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Youth services librarian helps kids love reading, learning

Kinsey Hisle has been a youth services librarian for right at a year now. She started in August of 2017 with Boyle County Public Library, and is slowly ticking off the action steps on her list of goals.

On a Tuesday afternoon, she’s getting prepared for a tie-dyed backpack program in the kids’ work area, situated in the back of the children’s library, behind the “tree desk” — as the kids call it — or the information station.

One of the things she likes most about her job is that every day is different, and that’s the mantra she keeps in mind about orchestrating the middle-school-aged programs she’s responsible for. In addition to functioning as a librarian for kids, which of course relates to all book-involved needs, she researches and leads creative and mindful activities the library offers for free.

She finds most program ideas on national librarian group pages and other social media sites. Although the more open, crafty type of activities are her favorite to lead — she finds children expressing their creativity to be inspiring — Kinsey has been slowly getting more into STEM activities. It stands for “science, technology, engineering, mathematics.” There are “STEAM” activities now, too, which add an arts component.

“Anytime we make slime, the class is packed,” she says. And she loves it, too. She’s been focusing more on these types of offerings, especially with a new science exhibit hitting the children’s library this fall. She will always offer a lab experiment type activity, and has started offering Master Builders, which uses all different types of building blocks and other materials to let kids create, build and manipulate.

This fall she will also be offering some robotics-type programs for middle-schoolers as well as some focused on coding, but again — she says — not on the level of “real classes.”

“Plus, we have someone who comes in and teaches read coding here,” she says, so her fun options are just to get their feet wet.

Making sure kids grow up with a love and respect for reading is the main aim, and Kinsey says making sure they have a good time at the library, and feel comfortable, is part of that. She created a scavenger hunt for children which leads them through all departments of the kids’ area, making them more familiar with where to find graphic novels, which are hugely popular, or biographies, for example.

In the back, she used a glass display case to set up a collection of board games. “A lot of times, teens like to hang out here in the winter, because it’s too cold at the park. So this gives them something to do, to interact.” Families take advantage of the games, too.

What most may not know about the library is summer is the busiest time of year for them. “When school is out for everyone else, it’s hectic here,” she says, with summer reading programming, presenters, day camp trips and just overall increased activity with more offerings.

“But that’s good. That’s what we want them to do.”

She hopes the programs she offers are something different from what they’re experiencing in school. “And it gives them a chance to interact with kids from outside their school, too. Tweens are really social, and I love that they can interact during the activities.”

As for the books, they need love, too, she says, and she often finds herself rescuing damaged copies or “weeding out” the ones that have about had it — or don’t belong.

“We sometimes get books returned for school libraries …” she says. And books get damaged or dirty, the spines may be coming apart or the pages coming out. “We’ve had some chewed on — by dogs for older kids, by the kids for younger ones.”

She also takes care of the daily maintenance of the children’s library Facebook and other social media pages, creating scheduling for the programming calendars … But all of that stops once someone heads to the tree desk for help.

“Helping patrons is the No. 1 thing; everything else can be dropped if they need something.”

Now that school has started, the library will see a few of its slower weeks, as students get settled into the new year. But things will pick up in September.

Students will start coming in to take AR (Accelerated Reader) tests on the library’s computers, so Kinsey must make sure they have everything they need.

“Kids also come in who need to read certain books they’re taking tests on, or come in because they’re responsible to do a certain hours’ worth of reading. They have to find the right books for them, that the teachers and parents are OK with, and we want to make sure they’re going to enjoy it.”

Also, a report is run using a cataloging software that tracks each book and tells her what hasn’t been checked out in a while, if the book “looks rough” and needs to be replaced.

“Also in September, which is National Library Card Sign Up Month, we go around to kids in schools to promote getting their cards, telling them who we are as librarians, what we can do for them …”

Kinsey says it’s very important to her to be able to help a child make their own, very real connection to reading. “It’ll encourage them to keep reading, and it’s good for them to know there’s more books out there than just what they’re exposed to in school.”