Thursday, May 23, 2024

Leavenworth Library hires new branch librarian

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LEAVENWORTH—NCW Libraries hired Hannah Kwon as Leavenworth’s newest Branch Librarian, following Amy Massey's retirement earlier this year. Kwon hopes to continue growing the library’s outreach by expanding programming and using her research background to discover and meet the community’s needs. 

“One of the things that I would love to do in this library is to just help people realize it’s more than just like a place to get a book…I really want it to be kind of like the intellectual, cultural center of the community, where you can come not only to find the resources you need, but to get help learning how to use those things to connect with other people,” said Kwon.

Kwon is a librarian by training, with master’s and doctoral degrees in Library and Information Science from Rutgers University. She previously worked as a Reference Librarian at Newark Public Library in New Jersey, and has been a lecturer at Rutgers since 2016.

Although a majority of her background is based in New Jersey, Kwon has lived in Leavenworth since 2020. Kwon, her husband, and three kids relocated across the country in order to be closer to family. When they moved, Kwon immediately fell in love with the small town, but knew job openings for a librarian would be slim to none.

In the meantime, she continued part-time work lecturing and doing research for a tech company, as well as serving on the Mountain Sprouts Children’s Community Board and Peshastin Dryden-Alpine Lakes PTO. She focused on raising her three sons, but as her youngest entered school full-time, she started to consider full-time work again.

“Then, one of my neighbors, who is on the Friends of the Library, let me know that Amy was retiring. So I just kept my eyes out, and when I saw the position open, tried to grab it as soon as I could. I was so excited, and they hired me. One of my friends is just like, 'What are the chances in our tiny town that you would actually get to be the librarian?’” said Kwon.

The opportunity felt serendipitous, and for Kwon, it was a way to reignite her lifelong passion. Kwon described herself as a shy, introverted child, who read voraciously. As the child of immigrants, Kwon said books helped her learn about the world, about America, and how to exist in it.

“Books practically raised me,” said Kwon. 

After college, Kwon landed a job with Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) in New York, educating people on their rights and how to access community resources.

“So much of the work they were doing was about equal access to information…After 9/11 when there was a lot of money being poured into downtown to rebuild, a lot of the Chinatown businesses didn't get a piece of that because they just didn't know. They didn’t know those were there, they didn't know how to navigate the system, they didn't know if there were translated materials,” said Kwon.

For so much of her childhood, Kwon consumed information for her own enrichment and enjoyment. Yet her work at AALDEF showed her that access to information was the cornerstone to equal rights, prompting her to pursue a graduate degree in library studies.

“The public library is really that one democratic institution where it's meant to be for everyone, so that became really, really important for me,” said Kwon. “Libraries are actually pretty radical, you know? The principles of our profession are all about equal access to information and patrons’ rights to read whatever they want. Our job is just to foster that and to be here for everyone and whatever they need,” said Kwon.

Now, as the Leavenworth Librarian, Kwon plans to use her research experience to find the pockets of the community that may not know about the library or its resources, but may need them. As outreach brings people in, Kwon wants the library space to serve as the “community’s living room,” where kids and adults can gather, meet, and engage with each other. Her biggest goal is to create a media/maker space for kids and teens to create and put things out in the world, such as podcasts, zines, or newspapers.

Through the NCW Libraries system, the Leavenworth Library is able to access over 600,000 items, such as books, digital media, mobile internet hotspots, museum passes and more. The library also hosts community events, and provides computer access, WiFi, and printing. More information can be found at ncwlibraries.org.

Taylor Caldwell: 509-433-7276 or taylor@ward.media

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