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From borough to the burbs

New WL children's librarian arrives after ten years in Queens, New York


TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - New Childrens Librarian Sarah Hinkle reads with Anberlin Miller. Hinkle arrived in West Linn this past March after spending 10 years as a librarian in Queens, New York. It all began with “Matilda.”

Growing up in Columbus, Ohio, Sarah Hinkle loved to read. Her love for books consumed her, to the point that she would get in trouble for reading under her desk at school.

But it was “Matilda,” the children’s classic by Roald Dahl, which first captured Hinkle’s imagination, helping set a course that led her from Ohio to New York and now Oregon, where she was recently introduced as the new children’s librarian at the West Linn library.

“(It was) the first book I vividly remember loving, and I couldn’t believe it existed,” Hinkle said. “He just has this very particular sense of humor ... it’s pretty brilliant, it can be a little strange sometimes, but for a child to encounter that, it’s one of those things they are immediately drawn to.”

Hinkle would know. She has been a children’s librarian for the past 10 years, spending the bulk of that time at the Queens Library in New York City.

Though she called those ten years “a wonderful experience,” Hinkle eventually yearned for a change. Much of her most recent work in Queens was administrative, coordinating children’s services and activities for 62 different library locations.

“After a while, I really wanted to go back to direct public service again and work with customers one-on-one,” Hinkle said, “and really get to know one community and build those relationships with families and schools.”

Hinkle has a sister who lives in Portland, and she found that the city fit well with her desire to have better access to natural areas. When she visited the West Linn Library itself, she knew it was the right move.

“Right away I was touched by how welcoming all of the staff were, what a beautiful facility they have, how supportive the community is,” Hinkle said. “From the moment I walked in, I could tell it was a really nice environment to work in, to live in, and I’m just excited to keep getting to know all the families that come to the library.”

Though she is still in what she calls her “brainstorming mode,” Hinkle has plenty of ideas for how to expand the children’s experience at the library. Her time in Queens overlapped with a number of cutting edge initiatives, including the opening of a preschool inside a library — the first of its kind.

“My background is in early childhood education,” she said. “It’s always been a particular interest of mine to work with children ages birth to five, because that’s such an interesting time of rapid development. It’s one of those time periods of a child’s life where if you invest when they’re that young, it’s just worth so much. “

Specifically, Hinkle would like to explore adding more programs for specific development ages at the library.

“Right now, we have a baby and toddler group, but it can be quite a large sized crowd,” Hinkle said. “So it would be nice to not overwhelm the babies with all of the toddlers who are full of energy — to offer a class just for them.”

Hinkle also hopes to create new sections at the library that are organized by subject, rather than the author’s name.

“Often parents come in with children and they want books on a particular subject,” Hinkle said. “So I’m looking at pulling out some of the most popular subjects for kids, like princesses or transportation.”

In her time at the Queens Library, Hinkle discovered that many classic children’s books crossed over generational and even cultural boundaries. Thus, she envisions a section at the library filled with classic children’s stories.

“What’s so cool about children’s literature is that oftentimes, the classics remain the classics,” Hinkle said. “The classics that American children love are loved by children that are coming from all different sorts of cultures.

It really speaks to the human experience, which is beautiful to see.”

To learn more about the library’s children’s programs, visit westlinnoregon.gov/library/kids-teens.

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