Washington Library Interns

I remember mine. I’m sure you remember yours too. First job, that is.

It’s a certainty Ellie Brink, age 18, and Jodi Willenbrink, age 15, won’t forget their first place of employment. While some of their fellow students from St. Francis Borgia Regional High School sweated buckets in factories or baked poolside as lifeguards, Ellie and Jodi nabbed paid internships at Washington Public Library.

It was a rewarding six-week position for two girls who met in band and previously volunteered at the library, a perfect gig for gals who are gaga about books — and who don’t mind cutting and pasting and adding their creativity to youth activities developed for the library’s summer reading program.

Ruth McInnis, children’s librarian, said the students have been a tremendous help. And she needed some able bodied assistance this year more than any other summer because the numbers of children taking part in the “Dream Big” reading program was over the moon, 1,289 participants under age 18, about 200 more kids this year than last.

Ruth anticipated increased numbers because of the new library, so she acted on city librarian Nell Redhage’s suggestion. Ruth put the pedal to the metal and applied for the Young Adult Library Services Association/Dollar General Teen Summer Internship grant.

Soon applications from various youth were pouring in — who wouldn’t want to work in a low-stress environment, in a position where you’d learn a lot, and have fun doing so. In a nutshell that’s how Ellie and Jodi described their stint as library interns, jobs that ended last Saturday with the culmination of the summer reading program.

It was my pleasure to share a portion of their last day — to see the girls in action, greeting library patrons, young and old with ready smiles as they manned the summer reading program table. That’s where parents and children came to have their reading logs authenticated and receive prizes for reading, anything from a pair of googly eyes to a spiffy T-shirt with the “Dream Big” logo on the front.

Manning the table was just one of Jodi and Ellie’s responsibilities. They also were invaluable when it came to helping with programs, most recently the Zombie Night for teens, which drew a large number of participants.

Ellie was called upon to come up with questions for a zombie quiz, and realized she was more creative than she thought.

Off to Lindenwood University in a few weeks to work on a degree in culinary arts, Ellie said the position at the library has helped her realize she has “good ideas,” because Ruth called on her for input. Ellie lit up talking about this newfound self-knowledge.

A soon-to-be-sophomore, Jodi admits she’s a bit shy when she first meets people. Working at the library helped her “open up” a bit quicker, and offered her the opportunity to network, meet parents who needed sitters. “I love babysitting,” she said, her eyes all a sparkle. An avid Pinterest follower, Jodi also relished assisting with craft projects.

Of course librarians appreciate order. Early on Jodi and Ellie were trained on classification and taught to shelve books. Sometimes when they were off work and just dropped by the library to check out a book, they’d find themselves putting titles in order — the Madame Librarian role pervading their psyches, causing them to winch when tot-sized patrons reshelved titles according to their own classifications.

Both Ellie and Jodi admitted they had no idea how much goes into being a children’s librarian, and completed their stints as interns with ardent respect for the position and admiration for Ruth. “She’s really fun and nice, and a good boss,” Jodi said.

What more could you expect from a summer job? References, of course, and Ellie and Jodi can expect some high commendations. “They did a tremendous job,” Ruth said. “And I’m sorry to see them go.”

It’s a sure bet it won’t be a permanent goodbye for the interns and their supervisor. Ellie and Jodi are readers, after all. And the library’s a cool place to find a great book.