By Josh Moniz
NEW ULM Katy Kudela, the new Children's Librarian at the New Ulm Public Library, is working hard to teach children something important: a life-long love of read and learning.
Children’s Librarian Katy Kudela joined the New Ulm Public Library in October 2011. She said her focus will be on developing a life-long love of reading in children. She said that she believes it will translate into a life-long interest in learning.
Kudela, who joined the Library in October of 2011, said her transition into the new position has been very smooth due to the helpful staff at the Library. She said she's focused on making a visit the library a special experience for everyone, which will make them want to come back again and again.
Kudela grew up Mankato, but she has some roots in New Ulm because her family would visit every Sunday. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in communication arts with a print emphasis from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. She later earned a Master's Degree in Library and Information Science with a focus on children's librarianship from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
She originally intended to be a reporter. Her first professional job was working at the Janesville Argus newspaper from 1995 to 1999. But, her personal passion for books eventually lead to her taking the position of Senior Editor at the Mankato-based Capstone Press from 2000 to 2011. The company is a publisher of children's non-fiction literature.
However, throughout her entire career, her passion for books gave her a desire to deal with them more directly. Her work at Capstone Press ultimately crystalized for her that she wanted to get young people just as excited about reading as she is.
"I loved working on the whole process of making children's books, but it didn't give me the same joy as putting a book directly in a child's hands," said Kudela, "I'm a people person and I wanted more of the human element."
So, while working at Capstone Press, she earned her Master's Degree to become a children's library. It eventually took her to her current position in New Ulm last year.
A Life With Books
Kudela said she feels the role of a children's librarian is to encouraging children to want to read throughout their lives. She said that keeping them reading throughout the summer to keep them in the proper mind set for the return to school is important. But, she said that getting them to read throughout their lives will also make them become life-long learners as adults.
She said that a big element of encouraging this is working towards having them associate the library with positives experiences.
"If you catch them while they're young and get them to want to come to the library, they'll carry that same desire when their adults. The library will be a place that gets them excited, a place they want to take their kids," said Kudela.
Kudela's approach to getting children to positively associate the library and books with fun is not carrying any presumptions about which types of books should be suggested. She said her belief is that each person has their own style and genre of book they're interested in. She said people shouldn't be judgment of any type of book people turn to reading, because the important element is it gets people reading.
"When we have kids coming in to read comics, people want to judge or get concerned about that. But, if it gets them reading, I'm happy with that," said Kudela, "It can even lead to them transitioning into books."
Beyond her personal passion for books, Kudela believes there is an inherent value to books. She said that books themselves teach you something with each reading. She said they also give you a desire to keep learning even after you graduate from school.
"I can't imagine being in a world without books," said Kudela, "They show you so many different places out in the world. They also keep introducing you to all the different ideas and viewpoints people have. It makes you a broader thinker."
Kudela said the particular aspect of broadening your way of thinking teaches you to become a critical thinker. She said this skill is particularly important for children as they grow up surrounded by the Internet.
"There's so much information they can get now. It essential to teach them how differentiate whether they are looking at good or bad information. It's something that will be important for them for the rest of their lives," said Kudela, "By being critical thinkers, they won't just blindly believe something is true [to their disadvantage]."
Kudela said that even though it sounds clich, she considers the children the most rewarding part of her job. She said that working with them ends up teaching her things and reminding her how to keep child-lie at heart.
"I'm definitely in the right area of the library," said Kudela.
Currently, Kudela is engaged in the Library's summer reading program. She said the program with 800 kids is going very well so far, and the kids have been very engaged.
Looking into the future, Kudela said there was some program she would be interested in implementing at the Library at some point. She said she really wants to start a "tween" reading program. She said she felt that age group is underrepresented with library programs, but still need as much engagement with the library as the younger children. She said she is also interested in find a more diverse array of programs to host for people at the Library. She said that having an event besides just reading at the library helps work towards associating the library with positive experiences.
(Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org)