JLG’s June Librarian of the Month honor goes to Anna Porter Public Library and librarian Kelsey Collins. We could tell from seeing her library’s social media posts that she and her library had a heart for their community. Read on to learn more about Kelsey...
Kelsey Collins, Library Director at Anna Porter Public Library
Library Director Under 30
When it comes to getting to where she wants to be, Kelsey Collins of the Anna Porter Public Library doesn’t waste any time. After working her way through the ranks as a library intern, library assistant, youth librarian assistant, youth librarian, and assistant director, Kelsey landed the role of Library Director at just 27 years old! With a degree from University of Tennessee at Knoxville in public library management, combined with her well-rounded and impressively accelerated path to Library Director, Kelsey has an outstanding grasp on all the different roles within the library and the services that her library does and can offer.
Caring for the Community
Speaking with Kelsey, it was clear to me that she had a real passion for her community. She explained that her library serves under 5,000 residents, but that her library is in a part of the Great Smoky Mountains that is heavily visited by tourists and sees about 11 million tourists a year (granted, that is during pandemic-less years!). Kelsey explained that her library does what they can to support their vacationing patrons with various services they might need, although this year there have been much fewer.
The library offers many programs and services to its residents, including partnering with their local Boys & Girls Club to bring meals to children and teens. They are also able to distribute any leftover meals to others in the community that may be in need. “About 15% of the community is below the poverty line,” Kelsey shared. “So, services like this are really helpful for them.”
The library also provides toiletries to those who may need them through donations and partnerships with other local organizations. “We provide deodorant and feminine products and other items that get donated for people to pick-up discretely in our bathrooms. Usually, we offer people who make those kinds of donations a free hot drink as a kind-of ‘thank you.’”
Kelsey shared that they also have a Dungeons and Dragons program with separate sessions for both teens and adult players. The library also features a different local artist every two months to help support their efforts. They also partner with their community center (with which they have the pleasure of sharing a building) on various programs. Last winter, the two groups ran a training where teens helped teach senior adults how to use their technology and answer their questions. Of course, this was a huge success!
Rocky Flats Pottery and Soap making woven tapestry
Firefly Glass Studio making stained glass
Hotspot for Connectivity Even During Covid-19
Although the library did close its doors due to Covid-19 concerns, Kelsey explained that this was only for a day or two so that they could create a safe and effective way to continue serving their community.
Almost immediately they began offering a curbside pick-up service that allowed patrons to check out books online and pick them up in a sealed paper bag only marked with their library card number. This offered her community the safety and privacy that they needed. The library also created time slots for people to schedule time to file unemployment paperwork. The library has since been slowly reopening to patrons and now is fully open. They are not able to run all their normal programming at this time but have still been able to proceed with their summer reading program!
The residential community relies heavily on the library, especially for internet access. With the combined challenges of a community living in the mountains and the poverty level, even Kelsey has to use a hotspot to get internet access at home! “So, we try to advertise on our social media accounts and our website as often as we can that, ‘Hey we have wifi here and we’re open till 8 on Tuesdays and Thursdays! Please come in and use it!’”
The Anna Porter Library has 10 computers available to adults and about half a dozen open to children and teens. On top of that, they have six hotspots that patrons can “check out” for two-week periods free of charge! Kelsey has also been able to temporarily eliminate late fines knowing that her many in her community are financially struggling due to Coronavirus complications.
Just as Kelsey and the Anna Porter Public Library have supported the community, the community has supported the library too. The Old Smoky Mountain Moonshine Crew donated 125 lbs of hand sanitizer for the library to use!
Kelsey holding the book "Would Like to Meet"
A Passion for People
Kelsey’s passion really focuses on “community involvement, meeting new people, and informing them on all the cool services that libraries can, should, and are willing to provide for them.” She also enjoys the collection development aspect and “being able to choose books that I know will be making a difference!”
We think she’s making a huge difference in her community and are extremely proud to honor her as our first public Librarian of the Month. My favorite thing from talking to Kelsey? “The library isn’t just about books; it’s about helping people.”
Are you a good candidate for our next JLG Librarian of the Month—or do you know someone who deserves some recognition?
Share the deets with us on social using #JLGLibrarian and tag us @juniorlibraryguild! Any librarian or library worker is qualified for this honor, so show us what you’re doing to advance literacy and the love of reading in your library! Recognized librarians receive a "Librarian of the Month" certificate, a tote bag of JLG goodies and a special offer for JLG categories and books!