New librarian comes to Fairfield
A new face is greeting youngsters at the Fairfield Public Library, and it’s that of children’s librarian Afton Hallauer.
Hallauer, of DeKalb, Ill., has been on the job since Oct. 1 and already feels at home in her new position and new town. One of her roles as children’s librarian is to help children find reference materials for their homework. She also connects kids to leisure books she thinks they’ll enjoy based on other books they like. To give the best advice possible, Hallauer immerses herself in children’s literature.
“I love reading the classics such as ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and all the ‘Oz’ books,” she said. “I really like ‘The Phantom Tollbooth.’”
One problem Hallauer has encountered is that it’s hard to find modern books for children that are both advanced and do not contain explicit material. She said that’s why classic novels continue to be popular among parents and their young readers.
Hallauer will be in charge of special programs as well, such as Storytime, which makes its return Nov. 4 and runs every Monday. Another program for children, “Drop-in Legos,” will begin Nov. 7 and run every Thursday.
An upcoming program Hallauer will help with is “When the Lights Go Out” from 6-8 p.m. Oct. 27. Members of “Way Off Broadway” will dress as storybook characters. Children can meet the characters on guided tours that depart every five minutes. The event also includes games, crafts and food.
Hallauer said her primary focus at the moment is re-starting the programs undertaken by the previous children’s librarian. Once she’s up to speed, she wants to create programs for teenagers.
Reading has always been one of Hallauer’s favorite activities. When she was in sixth grade, her class gave her the “most avid reader” award. Her love of literature sometimes cut into her actual schoolwork, which prompted admonishing words from her instructors.
“I got yelled at for reading under the desk,” she said.
Hallauer was able to fool her teachers by putting a book she liked inside of the textbook she was “supposed” to be reading. Even when she was discovered, most of the teachers weren’t too upset because they were happy to see a student’s nose in a novel, especially the advanced kind Hallauer was reading. For instance, she loved reading books by Alexandre Dumas.
Her current occupation is not the first time she has worked in a library. She worked as a shelver for three years while in high school and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
However, the idea of becoming a librarian would not strike Hallauer until a few years later. When she graduated from high school her dream job was to work for National Public Radio. She loved almost everything about radio, both being on the air and working behind the scenes.
Hallauer acknowledges she has obsessive compulsive tendencies, which is why she loved editing audio clips. Her desire for greater order serves her well as a librarian because she channels it toward cataloguing books.
She got her feet wet in the radio business as an undergraduate working for WCBU in Peoria, Ill., where she attended Bradley University. She remembers one instance in which her editing skills were really put to the test. The radio station interviewed a man with a pronounced stutter, and the man was self-conscious of how he would sound on the air. Hallauer edited his soundbytes to remove the stutter, which he found unbelievable.
The only downside to working for the radio was Hallauer never saw her listeners, the people she helped. She also spent considerable time alone in the studio, which did not fit her personality at all.
Hallauer decided to chart a new course after graduating from Bradley University with a double major in English and electronic communications. She applied for the University of Illinois’s masters program in library and information sciences. To be accepted into the program, she had to interview a librarian and write an essay about it. The librarian she interviewed, Kee Malesky, is no ordinary librarian. Malesky works for NPR as the station’s resident librarian. Hallauer said Malesky is a celebrity in the world of libraries.
Hallauer graduated from the University of Illinois in May. She wasn’t sure what kind of library she wanted to work in, but she was leaning toward youth services. She could have worked at a corporate library as an archivist, keeping track of all the company’s paperwork. She considered working as an academic librarian, too. However, neither of those positions would have connected her to people and the community, which was high on her list of priorities.
Fortunately for her, she got wind of the opening at the Fairfield Public Library during the summer. She visited Fairfield and liked what she saw.
“Oftentimes it takes a while to adjust to a new library,” she said. “At one library, they didn’t allow open-toed shoes, so I had to adjust to that. There hasn’t been anything like that here. I fit in immediately.”
Hallauer said some libraries put style over substance. She said that is not the case in Fairfield.
“Here, the focus is on the patrons instead of on trying to be as shiny as possible,” she said.