Jay Cooper, Library Assistant
Jay Cooper has been a library assistant at the Eugene Public Library for 15 years. He calls it his “dream job.” We sat down with Jay recently to find out more about this friendly and familiar face in the children’s section of the library.
Can you tell us something about where you grew up? Was there a library and did you access it as a child?
I grew up in the country outside of Idaho Falls, Idaho. Although my father was a nuclear reactor engineer, we were surrounded by farmers and ranchers. It was a very rural existence. My elementary school had horse stables and an outhouse. We often visited the library in town, and I made use of school libraries too. I have always been an avid reader, even winning a silver dollar in a fourth-grade reading contest.
When and how did you know that you wanted to be a children’s librarian?
I came late to library work. I was a respiratory therapist for the first 20 years of my professional life. When my family relocated to Omaha, Nebraska, in 1997, I took the opportunity to try something new. I noticed a help wanted sign in the window of a branch library, so I walked in and applied. I got the job, and have been with libraries ever since, first for four years at Swanson Branch Library in Omaha, then with Youth Services at Eugene Public Library.
What is your favorite part of your job?
While I enjoy every aspect of library work, my favorite part of the job is dealing with children, either one-on-one at the service desk, or in programs I host. It’s all about the kids. In a typical day I work the service desk for 3 or 4 hours, interacting with patrons of all ages. I help with reader’s advice and field informational questions of all kinds. I love chatting with patrons. Many of the kids and their parents are frequent library visitors and well known to me. I’ve been here long enough to have seen a generation of kids grow to adulthood. Behind the scenes I help support Youth Services technical hardware and software, tend to damaged materials, and assist librarians with maintaining the collections. I specialize in juvenile nonfiction and produce a Nonfiction Great Reads booklist.
I also host various children’s programs. An exciting new program I’m hosting is Minecraft Monday, when kids use the Children’s Center internet computers to play for an hour in a special Minecraft world created just for this program. Kids work on cooperative builds and are issued challenges each week. It is gratifying to see real world bonds form among kids engrossed in a digital world. I hosted Baby Storytime downtown for about 10 years. This is a program designed primarily to inform parents on how to select books and materials for the very youngest children, in order to introduce them to the world of literacy at the earliest possible age. The 10 years I spent doing this program are the most rewarding years of my career.
What is your favorite moment or memory in your work as a children’s librarian?
My favorite moment at EPL was the time I blew a girl’s mind by speaking to her in Chinese.
I studied Chinese for years in college, including a semester in Beijing, and can still speak passable Mandarin. A six-year-old girl was sitting with her parents at our crafting table putting together a paper bag reindeer for a holiday display. I was acquainted with her parents, recent immigrants from China, and I knew the girl was perfectly bilingual. I picked up her reindeer and said in Chinese, “Wow, that’s really great! What is it? What is this thing?” She looked at me, clearly confused, and mouthed the words “I don’t know” in Chinese. I continued on with, “You don’t know? I don’t know what it is either, but I like it!” I handed it back to her, and as I was walking away she exclaimed to her mother (in Chinese) with great excitement, “Mommy! Mommy! He’s American and he was speaking Chinese!” It occurred to me that she had not only never heard an American speak Chinese, it had probably never occurred to her that an American could speak Chinese. I was happy all day thinking I might have expanded her horizons a bit. Lifelong learning at your public library!
Can you address the importance of libraries for children in this time?
Libraries have always been a place for quiet immersion in a good book. That will never change, and a high percentage of our young patrons still love books and consume them prodigiously. But a new exciting trend in libraries is to circulate nontraditional items, such as our cultural passes, telescopes, learning kits, and ukuleles. (We don’t actually circulate ukuleles yet, but I’m working on it.) Another exciting happening is our Maker Hub on the third floor. Here patrons can access hardware and software that might be too expensive or impractical for home use, such as recording software and musical instruments, sewing machines, button makers and such. Libraries will always have books, but the library of the future will be much more than just books. They will be centers of community creative experience. It’s a great time to be a librarian.
Traci Glass, Teen Services Librarian
Traci Glass comes from a family of librarians and “big readers”. Her mother and sister were school librarians, and Traci remembers storytimes from her local childhood libraries in both Oklahoma and Mesa, Arizona. Glass notes, “Mesa Public Library had a huge teen space even in the 1990s, which was unheard of back then. I spent a lot of time there.”
Having achieved a Masters in Information Resources and Library Science from the University of Arizona, she has spent over 20 years in library services at the Mesa Public Library, Southeast Regional Library, and here in Eugene.
Glass is also active in the Young Adult Library Services (YALSA), part of the American Library Association, and this year she is reading almost 500 young adult books as a judge for the Michael L. Printz Award: “I’ve been on award committees for four years. I even get up early to read… All I do is read!”
Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King, stands out as a favorite across the years, and Young Adult fiction has boomed as a genre in the last decade. Glass remembers, “When I was younger I read everything from Sweet Valley High to Jane Austen to Sylvia Plath” she says, but the teen section is now full of more young adult titles, which many adults enjoy too.
When asked what a ‘day in the life’ looks like, Glass mentions myriad responsibilities from developing the teen collections and book lists; creating library web pages for teens; providing reference and research help; running craft clubs, book groups and volunteering programs; to forming special relationships with young library patrons.
