After almost four years at Nicholas P. Sims Library, Holly Russell will soon leave to start her new job in Highland Park.
The decision was not easy for the children's librarian, whose last day is Friday, July 13. Russell has accepted a job as an assistant to the town librarian at the Harvey Bright Library.
“Anybody who’s in public service — whether it’s police, fire, library, even retail — we don’t do it for the money. We do it because we love what we do,” Russell said. “Unfortunately, the cost of living in Ellis County is skyrocketing, and non-profits and public service professions can’t always keep up with that demand for their employees.”
As an assistant, she will do much of the behind-the-scenes work. Instead of filling a role as a programming coordinator like she currently does, she will explore the purchasing and processing side of it.
“It’ll be a very big change in what I do,” Russell stated. “It’s much truer to traditional librarian roles.”
Russell initially worked as a curator collection manager in the museum field up until she realized her love for libraries.
“I had every intention to work in archives, but when I came here and started working with the public, it totally changed me,” she explained.
The discovery led Russell to shift her focus from archives to public libraries. She then began a part-time gig at the Sims Library, while working toward a master’s degree in library science. Eventually, the children’s librarian left, and Holly was offered the job. She gladly accepted in Oct. 2014.
“The best part about this community is they’re easy to fall in love with,” Russell reflected. “Everyone that comes through these doors loves the library, and they grew up using the library and want their children to grow up loving and using the library.”
And it is those community people that have become Holly’s favorite aspect of the job.
“It really is the people because I know I’m supposed to build up readers and encourage kids, but it’s totally reciprocated,” Russell explained. “They build me up. They make my day.”
Throughout her time being here, Holly has seen the Sims Library grow tremendously. Some of the features it’s received and developed over the years include robots to help kids code, training to build skills for jobs, computer skills to help kids in school, story time on Fridays, family-based programs, homeschool classes and homebound services for the elderly.
“We’ve gone from a negative entity to a very positive, active, flourishing entity,” Russell said. “Seeing that room go from sleepy to bustling, and making it such a popular place for families to meet, connect, play, grow, learn, read — whatever your reason for coming, it became a reason. The library became a reason.”
Barbara Claspell, the director of the Sims Library, admitted much of the staff will miss Russell and how she has contributed to the library’s success.
“She’s done an outstanding job here,” said Claspell. “We hate to see her leave, but I understand her wanting to go.”
The library does not plan to hire a new children’s librarian anytime soon, as multiple librarians on staff are able to take her place. However, if hiring somebody becomes a need, they will advertise when that time arrives.
As her time at the library comes to an end, Holly reflected on ways the library provided for her, personally, when she was divorced and a single mom. There were times she was low on money with a toddler who demanded every DVD of Bob the Builder, and it was the library that saved the day. She didn’t have to buy them.
Another instance occurred when she was a museum curator, and upon looking for places to do research for the exhibits, the library was there.
Because of these instances, and countless others, Russell hopes to see all libraries grow in the future.
“Anybody who tells you a library is becoming obsolete has not stepped foot in a library lately,” Holly stated. “Information comes in many forms – there’s the internet, there’s written, there’s even spoken – so however you need or want information, libraries can provide that. That’s why they will never be obsolete.”
“[...] Thank you for a wonderful time here and letting me be your children’s librarian,” Russell expressed. “We always ask for support of the library – whether it’s financial or through volunteering – but the best way to support your library is to walk through the door.”