At the library: All staff working hard to serve you

Here at the Washington Public Library, we often refer to ourselves as “worker bees.” In nature, the worker be is exactly that, a bee that works. Worker bees have a variety of jobs to perform to keep the hive healthy and productive.

They are housekeepers, undertakers, nurses, collectors, and guardians. There is no time to rest. In the same manner, your librarians have spent the majority of 2020 laboring to serve the community in new ways while maintaining traditions. Since June we have been able to provide nearly all our regular services, albeit in a different fashion because of the pandemic.

Our Director, Bryna Walker, has led our worker bee legion with some innovative thinking this past year. In June she implemented our new ILS (Integrated Library System) which maintains all our material and patron records. With this change to Apollo, our patrons are now able to utilize our online catalog on the web at You can search for items, reserve them to your account, and keep abreast of the newest materials.

It is highly user-friendly. Along with this system comes the texting feature. Anytime you have a question you can simply text a librarian at 319-284-8883. To make printing easier for our patrons, Bryna also implemented the Printer On service where patrons can send documents virtually from a personal computer or phone to the Washington Public Library public printer.

Most recently she acquired three Wi-Fi hot spots that may be checked out to assist those in the community that may not have access to the internet. These are only a few forward-thinking changes that have occurred over the past year while Bryna continues to perform the myriad of her regular director duties including managing the budget, the staff, and the newest task of reevaluating the COVID-19 response plan each month.

Our Children’s Services Librarian, Jo Weidner, has worked to keep the “littles” engaged and excited about reading in 2020 with her four different story walks installed around our town and schools. She holds virtual story times with preschoolers on a regular basis which included some extra special meetings during the last Summer Reading Club.

Jo is also in charge of the actual ordering of materials after gathering the monthly acquisition lists from each of the librarians. This involves some time-consuming price comparisons with vendors. She always gets us the best value for the money spent.

Jenisa Harris is also a Children’s Services Librarian, serving the elementary through teen population. While Jo evaluates and maintains the younger children’s material collection, Jenisa selects materials for the upper elementary and young adult collections. In turn, she is also doing outreach with the elementary schools and the Teen Advisory Board on a regular basis.

She creates most of the Make-and-Take bags that the WPL has provided over the past months. Plus, she is our “techy” on staff who can provide patron tech assistance via Zoom or in person. In congruence, she has produced several video tutorials dealing with technology, and even a cooking or crafting tutorial, that can be found on our website or on our YouTube Channel.

Our Adult Services Librarian, Tammy Valentine, was given the assignment of creating an entire new library service this year. The Contactless Curbside Pickup has been a lifeline to many of our patrons during this difficult time and although all the librarians pitch in, Tammy is generally in charge of the daily quarantining and sanitation of materials. Tammy also manages the adult collection and some adult programming. She brought us the virtual piano concert from U of I graduate student Ghadeer Abaido and she hosts the Roaming Readers Book Club. This month she will be holding a December With Dickens virtual program.

My official title at the WPL is Technical Services Librarian, which means that I work behind the scenes a lot. I catalog all incoming materials and maintain those records. I have had to learn our Apollo system inside and out. I am also in charge of the Interlibrary Loans and business has been booming in that department during this pandemic.

Through our ILL system, I can request titles of items that the WPL does not own from other libraries across the state for our patrons to borrow. Last week I had 25 items arrive on delivery day, which included multiple copies of items for four local book clubs! I am also responsible for the maintenance of our library website which is an ongoing learning experience. Recently, the State has updated us to a new platform and therefore, I am currently rebuilding our website with the assistance of weekly classes.

I enjoy it, but I am always looking for more time to do it. For many years I did teen programing, but I have moved into adult programming the past few years.

My regular groups, pre-pandemic, have all moved online. Sticks & Strings meets via Zoom once a month as well as the Washington Writers’ Workshop. We are fortunate through the University of Iowa Arts Share to regularly host a visiting writer from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. I hosted an adult Read-Around in October which was immensely fun and I am planning another one on December 17 where we will be reading aloud from “A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

I cannot fail to mention our substitute librarian, Linda Witthoft, who comes to our rescue promptly and with enthusiasm. She has had to learn lots of new things “on the fly,” but never complains. Our six high school pages are invaluable. They keep the library organized and running smoothly. Our maintenance person, Kirk, keeps us sanitized and therefore, safe.

In nature a bees’ honeycomb design “has an equal amount of strength in all directions, which makes it technically stronger overall.” Your WPL worker bees are a team that are committed to working together, buzzing around, keeping the library strong even in the midst of a worldwide pandemic.