Indeed, as the Foundation’s Booked for the Evening event ramps up to support services for teens this year, Glass reflects on our library’s central role for teens in the community. In addition to services like homework and tutoring help, “we also have a lot of unintended impact. They trust me, so I’m also part-counselor, part-friend.”
Public support for teen services is high, and funds raised through Booked for the Evening are set to make a huge difference to the teen space, as well as its services. “I’d love to make it somewhere teens can congregate and share books, film and music – a space just for them.”
Glass describes the teen center as a crucial safe space for many teens in the community: “So many teens feel like they’re only noticed when they do something wrong. It’s nice to be an adult in their lives where they feel they can be open – they won’t get in trouble or be looked down on.” Resources like Brainfuse Live Homework Help also let teens contact librarians with queries from home.
What is Traci’s favorite part of the work? “Connecting teens with books that will change their lives – and proving both resources and an escape from all the things they have to deal with.” Glass notes that books are a natural stimulus for talking about the toughest issues, and is grateful for the library and Foundation’s support in “working together to provide this sense of community for our teens.”
Thank you, Traci and colleagues, for all your service to the library!
Nancy Horner, Adult Services Manager
This year Nancy Horner celebrates her 10th year as the Adult Services Manager, where she
oversees personnel, programming, and budgets. She’s one of the silent hands guiding book
acquisitions as well as the other collections the library offers, including audio books, DVDs, Blu-
ray, electronic, and online resources—for the main library and the branch libraries. She also
helped lead the development of the library’s new Maker Hub, where patrons have access to
craft supplies, tools, electronic and sound recording equipment, and a 3-D printer.
Horner comes from a military family, and grew up in California, Washington, Texas, and Germany before moving to Oregon at 17 for college. She earned her Master’s degree in Library Science and a teaching certificates in English and Psychology. In addition to her work with libraries, she put her degrees to good use teaching in-person and online community college classes in Cultural Anthropology, Psychology, and History of Western Civilization.
Horner received a Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities, which allowed her to spend a summer in London studying Virginia Woolf. The following year she presented a paper to the International Virginia Woolf Society Conference, held that summer in Wales, and enjoyed travels to see the Book of Kells, and to search for Nessie on Loch Ness.
Libraries have been central to Horner’s career. She started out as children’s librarian in a small
public library, and as a cataloger in a public library, and worked her way up to a school librarian,
to head of 25 libraries in Lawrence, Kansas, and fortunately for us, to her current role at
the Eugene Public Library. Nancy’s many interests have included dance and acting. She’s won
awards in archery, obtained a black belt in karate (long out of practice, or so she says), and enjoys painting and writing.
Her favorite undertaking this year at the Eugene Library: hands down, the Big Read, centered
on Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon. The library, with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, Midwest Arts, and support from the Eugene Public Library Foundation, partnered with the Springfield Public Library, Oregon Contemporary Theatre, Eugene School District 4-J, Bethel School District, Springfield Public Schools, Bijou Art Cinemas, Radio Redux, and Friends of Eugene Public Library to host a rich array of performances, concerts, films and lectures. At least 30 book groups participated. “This year’s Big Read was exceptionally popular,” she says.
Among the biggest challenges Horner foresees for the library is maintaining support at a time
when more people than ever need it. She describes libraries as scaffolding supporting growth
and creativity. “We welcome everyone, try to connect them with resources they need to be
healthy, productive, happy, safe. We take away barriers. No one is excluded. We preserve and
make available records of thousands of years of human achievement, science, art. We protect
the past and help build for the future.”
Many thanks to Nancy and the dedicated staff that make our library a community treasure.
Scott Herron, Adult Services Librarian
Say you want to start a business or nonprofit, find a job, evaluate local business opportunities, do research on social media for businesses, or a score of other related pursuits. You turn to the Eugene Public Library for help. Chances are you have had the pleasure of meeting Scott Herron, the Adult Services Librarian.
I fell in love with the profession.
Scott grew up in Bellflower, California, a suburb outside of Los Angeles. When he chose a college, Scott was attracted to the opposite of urban sprawl—the University of Oregon. As a work-study student at the Knight Library, Scott observed first-hand how libraries enhance learning. After graduation, he pursued a master’s degree in Library and Information Science and worked as a librarian in Kentucky. Then a position opened up at the Eugene Public Library, and Scott jumped at the chance. For the past 19 years, Scott has served the Eugene public in a job he loves—being a librarian.
I like helping people find jobs.
Scott tells the story of Anthony, a library patron who recently came to the library interested in starting an Italian restaurant. But he had no idea of how to begin. With the help of Scott and library staff, Anthony is learning to evaluate risk and go through a process that will help his business succeed.
I am not an island.
Scott is quick to acknowledge the collaboration that enables him to do his job, starting with the exceptional adult services team with which he works. He thanks the Eugene Public Library Foundation for keeping our library “humming with innovation, community spirit, and endless lifelong learning opportunities.”
Scott enjoys spending time with his wife and his Labrador retriever. He is a private pilot of single-engine planes. He has been playing the banjo for about 30 years and enjoys jamming bluegrass-style with the old-timers, which, he notes with a smile, “I am quickly becoming one of.”
Thank you for your important work, Scott. Eugene is lucky to have you!