Every month we'll highlight a reader in the Great Lakes Bay region and learn more about them, their work, and their reading life. We'll also discuss books and share a conversation about their journey.
Read on to learn more about Emily and how books impact her world.
Where do you live?
I live in Auburn. Pretty close to the Auburn Library, actually, though I never lived that close when I used to work there.
Both of my parents own businesses in Kawkawlin. In fact, my mom owns the bookstore, Buy the Book. And then I have three siblings, two brothers and a sister. My sister works at Handy Middle School, which is
pretty fun because it is so close to the Sage
Library where I work. And finally I have two
nieces (one in high school and one in college)
and three nephews who are 1, 3, and 6. I also
have so many aunts, uncles and cousins who
mostly live in the area.
What's your role? How long have
you worked for the library?
I have worked for Bay County Library System
for 12 years. I started out as a page, shelving
books. Then I drove the Bookmobile for a
while. After that, I spent a while working in
the Children's Department at Sage and
Auburn. Now I am the Department Head at
Sage for Teen & Adult Fiction. I really love
my job. I order all the adult fiction books and
all the teen books. Plus, I get to bring all kinds of cool programming to the library for teens and adults.
All book nerds would love to be surrounded by books all day. What's the best part about working at the library?
Talking with people about books is definitely up there. I don't have time to read everything no matter how hard I try, but having conversations with people about what they like and what they've read is both interesting and
helps me with my job. Bay City is full of so many
great and interesting people and I get to talk a lot of
them while at the fiction desk on third floor at Sage.
Come visit me!
What is the process for selecting the authors who you bring to Bay City?
The library reaches out to publishers for a list of
authors who may be touring. After that staff is asked
who we think from the list would be a good fit based
on what our patrons have been reading. The Friends committee takes that input and figures out who will be the best fit. Historical fiction has been very popular the past few years, and so Marie Benedict is a great choice because her books are full of interesting women from history who's stories may not always be told.
Friends of the Bay City Library System (BCLS) play a big role in these events. What else do they do? How can someone get involved if they are interested? The Friends of the Library does so much for us. They bring authors to Bay City each spring and fall. They fund our awesome summer reading bags we hand out every year. They also fund the printing of our newsletter which is full of all the events the library puts on. Every branch receives Book Page, which is a review magazine of new and upcoming books, that we receive through funding from the friends. They also help fund different cool things at the library like our button machines, laptops, and coming soon to Sage, a heat press. And they assist with the library's millage campaigns. One of the biggest things they do is put on the annual Used Book Sale. This event takes so much work and is 100% volunteer-run and brings in the money to fund all these awesome projects. If you are interested in joining the Friends, you can find more information on our website or each branch has registration forms you can fill out.
How many libraries are in the BCLS?
There are four branches, Alice & Jack Wirt, Sage, Auburn and Pinconning, plus the Bookmobile!
What is your favorite spot in the library you work in? Why?
I really love my office, which is on the third floor of Sage. It looks toward the river and has some big windows that let a lot of light in.
How do you think the library makes the community a better place?
I feel we are all about connection. Connecting people with books, ideas, and other people. It is so easy to become isolated with how busy life is and it can be hard to meet new people and try new things as an adult. A big hurdle for a lot of people is cost, and the library is one of the last places where you can go and be and not have any expectation on you to spend money. The space and materials we provide can help you get to where you want to go. The programs we have can give you an opportunity to meet new people and try something new. I especially love when we invite a local business in and people discover how great they are.
The Caro District Library recently was faced with a book challenge. Fortunately, the book was not banned. Have you encountered any challenges? What was the result? And, from a library perspective, why is it important to provide all kinds of literature? Bay County has had people challenge books in the past. I have not yet had one in my department at Sage, but there definitely have been some throughout the system. We have a process that we go through when a book is challenged. There is a form that the person issuing the challenge needs to fill out, and then the challenge will be reviewed by the Department Head and the Managing Librarian. It is important to remember that the library serves the whole community. And our community is full of a vast array of people from all different backgrounds who have different interests. We strive to have something for everyone, but the flip side is that not everything we have will be for you.
