By CHARLEY WILKISON
When very short people come running into the Liberty Hill Public Library yelling excitedly about coming to Storytime, Sandy Schultz has a rule — no “shushing” the children. They can read, they can laugh, they can do the banana dance, but they are not to be told to whisper.
“The role of the modern library has changed,” she insists. “Libraries aren’t quiet anymore. It’s a social place, a gathering place, a community center where anyone can find all kinds of information.”
Completing a Master’s Degree in Library Science this past May at Texas Woman’s University in Denton has left her even more determined to make the Library a more exciting place with lots of opportunities for learning and information sharing. The Library Board of Directors has named it “The Heart of the Hill” in hopes citizens of all ages and interests will begin their search for information there.
“A lot of libraries are bigger, have more programs, more resources, but aren’t as progressive as we are here. We’re here for the community, here to connect to everyone and give people what they need,” said Ms. Schultz. “We are the best kept secret in Liberty Hill.”
On this particular Wednesday morning, the doors to the library keep opening as children and their parents arrive for a much-anticipated Storytime. Some peer from behind the legs of their parents while others bound through the door with a smile and a hug for the Librarian.
A few years ago, Ms. Schultz was following her chosen career path in hotel management in the area near San Jose, California. For more than 12 years she worked in a high profile role that included interacting with famous entertainers in a glamorous world. Actors, singers, celebrities of all stripes. She doesn’t miss it.
“I am a different person. The perks, the benefits, the tickets to all the right events, the kind of glamorous, high profile, wining and dining and extremely stressed-out life is gone,” she said. “I feel more grounded. I feel like I’ve become part of the community. I love that people want to talk to me. This isn’t a job that turns off.”
In 2006, Ms. Schultz began working at the library just two days before the Summer Reading Program began.
“It was a trial by fire, I had all these ideas and I had two days to try to get them into place,” she stated.
A funny thing happened to the California girl, she fell in love with Liberty Hill, its library and its people. By 2009, she was named Interim Director. Her plan was to obtain a higher degree in Library Science. She heard about a grant for rural librarians being pushed by former First Lady Laura Bush and she applied. Amazingly, she was selected out of librarians from all across the state. She became one of 30 to be accepted into the Master’s program. She was able to complete the coursework online while managing the library.
“I’m glad it’s done, it was a tough three years,” she says.
The Liberty Hill Public Library was created by the voters when they created a library district in a bond election. The library district follows the Liberty Hill school district boundaries. Its elected board gives direction for long-range planning and serves with rotating terms.
Ms. Schultz believes she is on the right path toward moving the library toward community outreach and sharing information. She is moving full throttle toward her vision for the next five years. She is heading up programs that move toward community information and education. The library is already partnering with local day care facilities, government Head Start, parental literacy, senior citizen education, and is even
piloting a program to bring resources to shut-ins and people who can not get to the library on their own.
“We often help a senior citizen become computer literate by teaching them how to access the world wide web right here in the library. Afterwards, we see them purchase a laptop, get on Facebook, begin communicating with relatives and friends and they head back out into the world. That’s a real feeling of accomplishment for us here,” said Ms. Schultz
“Libraries are about sharing information, it can’t just be about books anymore. It’s about computers, the web, music, art, and even video games. We will always have books just as we will always have academic libraries, that will remain places of quietness,” she says.
Currently, citizens can access the library online and even conduct business without even opening the door of the library. Once a person is a card-carrying library member they can check out books, renew, pay fines and access other services at www.lhpl.org.
As Ms. Schultz eyes the future she already knows the library is out of space and will need to find more as the community grows. There are historical artifacts and exhibits that are currently awaiting space. But she isn’t worried, she has faith in the community, its people and she knows who she is and where she belongs.
“I can help you find a book, I can do the banana dance, I don’t mind getting goofy. I love the little kids. They’re lots of fun, they’re open, they come running up and jump in your arms. I love seeing all the different generations of their families. I’m Sandy the Library Lady,” she says with a big smile.
For more information about the Liberty Hill Public Library visit www.lhpl.org