“I’ve always liked libraries and books and reading, so it was kind of a natural thing,” says Amy Dreger of her job as a children’s librarian. The 44-year-old sits casually on a couch, wrapped in a blanket with her knees up after a long day at the Cuyahoga County Public Library (CCPL) Beachwood Branch, where she works with children of all ages. Dreger has been a librarian for over seven years, working in different positions at the Lakewood Public Library and CCPL in Beachwood. It all started with a simple job advertisement.
“I stumbled across a job that sounded interesting at Lakewood Library, and then I thought, ‘Huh, I think it would be fun to work in a library and I’ve always wanted to,’ so I started working there,” she recalls. Dreger’s love for the work eventually led her to obtain her master’s degree in library science through an online program at Drexel University so that she was able to work elsewhere and expand her horizons. She has since climbed her way to the level of a supervisor at Beachwood, now managing two people in her department. This takes hard work, since, in her experience, being a librarian is a lot more complicated than some may think.
“It’s a lot more beyond sitting there in a quiet place telling everybody to be quiet and reading books all day. Libraries are busy places now; they’re more community centers than they used to be… [but] in the olden times, that’s how libraries were perceived,” she laughs. “The profession is changing a lot. We’re not just about books, but we’re about connecting people with information, and that can be in the form of programming, or it could be through…connecting them digitally [and] teaching them about information technology, so it’s a lot broader than just ‘Oh I like books and I’m gonna tell people about books.’ I mean, we do a lot more than that. I would say probably 75% of my work doesn’t involve books at all.”
What her job does consist of, however, is planning programs, figuring out activities to do for kids, doing storytimes, presenting information, heading to preschools and day cares for outreach programs, helping customers order books, aiding others in using computers, giving book recommendations to kids… Dreger’s list goes on and on. Yet there is still not much she would change about her job except for the hours that sometimes get in the way of her time spent with family and the long drive from her home in Lakewood to Beachwood. “Really,” she states passionately, “that’s it.”
Although she clearly loves nearly every aspect of being a librarian, one of the most important to her is working with the families that come into the library.
“I just like building those relationships and being able to talk to the different customers throughout the day and getting to know kids. It just makes your job not boring and something different every day,” she says, smiling. She also finds joy in the artistic side of her work, which is what has prompted her to keep her current position. “I enjoy the creativity that comes with it. For awhile I thought maybe I would want to work at an academic library in a college or something but I think it would’ve been kind of boring after awhile because I get to do a lot of really fun stuff at my job every day.”
If she had become an academic librarian, there’s a chance she may not have encountered as much diversity as she does at her current job. In Beachwood, there are many families that are working on fellowships at Case Western and the nearby hospitals. Many include Asian families that stay in the States temporarily or change their minds and choose to remain here. Some of these families as well as others do not have English as their first language. Dreger also states that there are many African American and Jewish families, along with some individuals with special needs. This unique mix of culture, ethnicity, and religion that she has been exposed to, along with working with all different kinds of children, has helped her grow as a person.
“It’s made me a little more patient and accepting of people because we see all different kinds of people that come to the library, from all walks of life,” she says, “people with disabilities, people with a mental illness… So it makes you tolerate and have a little more patience with people who might have problems.”