A love of literature has propelled librarian Kari Ann St. Jean across seven states in the past 18 years — from southern California to inner city Philadelphia, to Las Vegas and now to Connecticut. She has worked at “poor and rich libraries, small and big libraries, urban and suburban libraries, libraries in the middle of the desert and one teeny school library in Buffalo.”
But now, she has landed her “ultimate dream job” as the new children’s and teen services manager at the Avon Free Public Library.
“I’m not a new face in Avon,” noted St. Jean, who previously worked at the Avon Library on Country Club Road as a part-time children’s specialist, Sunday reference librarian and substitute adult librarian.
She started her new job in October, succeeding Amber Wyzik, who left to become the school librarian at F.M. Kearns Primary School in Granby.
Libraries face challenges unique to the times, said St. Jean. How do they gain readership and create readers so they continue to thrive?
“I hope to bridge the technological tidal wave with literacy and books,” explained St. Jean. “The goal is to make the library a destination for all ages, by raising readers and hooking the parents.”
For the past few years, St. Jean was a much loved storyteller at the West Hartford Public Library, where she not only read aloud stories and sang songs, but brought her magical felt board, with cutouts of dinosaurs and ice cream cones. Children helped decorate the board with colorful felt figures and designs, bringing a visual and interactive element to storytime.
The creative children’s librarian said she was asked by the Connecticut Library Association to make a video demonstrating how to make the flannel board figures. She presented the video, entitled “Flannel This, Puppet That!” at the 2012 association conference.
St. Jean has also created a blog, “My Storytime Life,” which provides a detailed explanation of her storytelling projects and includes her video. She also posts each week on the Pinterest site “Flannel Friday.”
In January 2013, St. Jean will introduce to Avon the hugely popular “Mother Goose on the Loose” early literacy program which she first led in West Hartford, for children ages 2-5.
An upcoming event of note, said St. Jean, is “Take Your Child to the Library Day,” to be held on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013. There will be a rhythmic gymnastics demonstration at 11 a.m., and a character will portray Mary Todd Lincoln.
The Simsbury resident, married and the mother of two children (and the proud owner of a cat named Binxy), said she is impressed by how much libraries are valued in the Connecticut suburbs. In southern California, where she grew up and worked at what she termed a “poor library,” resources were greatly limited and library hours much shorter than in Connecticut facilities.
Winter Storytime, Jan. 28—March 22. Registration is open Jan. 7-18. Acceptance is by lottery.
Mondays: Mother Goose on the Loose, ages 2-5, with adult, 10:30 a.m.
Tuesdays: Twinkling Twos, age 2 with adult, 10:30 a.m.; storytime ages 4-6 sit alone, 1:30 p.m.
Wednesdays: Baby and Me, nonwalkers, with adult, 10:15 a.m., storytime ages 4-6 sit alone, 10:30 a.m.; All about me, walkers up to age 2, with adult, 11:30 a.m.
Thursdays: Storytime 3s sit alone, 10:30 a.m.
Drop in classes include: Once Upon a Time, ages 3-5, with adult, Wednesdays, 1:30 p.m., and Mini-Movers, ages 2-4, with adult, Fridays, 10:15 a.m.
Wednesday, Dec. 19--Drop in storytime for ages 3-5, 1:30-2:30 p.m.
Friday, Dec. 21—Teen Snack Shack: Holiday Trees, 3-4 p.m. Turn ice cream cones into festive creations. For grades 7 and up.
Friday, Dec. 21—Winter Solstice Celebration, 4-4:45 p.m. Read “The Longest Night,” and make a treat for animal friends. For grades K-1.
Thursday, Dec. 27—Two-year-old storytime, Drop-in at 10:30 a.m.
Thursday, Dec. 27—BookMates Reading Club, 1:30-3:30 p.m. Book discussion of “The Polar Express,” movie, with crafts and snack. For grades 1-3.
Friday, Dec. 28—Lego Club, 1-2 p.m. For grades 3-6. Library will provide LEGOs.
For more information, call the Avon Free Public Library, (860) 673-9712.