BY GABE LICHT
DELANO, MN As a fifth-grader in western New York, Theresa Jacobs wanted to be a librarian, and she still has the library helper’s certificate to prove it. Her mother always told her she would be a good librarian, as well, but for 15 years, she “ran in the other direction” and worked in retail.
Not only has she returned to her love of libraries, but she has been settling into her new position of library services coordinator at Delano Public Library since late March.
Her transition from the Rockford branch of Great River Regional Library to the Delano branch has been a smooth one, thanks to a number of factors.
First, she served as a substitute librarian from 2010 to 2012, and spent time working with retired library services coordinator Carol Plocher in Delano, before taking the job in Rockford, where she worked with Plocher more.
“Carol was my mentor, so when I became a library services coordinator, she was the one who kind of trained me in, and I could be taken under her wing, and she could teach me,” Jacobs said. “And so when the Delano position opened up, it seemed like a really good fit, that I could continue the work I know she did. I understand the work she’s done in the community, and I think I was able to pick that up and continue the work she’s been doing without missing a beat because I know who she is, and I know the community.”
Second, she lives in Loretto and is further familiar with Delano because her 10-year-old daughter Melanie attends school in Delano.
Third, she was ready for the challenge that Delano presented, having twice the circulation as the Rockford location.
Though she admitted she is a bit intimidated taking the reins from a former Delano Citizen of the Year, she has filled big shoes before.
“In Rockford, there’s only been four or five library services coordinators,” Jacobs said. “Gale Bacon was one of the ones who was a real trendsetter. She went out west and won the Best Small Library in America Award . . . There’s some good mentors I’ve had in the past, some good leaders.”
Aside from her time as a library helper in fifth-grade, when she had the chance to meet the author of her favorite book “A Wrinkle in Time” Madeleine L’Engle, she started her library career at the Hennepin County Library in 2000.
She learned quickly that the skills she had picked up while working retail such as customer service and merchandizing came in handy in a library setting, as well.
After her daughter was born in 2006, she took some time off before beginning as a library aid for the Great River Regional Library, leading up to becoming a substitute librarian in 2010, and Rockford’s library services coordinator in 2012.
While in that role, she earned her Master’s in library sciences from Valdosta State University in Georgia, adding to the cultural studies degree she had earned from the State University of New York’s Empire State Program years earlier.
Her most recent studies taught her how a library can be a community builder, and she would like to add on to the community-minded structure that already exists at the Delano Public Library.
In her first month, she visited the Delano Senior Center, Tiger Kids Club, Love INC Heartland, Ridgeview Clinic, Wright County 4-H, and also met 250 people at the Delano Area Chamber of Commerce Expo.
“By reaching out to the community, you get a feel for the services the community wants,” Jacobs said.
She has also tapped into the expertise and talents of her staff.
“The staff is amazing,” Jacobs said. “Tamra does all the craft and art programming and all the passive displays. The Sliver of the River is a poetry program she has done . . . We have Joe. He handles all the technology. Every Friday afternoon, he does an app class with just drop in people, so he’ll talk about devices and how to download books . . . And then Sharon can find you the best horror movie. She’s been here more than 15 years, so she knows the collection really well and she’s very good at digging in and finding things others can’t find . . . They’re really important and they’ve really made it an easy transition.”
Jacobs is planning to sit down with her staff in the fall to talk about how the local library can be a community builder, looking at 23 different components.
“We have ideas we want to do,” Jacobs said.
Those ideas will be in addition to longstanding library programs that have become popular over the years.
Patrons may also see some changes to arrangements within the library, as Jacobs strives to keep the look and layout functional and appealing to guests.
She hopes to welcome new people to the library, as well, inviting them to see what the local entity has to offer.
“People need to stop in and see what’s going on,” Jacobs said. “There’s still a great deal of services we provide. It’s all across the board. It’s not just books or technology. This is also a community meeting place. It isn’t the same library it was 20 to 30 years ago.”
She’s excited to be a part of the local library scene.
“I feel very, very grateful to be here,” Jacobs said.