For Elsberry resident Sarah Hunt, being the librarian at the Joseph R. Palmer Family Memorial Library is the greatest job in town.
“I have the best job in Elsberry,” said Hunt. “It was amazing for me to come from the East Coast, move to a small town and find a job like this one. Not only am I two minutes away from home, but I have a job that’s challenging and allows me to be creative.”
That’s not to say that Hunt happened upon this type of job accidentally.
On the contrary, she put a lot of time and effort into acquiring the skills she knew she would need to be successful in such a position.
“My undergraduate degree is in history,” said Hunt. “I also have a master’s degree in library science from the University of Missouri.”
Hunt has been the librarian since 1990 and she has seen a lot of changes.
“I think what’s changed the most is that now I do a lot more things that involve the computer and technology,” said Hunt. “When we opened in 1990 we didn’t have a computer. We got our first one in the late 90s. It was mine, but the public was allowed to use it as well. That became a real issue.”
Hunt said her job as librarian involves three of the things she enjoys the most: history, genealogy and shopping.
She spends a lot of her time, however, providing people with a friendly ear or even a shoulder to cry on.
“Sometimes I feel like a bartender,” said Hunt. “People often come in and you can tell they just want to talk a little bit.”
While she does listen to their problems just like a neighborhood bartender, Hunt said so far she has resisted the urge to yell out the name “Norm” when people walk into the library.
One of the things that Hunt likes the most about her job is the fact that things are never the same two days in a row.
“There are certain things that have to be done at the end of each month and at the beginning of each new month,” said Hunt. “However, my day-to-day duties vary.”
Hunt said that Mondays are always her busiest days.
On a daily basis, one of Hunt’s first duties is to deal with the books that come through the door after hours.
After those books have been returned to the proper shelves and the mail has been checked, Hunt gets to sit down and indulge in one of her favorite activities.
“I love getting to go through the new books when they arrive,” said Hunt. “I’m in charge of ordering all the books for the library. That involves standing orders as well as requests that people make. We try to always honor those requests.”
Hunt utilizes several online resources such as Freshpress, Booklist and Amazon in her effort to stock the library with just the right selection of books.
“I also have a couple of book reps who still come out,” said Hunt. “I’ll sit with them from time to time going through the books they haul in, but that’s a pretty old-fashioned way to do things now.”
All of the new books that come in have to be separated and assigned special numbers based on who’s paying for them.
“We have books that are bought strictly with the Margaret Palmer Trust and books that are bought with memorial money,” said Hunt. “Those have to be separated.”
Hunt then processes each book, puts a card inside and assigns it a place on one of the shelves.
“Processing the books is kind of time-consuming,” said Hunt. “It’s tedious but you’ve got to do it.”
Once processing is done, Hunt can finally focus on one of her greatest joys.
“I love working in the genealogy room when I get time,” said Hunt. “I wish I had more time to do it. What we do back there is mostly local and county history and we actually have lots of people come through that door and want to use those resources. We also field requests by phone or by mail if they’re fairly brief.”
Hunt said around this time of year she keeps fairly busy helping people who come in to use the library’s computers.
“People often want to make resumes or find government forms,” said Hunt. “Tax forms right now are going to be hot and heavy.”
When she finds the time, Hunt enjoys sitting down to plan out the activities for the Summer Reading Program.
She relies heavily on a program guide that is sent to her by the state of Missouri.
“It’s very detailed, right down to program suggestions and materials to send out for advertising,” said Hunt.
The theme of the summer reading program this year is “Fizz, Boom, Read”.
“The first stage in preparing for the Summer Reading Program is to ask for monetary donations to support it,” said Hunt. “Today I have letters I have to get out. Local clubs, banks, the Legion and various other people will always donate.”
Based on what comes back in response to those letters, Hunt can then begin to decide exactly what she will include in this year’s program.
In addition to enjoying the day-to-day duties of running the library, Hunt said she is also blessed when it comes to her co-workers.
Carol [Mayes], Donna [Bange] and Jennifer [Pritchett] are great people,” said Hunt.
Hunt also has a group of loyal volunteers.
“Today I have two of my best volunteers, Pat and Stephen Cohea,” said Hunt. “Steven does a great job keeping our shelves in order. He’s the best shelf reader in the world.”
The library continues to need volunteers in the genealogy room.
Anyone interested in loaning time and energy should contact Sarah Hunt at (573) 898-5821.