Inspiring LaBelle – Director of the Barron Library, Karen Hildebrand

The Barron Library is a place where individuals can gather to imagine, explore, and maybe most importantly interact. In the words of Robert Putnam, “People may go to the library looking mainly for information, but they find each other there.” In the age of Google, the soothing feel of paper, the glorious smell of old books, the entire existence of a small-town Library, all seem to have faded into the background of our digitally driven lives. Given the task of inspiring our community through literature is increasingly tough during a time of endless technological revolution. But, the Director of Barron Library, Karen Hildebrand, knows that her job means more than just the provision of free books and Wi-Fi.

(Caloosa Belle/Danika J. Hopper) Karen Hildebrand leads Preschool Story Time.

Karen Hildebrand is a happily married, proud Christian, mother of four children, and grandmother to eight grandchildren. Also, a lover of classical music who started playing piano at the age of five, she continues to play and even offers piano lessons here in LaBelle. Her parents were missionaries living in Puerto Rico when she was very young, who then moved to Oregon, and central Kansas. She eventually moved to LaBelle to escape the frigid weather, where she initially planned to retire. However, she found the director position at the Barron Library, where she has been able to combine her passion for reading and educating, her excellent people skills, and penchant for bookkeeping. When asked what her duties consisted of, she replied, “Everything that it takes to keep the library doors open.” Hildebrand strives to keep up on current library trends and materials and takes a great deal of pride in providing library patrons with any new or best-selling books. From ordering books, helping customers, and developing and implementing new programs for the community to hiring and training library staff, overseeing payroll, and balancing the budget, this dynamic lady does it all.

Due to the often incredibly busy lives we lead these days, the constant use of electronics, and the drastic decline of reading books that is happening around the world, libraries like the Barron Library have become extremely underutilized. Knowing that the Barron Library always has something to offer everyone, Hildebrand encourages those who haven’t visited the library, to visit and find something they like. Believing strongly in the philosophy of, “treating everyone you meet as an important individual, because they are,” Hildebrand trains her staff to do the same resulting in making the Barron Library a place that is always warm and welcoming and offers free public programs that focus on building community face-to-face. These programs, such as the weekly Story-time, monthly Book Club, and even Sewing Classes, provide a place for people to connect and learn. Programs like these are also an excellent way to provide support for anyone who may be experiencing isolation, such as new mothers, the elderly, or someone facing any difficult life transition. As said by J.K. Rowling, “When in doubt, go to the library.”

When asked about favorite books, it is just too hard to pick one. She enjoys Charles Martin’s “When Crickets Cry” and Francine River’s “Redeeming Love”. She says that everyone likes different books for different reasons and urges everyone to step out of their comfort zones, because checking out a new genre or new author that you might’ve thought you wouldn’t like, can open up a whole new world. Hildebrand says that when she rearranged the library a while back, some patrons were a little confused and upset. A few weeks later, the same people were coming in to tell her they had discovered new favorite authors they would never have considered reading before.

Reading books and making face-to-face connections have unlimited benefits, but can be increasingly rare, especially when so much of our time is centered around tweets, Facebook updates, or texting. For those of you who have slowed down or stopped reading, or who might be looking for a something to do that doesn’t involve screen time, Hildebrand urges you to pay her a visit at the Barron Library. She is a wealth of knowledge and inspiration, as LaBelle is so blessed to have her. The Barron Library is located at 461 N. Main St. and the phone number is (863) 675-0833.

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