CEDAR FALLS — One of the Cedar Valley’s own will take the reins as director of the Cedar Falls Public Library.
Kelly Stern, currently youth librarian, will take the top job Friday.
“I’m invested in this community,” Stern said. “I firmly believe that when people who share a vision for something get together, people with various areas of expertise, when they focus on positive change they want to see in the community it happens.”
She begins her new role after six years as the youth services librarian. She’s lived in the Cedar Valley since 2000. She comes to the position with two master’s degrees.
Three candidates interviewed for the position earlier this year after former director Jay Robinson left in September.
Stern was born in Waverly. Her experience at the Waverly Public Library helped shape her into becoming the devoted librarian she is today.
“The year before I started kindergarten we lived two blocks away from the Waverly Public Library,” Stern said. “To entertain myself while the neighborhood kids were at school I walked the two blocks to the Waverly Public Library nearly every day.”
Stern spent her days looking at and checking out books. The Waverly youth librarian at the time would save books for her.
“I counted her as one of my first teachers even before I started school,” Stern said.
After a hail storm the librarian saved some hail stones to show Stern and the other children.
“This was at a public library, and it made such an impression on me that when it came time to choose a career. (Working at a library) wasn’t what I started with, but it was the natural progression for me to end with.”
Before becoming a librarian, Stern worked in schools as a teacher.
Her first teaching job was in Florida, where she spent six years before returning to Iowa. From there she taught at Humboldt, where she became the school librarian.
From there she went to West Des Moines, and helped open their ninth-grade school, where she was able to pick out books for the opening collection.
“It was a like a dream,” Stern said.
From there she became librarian at Cedar Falls High School.
“There is always room for expanding,” said Stern. “Right now one of the most important things is to increase our connections and strengthen our connections.”
Public libraries are among the few organizations that work with people throughout their lives, Stern said.
“My vision is for us to be even more infused in the community than we already are,” Stern said.
Libraries have changed throughout history from academic dens, where only a select few went, to large public buildings working to educate and enlighten communities.
“I think it’s our job to not only respond to the community’s needs, but to anticipate them,” Stern said.
Stern compares libraries to the “Room of Requirement” from the Harry Potter novels, which appears when a student has a particular need for a particular space and it makes itself available.
“I want us to be our community’s Room of Requirement,” Stern said.
The Cedar Falls Public Library has collaborated with several groups, like Community Main Street, and Stern hopes to work with more of those groups in the future.
“We do such important work,” she said.
Libraries get preschool children ready to read and provide resources for school-aged children while they’re in school, she said.
“At its core, libraries are about helping people find what they’re passionate about and pursuing those things,” Stern said.