JLG’s October 2020 Librarian of the Month honor goes to Friends Free Library of Germantown and librarian Kate Garrity. A JLG member for 9+ years, Kate caught our eye because of her passion and commitment to community engagement, children’s literature, and the arts. Here’s Kate’s story..
Kate Working Pop Up Libraries, which even have some JLG Gold Standard Selections
A Children’s Librarian in Philly
Kate began her career at a public library in 1994. But she hadn’t grown up anticipating to the work in a library, it was just something that happened. She had a skillset and interest in library work “that was so obvious, [she] just never took the time to notice them.”
While working in the art and music department of the Penn State Library during her undergraduate years, Kate was approached by her supervisor. They asked her if she ever considered pursuing a career in library sciences, and at the time she brushed the consideration off. She was a Liberal Arts student focusing on women’s studies and communications. But the seed was planted. When deciding her next educational move, she recalled her supervisor’s words – and in the end, decided to get her MLIS.
Even then, her path through grad school led her down different avenues of library sciences. She thought she wanted to be a medical or law librarian, but life and her passions took her in another direction after enrolling in a storytelling course one Summer. When she started her position in 1994, she was thrilled to be placed in the children’s department. Her passion for storytelling shined through, and when offered the opportunity to work for a school library in Germantown, she took it.
The Friends Free Library of Germantown
Throughout her twenty years at the Friends Free Library of Germantown, she has worked in multiple positions. She’s been the K-5 librarian, the library director, and the upper school librarian. Right now, she’s the K-12 librarian.
However, the 175 years old library isn’t just for the Germantown Friends School. Her library serves both their students and the greater Germantown community! “One testimony of the Friends School is a commitment to community,” Kate mentioned, “the library is one of the places where we get to live that mission fully.”
Kate loves her dual role as public and school librarian. She feels she has the best of both worlds: “to be a public servant and provide service to the greater community, but [she] also get[s] to be a school librarian and help with literacy skills and watch the kids grow up! It’s just really awesome!”
She proudly does everything she can to serve the students and greater community of Germantown. Whether that be helping students practice mindfulness, or assisting community members with building resumes, or just helping any visitor select the right books. Kate does it all, happily!
A Comfy Reading Nook inside the Library & the Library Exterior
A Love for Community and the Arts
Since they serve both the school and greater Germantown community, Kate and her colleagues work tirelessly to make sure their library interacts with and supports their community as often as possible. One of the many ways she does this is through programming. However, like any library, the difficulty is finding a program that will interest and engage the community. And, since their library is attached to the school campus, Kate deals with the added difficulty of making sure the community knows that the library is open to them, too!
Kate and the Friends Free Library of Germantown have developed exciting and enticing ways to engage their community. Earlier this month, they held a virtual writer talk hosted by a local filmmaker and activist where monument culture, and who decides which historical figures should be monumentalized for the public, was discussed. Kate and her team enjoyed this event, because it was their first major virtual program since re-opening. She was thrilled to interact with the community again – even virtually.
Soon they’re hosting their annual poetry event to help an organization for women who’ve dealt with abusive relationships called Women in Transition. The idea to host this annual event first came from a local artist and board member of Women in Transition. For the last four years, Kate’s library has worked to give women who have been silenced a voice. There’s even an open open-mic portion of the event so that attendees can share their own poetry. Then, they tie the entire event into the library services with resources and books. Kate is especially excited for this year’s event, as the MC is Trapeta Mayson, a local artist and the current Poet Lauret of Philadelphia!
Some community events: a concert (top left), poetry reading (top right), a talk with Dr. Asante (bottom)
Some Love for JLG, Too
Kate first discovered JLG in the early 2000s. She trusts our Gold Standard selections, and even tells patrons to watch out for the gold stickers if they want a great title. “JLG is amazing,” Kate said, “we pick our categories, and we know that we’ll get this amazing box every month of titles that kids and adults alike will want to read.” We are proud to help Kate connect with her community even more through the power of a good book.