, he was fairly quiet and I believe his speech may have been a bit delayed.
I sing the same goodbye song at the end of every story time. He started going home and practicing the goodbye song. Soon, part of his story time routine became just the two of us singing the goodbye song with each other after stories and songs had ended, while all the other kids were playing and doing crafts. He has moved beyond that part of his story time routine now that he is older, but now whenever he comes, he is always right there participating throughout the entire story time.
4) How do story times benefit the community?
If you look at Tigard’s Strategic Plan, the way story times benefit the community is interconnectedness. They bring people together. They bring the community together. Friendships develop in story times. They prepare kids for school.
5) What would the consequences be if we had to reduce story times due to lack of funding?
We would have a lot of unhappy patrons. People rely on our story times. We do have a lot of parents who make story times part of their regular routine. Story times are a very important part of the programming we offer. People expect them, and it would be a huge loss if we had to reduce them.
Katie Nelson, Volunteer Coordinator
Get To Know… Katie Nelson, Volunteer Coordinator
Katie recently received her Master’s in History from Portland State University, where she researched and wrote about Portland’s civil rights advocacy efforts in the 1970s. In her spare time, Katie enjoys reading and spending time outdoors hiking and camping. A few of her favorite books include A Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell, Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes and Roots by Alex Haley. She will celebrate her second year as Volunteer Coordinator on Wed., Aug. 8.
1) Tell us about your job. What are your main duties? As the Library’s Volunteer Coordinator, I am responsible for recruiting new library volunteers, recording current monthly volunteer service hours, helping volunteers find the perfect position for their skills and experience and maintaining the growth of the volunteer program.
2) How do volunteers serve the library? How many people typically volunteer at the library? We have 280 regular volunteers at the library and 380 volunteers annually. Monthly, our volunteers contribute on average about 1,300 hours of service to the library, the equivalent of about 7.2 full-time positions. Volunteers serve the library in a variety of ways! They work in the Technical Services, Readers Services or Circulation divisions.
In Readers Services, volunteers work as Program Assistants for youth services, and we have volunteers who visit homebound patrons through our Friendly Visitor Program in Adult Services. The majority of our monthly volunteer work is in Circulation. They help in many ways, but primarily in getting materials back on the shelves via bin sorting and shelving, pulling patron requests for reserved items, and welcoming patrons as our Entry Point Greeter. We also have volunteers who are Local History Room docents, Special Project Volunteers, and Administrative Assistant Volunteers.
3) Why does this job appeal to you? I frequented the libraries of my hometown, college town and current home. I have a deep love and respect for libraries and the robust services they provide—not only books, but additional educational and entertainment resources such as movies, CDs, programs and classes. I love that both my personal life and professional lives support a public service such as the library. I also enjoy the diversity of people that I get to work with in this position. You cannot typecast a library volunteer. Each volunteer’s history, background and skillsets are incredibly diverse. This makes for a unique environment where every day is different.
4) Describe a particularly memorable experience you’ve had since you have been here. The two times I’ve planned the annual Volunteer Recognition Event have been memorable—especially in regards to the volunteers who are being honored at the event. Each year at the event, we recognize volunteers who have reached various milestones in their volunteer service (500 hours, 1,000 hours, 1,500 hours, etc., and 5 years, 10 years, 15 years, etc). Last year, we recognized a volunteer who has been volunteering at the library for 30 years, and another volunteer who has contributed 7,000 hours to the library! And this year, we recognized a volunteer for 25 years of service and another for 6,500 hours! I love being able to formally recognize volunteers for all that they do for the community.
5) What do you appreciate most about the library’s volunteers? I appreciate a lot of their qualities; humor, knowledge, expertise and dependability, to name a few. But the universal quality I appreciate most about Tigard Public Library’s volunteers is their dedication to service within the community. By volunteering at the library, these volunteers are helping Tigard taxpayers and citizens, both directly and indirectly, by supporting library programs, re-shelving items so that they get back into patron’s hands quicker, and helping keep the library a friendly, welcoming environment. Our volunteers come to the library everyday with smiles on their faces and an admirable eagerness to help the community. It’s the best.
6) What do you envision for the future of the volunteer program? Library volunteers are selfless. When we have a need, they are here to meet that need and support the community’s success. With the city’s projected growth, I think the volunteer program will also need to grow. A lot of the new volunteers we welcome to the library every month are new to the Tigard community and want to learn more about the city and its services, as well as meet other residents. I think the program will continue to grow by the sheer number of people moving to the state. We are always happy to have new people at the library, and lucky for us, there is always work to do!