Once I had children, the public library became the center of our social universe. My boys and I attended story time no matter what, made special trips out of choosing books and movies, and trekked to neighboring libraries to partake in a variety of events and projects. Along the way, the boys and I made friends not only with other patrons but with the librarians and staff. I enjoy the feeling of community that being a “regular” at the library can instill.
One very cool children’s librarian is Barbara Wells better known as Miss Babs, of the East Smithfield Public Library. One of my favorite things about Babs is the relaxed and welcoming atmosphere she has created. I asked Babs how she contributes to her library and the community.
Elyse (Kidoinfo): How long have you been at the East Smithfield Public Library?
Babs: I have been working at the library since September of 2001.
Is there a sense of community among librarians?
Babs: I have definitely found this to be true in my experience as a children/youth services librarian. We are very passionate about our work which lends itself naturally to a sense of community in the profession. We are supportive of each other in many ways. One way I have learned to cultivate these professional relationships is through serving on a committee. I am currently on the Rhode Island Children’s Book Award Committee.
It has been wonderful to work with librarians (public and school) as well as teachers who love to read and are committed to finding books that are of literary value. Our intended audience is children in grades 3- 6. You can visit the link at www.ri.net/RIEMA/bookaward
What are some favorite innovations that you have contributed to the library?
Babs:I have always liked the idea that the public library is like a community center so I want children and families to feel welcome. It’s important for me to keep that in mind when developing programs and setting up the space in the children’s room. Seven years ago I started the Share-a-Story Book Discussion Group, which brings 4th and 5th graders and their parent or guardian together one evening a month to discuss a book. The program is done in collaboration with the local schools which adds to that sense of that community I strive for.
I also like Game Day, held each Friday afternoon where kids play with board games, none of which require batteries! Other programs include the display case, where children sign-up to show favorite collections, and the monthly Lego Club is very popular, along with the different seasonal events. Many of these activities are like hosting group play dates. It’s very fun.
What were your favorite types of books as a child?
Babs: Realistic fiction, historical fiction and how-to books about crafts.
What is your favorite color and why?
Babs: Purple and various shades of blue. To me they are calming and soothing colors.
What is a fun fact about you that no one would ever guess?
Babs: Every summer our family goes tent camping in the White Mountains. We enjoy swimming in the Saco River, hiking and reading ghost stories around the campfire at night!
And now a couple of questions from my boys, ages 8 and 10:
What is your favorite pizza topping?
Babs: Olives and feta cheese.
What do you like to do when you’re not at the library?
Babs: I enjoy swimming (especially in the ocean) kayaking, baking, exploring the natural world, and reading … of course!
Public libraries are a guiding force in our communities and being part of that is both thrilling and amazing to me. I continue to be inspired by the children and families I have the opportunity to work with each and every day through story hours, programs, book discussion groups, readers advisory, collaborations with local schools and community outreach. Thanks for interviewing me – it’s been fun. See you soon at the library!
For information about programs at the East Smithfield Public Library, visit eastsmithfieldpubliclibrary.org