A good career on the books

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 6, 2001

Many people dread the term &uot;hitting the books.

Tuesday, February 06, 2001

Many people dread the term &uot;hitting the books.&uot; But Lori Barkema has been able to make a career out of doing just that – and she’s loving every minute of it.

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As the library director at the Albert Lea Public Library, Barkema is in charge of the daily functions of the library as well as establishing directives for future goals and projects. And yes, she even gets to re-shelve books on occasion.

&uot;Even though I’m an administrator I still get to be a librarian,&uot; she said. &uot;I wouldn’t be happy doing anything else.&uot;

She said that when she went to the University of Iowa for a master’s degree in library science she had to make a choice as to what type of library she wanted to work in. College libraries function very differently from public school libraries, which vary greatly from public libraries.

She chose that latter, and is very content with that choice.

&uot;The whole age range (of a public library’s patrons) makes it more interesting to me,&uot; Barkema said from behind her desk loaded with books of all types and genres. &uot;I like the mission. I think there’s a value to the community that libraries provide.&uot;

But that value would be meaningless if people didn,t use it. Under Barkema’s direction, the Albert Lea Public Library has, at any given time, about 30,000 out of its 68,000 books out in the public.

&uot;We want to get them young,&uot; she joked while talking about some library initiatives to get children reading.

She said they have started a program called Day Care Delivery in which volunteers pack up various materials to give to 37 area day care facilities to help the kids get interested in books and reading. These bundles include books, video and audio tapes, puppets and other items.

The main goal of all librarians is to help people find the information they need, she said. With looming electronic books and other multimedia technology in sight, Barkema is excited.

She said that even if books as we know them now disappear, there will always be a need to people in her profession – people trained in ways to sort out information, whether its from books, magazines, newspapers, the Internet or electronic media.

But that day is still quite a ways away, she believes. People still like curling up with a good book, and will continue to do so no matter what form they might take someday.