Manchester's new youth services librarian expanding teen programs
MANCHESTER — If you see a woman dressed and coiffed as Snow White at the Manchester Community Library on April 19, that would be their new youth services librarian.
Rebecca Ventola will be in her getup for the storytelling of "The Princess and the Pizza," a contemporary twist on traditional fairy tales, in which a princess finds her way to becoming an entrepreneur.
Ventola plans to serve her audience with treats, such as pretzels fashioned into wands and chocolate nuggets turned into miniature books.
The event is among the programs and activities she has set up since joining the community library in January.
Ventola, a native of Richmond, Va., said she has been working on expanding the library's programs for teens because studies show children usually stop going to the library at around age 12.
"I think it's important to keep that love of books going, keep the flame burning," Ventola said. "As kids get older, they're turning more to technology, and unless they had always been bookworms, they tend to let that fall to the wayside."
She started a program called Are Smarter than a Librarian?, in which visitors to the library's young adult section can answer trivia questions printed on a piece of paper. Someone picked from a pool of people who gave correct answers gets a box of candy. Someone who correctly answers a question that stumps a librarian gets a bigger prize; for instance, free movie tickets.
Such programs "have generated a lot of attention and have sparked a new interest" in the young adult section, The Loft, said Violet Gannon, the library's executive director.
Ventola's upcoming plans include establishing a teen reading program this summer, where participants who log so many hours of reading during the school break can win prizes such as a cellphone gripper.
Ventola, 50, started her career as a high school teacher in Virginia. She decided to become a librarian in 2006, she said, "because my love of books kept calling me back." She has since served as a librarian in South Carolina, North Carolina and Missouri, and is now working on her master's in library and information science.
Her job, Ventola said, has enabled her to share her passion for reading with people of all ages. Her current role involves giving book recommendations to children and their caretakers, including a family constantly looking for new homeschooling learning materials.
Being part of a community library, which has a smaller staff than urban-area libraries, she is also responsible for ordering the library's youth books and choose which to put on the shelves. Children between grades 5 and 12 have The Loft; younger ones have their own space, The Barn.
She describes as "awesome" being able to simultaneously serve both teens and younger children, essentially anyone from birth up to age 18.
Gannon said Ventola's background in education and library science, "along with her creativity and playful disposition, make her the perfect fit for this most important role."
Ventola and her husband, who have three grown children, moved to Manchester this year for his job. As a newcomer, she also has been busy introducing herself to the community, figuring out what young people here need and what their interests are.
In early March, she discovered a note that her predecessor, Janet Kleinberg, left on the underside of the office desk.
"Wishing you as much fun as I've had," Kleinberg wrote in black marker with a smiley face.
Tiffany Tan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, @tiffgtan at Twitter and 802-447-7567 ext. 122.
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