"I'd never been here before the day I drove in to interview, so the past three and a half years have been a series of wonderful surprises." - Laura Kraly
Words & Photos by: Paul & April Jendrasiak
When first meeting Laura Kraly she'll be enthusiastic about telling you she's a librarian at Loutit Library. She knows the workings of the library inside and out and is an avid reader. But what Laura won't tell you though is that she has a passion for our community and has demonstrated herself as a leader amongst her peers. And adding to that, she loves a good glass of wine and unwinding to vinyl records at the end of a long day. She also has a soft spot in her heart for cats and helping others. Laura took a chance on calling Grand Haven her home and we're grateful she made the choice to move across the state to help enhance our beachtown community.
When did your love affair with books begin?
I always remember being able to read, so it's hard to say when I got started with books, although my mom and dad tell me I was obsessed with a picture book of Cinderella and was always asking to have "In-da-da" read to me. The first time I remember recommending a book to another person was when I told my second grade teacher, Mrs. Prais, about "The Indian in the Cupboard" by Lynne Reid Banks. She read it to the entire class during story time, which made me feel really special.
What is your favorite section of the library and what is its Dewey Decimal Number?
While all books in the library technically have a Dewey Decimal Number, we don't use them for works of fiction, which are shelved alphabetically by the author's last name, or biography, which are shelved by the subject's last name, so the science fiction/fantasy books and biographies I love don't have Dewey numbers. In nonfiction, I am particularly fond of United States History (973), Cooking (641.5) and Stage Presentations (792), which is the fancy term for books about theatre.
What are the challenges you face being a young librarian in a small town?
I'm incredibly fortunate to work in an area that truly supports its library; so many people are impressed by the beautiful building, amazing collection, and skilled staff that we have at Loutit, so my challenges are found outside the library. First, I don't look or act much like what people think a librarian looks and acts like (that mean, shushing stereotype, although I do wear cardigans) so often people are surprised when I tell them I'm a librarian, which leads to a lot of questions about whether libraries are in trouble (short answer: nope, not everything is online; not everything on the Internet is true; as long as people need help accessing information, librarians will exist). Second, it's difficult to build a social group when you move to a small town where everyone already knows everyone else; I'm still trying to find that niche where I can flourish outside of work.
You have an incredible appetite for reading but have you ever considered being on the opposite side as the writer? If so, what would you write about?
I wrote a lot in elementary and high school as well as during undergraduate but haven't really kept up with it later on in life. I've always been drawn to speculative fiction, poetry, and playwriting, so if I were to take it up again I'd probably try something in one of those categories.
"I'm incredibly fortunate to work in an area that truly supports its library; so many people are impressed by the beautiful building, amazing collection, and skilled staff that we have at Loutit." - Laura Kraly
What are most people looking for when they are visiting the library?
While people do visit the library in search of books and reading recommendations, they come to the Information Desk looking for so much more. They need help with the latest app or website, they're looking for guidance to community resources, they're here to attend one of our many programs, or they need a place to meet, study, and relax. Books will always be a central part of what public libraries provide for their patrons, but I guarantee that your local library offers a lot more than you think it does. If you haven't checked it out in a while, come by and take a look.
What is your title at the library?
I am the Head of Adult Services at the Loutit District Library, which means that I manage the staff in the Adult Wing of the library, both at the Adult Information Desk and in the Local History and Genealogy department. The job comes with a lot of other responsibilities, among them materials selection and collection development, working at the Information Desk, and scheduling and promoting library programming for adults, along with a lot more than I have space to list here.
Have you read any banned books? If so, which ones.
The American Library Association's list of Banned Books (which you can find at http://www.ala.org/bbooks/) changes every year, so this a bit of a moving target. Of the ones that show up on the list regularly, the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, and Looking for Alaska by John Green are particular favorites.
What brought you here and what do you love about living in Grand Haven.
I moved to Grand Haven for my job at Loutit. I'd never been here before the day I drove in to interview, so the past three and a half years have been a series of wonderful surprises. I love living in a place that people want to visit which also retains its delightful small-town feel, and I love being so close to Lake Michigan, which I try very hard not to take for granted.
"To me, books represent possibility." - Laura Kraly
What do books represent to you?
To me, books represent possibility. As Levar Burton says in Reading Rainbow: "But you don't have to take my word for it" - and he's right! You can use a book to find out about anything you can think of. If you need facts or information, they're in a book. If you want to travel to another land, an imaginary country, or out into space, a book will take you there. If you want to teach yourself a new language or skill, a book exists to help you out. If you need an escape from your current circumstances, a book can carry you away. If you want to share a story with someone else, you can do that by reading with them or to them. Anything is possible with a book.