What is your favorite back-list book? Recently published book? Favorite can change so fast, but a few recent books I loved have been Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus, Book Lovers by Emily Henry and Legendborn by Tracy Deonn. Back-list favorites include Pachinko by Min Lee, The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz (which my book club is reading for May), Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, and the Tortall series by Tamora Pierce.
What's it like to work in a historic building? Are there any ghosts? Fun architecture features? Our building has so much character. It was built in 1884 and there are still items on every floor that we have in use that have been here since the beginning. The beams that you can see on the third floor are original to the building. You can even see where past workers carved their initials. The red lamp over the reading nook
on the second floor was also an original,
although it needed to be re-wired to work on
electricity instead of gas. The fireplace on the
second floor has gorgeous tile work that is
from the Minton China Works company. On
the first floor, you just need to look up to see
the original stamped tin ceiling which is very
striking. Even our fountain out front is
original. When you look at old pictures of
Sage it is so striking how empty it used to
look. Sage was pretty much the only thing
here, no other buildings, no trees. One really cool thing we have is a safe in the basement that we still use that is also original to the building. I had heard that when the re-modeled the library they kind of had to work around it because it was so heavy that it wasn't going anywhere. I don't really think about ghosts, especially because there are times where I am working up on the third floor alone. So maybe they are there, maybe not.
What is something about the library that you want to promote or isn't utilized as much? We started a partnership with Studio 23 and they bring us a new art piece each month to hang on the third floor above our puzzle table. The pieces that Amy Gibas brought us have all been so amazing. They have been great conversation starters with our regular patrons.
What programs/services do you provide that you think might surprise people?
My friends will tease me because I seem to find ways to work in library services into conversations when we meet new people, but there are so many cool things at the library that not everyone knows about. We have adult graphic novel collections now which have brought in some new readers. But if you like graphic novels and comics, but are more of a digital reader, you can also check those items out on our Hoopla app. Yep. We have apps. Libby and Hoopla are the places to get great eBooks and eAudiobooks. Kanopy is one where you can download movies. And we even have a library app for us where you can keep track of your items out and quickly access our calendar to see all of our programs. Most people know that the library offers story time for kids. But we have programs for all age groups. I actually run a teen D&D group at Sage once a month and we have a monthly chess club for adults and teens.
We bring in all kinds of speakers and authors in addition to leading crafting programs ourselves. We have a few special collections which are I think some of the best hidden gems. We have a board game collection to get you prepared for game night. We have STEAM kits in each of our children's sections that include cool items to check out like a ukulele, a coding robot, a microscope, and a sewing machine. We also have reminisce therapy kits which are were created to help dementia patients by encouraging interactions with conversations that can trigger special memories and life experiences. Finally, we have a seed library. Housed at the Wirt branch, we have packets of seeds that people can "check out" and plant. At the end of the season, people can bring back harvested seeds to sustain this program for future years.
If you could be a character in a book, who would you be and why? I didn't read them until I was in my twenties, but I do think the best character to be would be Nancy Drew. She just seemed like she was good at everything. Plus she had a cool car. Although, mysteries kept finding her, so maybe she carried some bad luck...
What's your favorite quote from a book? Why? I always liked "Fairy tales are more than true--not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten." from Neil Gaiman in Coraline. And while I liked this quote when I ran across it, I really began to love it when I read about how Gaiman initially credited it to a different author, G.K. Chesterton. He has said that he remembered the gist of the quote and wrote his version as a placeholder until he got his hands on the correct version (this was pre-internet and he didn't have a hardcopy of the book). But then it didn't get updated. There is so much strength in the quote and the author credited it to someone else. Which gives it kind of a quirky backstory.
What is your favorite thing to do in the Bay City/Great Lakes Bay area? I run two book clubs at the library and for both of them we meet other places. My I <3 YA book club (for adults & older teens who enjoy reading YA novels) meets at Lolobee's which is an amazing coffeeshop on the west side. The Books & Brews book club moves around to different bars and restaurants every month and Bay City has some really great ones.
Outside of work, I love learning new things and over the past few years I have been taking pottery classes at Studio 23 and sewing at Bonnie's Sewing Center and I highly recommend both! I am very involved with Hell's Half Mile Film & Music Festival that takes place every year in downtown Bay City in September. (Save the Dates: Sept. 21-24 this year and we are always looking for more volunteers!)