Youth Librarian Laura Keller Encourages Young Readers
By NICOLE FAY BARR
Correspondent
BOOKS ARE AWESOME! Miss Laura, director of youth services at the Kirby Library, reads to one of her regular library patrons, two-year-old Mason Makuta. Soon to be a big brother, Mason looks forward to bringing his new sister to the library for Miss Laura’s story times.

At age 13, Laura Keller knew she wanted to be a librarian. With a mother and elementary teachers who instilled in her a love of books at an early age, she knew that, as an adult, instilling that same love of reading in others was her true calling.

Now she’s a favorite among the youth of Mountaintop, who know her affectionately as Miss Laura, the director of youth services at the Marian Sutherland Kirby Library. “I was thrilled beyond belief when I got this job,” she related. “I’ve always loved helping people and I’ve always wanted to work with kids.”

Her rapport with children is evident as, during her interview, two-year-old Mason Makuta came into the library. Laura lit up when she saw Mason and he was equally excited to see her, running over to greet her. Often accompanied to the library by his mother, this was the first time Mason’s grandmother came with him and she told the librarian that Mason talks non-stop about Miss Laura and her story times.

Laura began working at the Kirby Library a year and a half ago, after she heard of the job opening through a college friend,

MT. TOP KIDS LEARN ABOUT ‘RESOURCES’-Mt. Top Kids learned about the “resources” available at the Kirby Library with a program presented by Miss Laura is shown with Mt. Top Kids in grades kindergarten through sixth grade enjoying story time and an appropriate craft. The program also included a tour of the Kirby Nature Trail.

from Clarion University where she earned her degree. Originally from the Pittsburgh area, Laura said she made the transition to Northeast Pa relatively easily.

What helped was that, when she heard the Kirby Library needed a new director, she recommended college classmate Allison Latagliata, who was also from the Pittsburgh area, and her friend got the job. Having Allison as a colleague is great, Laura noted, adding, “I feel we work very well together.”

Of running the children’s library, Laura went on, “It’s very rewarding. I always try to help children to the best of my ability.” She described parents bringing in their children, saying that they don’t necessarily enjoy reading. Laura shows the reluctant readers that the library carries books on every topic imaginable and she helps them find something that interests them.

“I don’t think there’s been a time when someone hasn’t left without a book,” she said. “And I’m glad I’ve opened them up to that, and that I’ve possibly opened them up to other things.”

In an electronic age where young children know how to use computers and other devices, books are still relevant and important, Laura stated. “It’s about the interaction between a child and parent, especially pre-kindergarten age,” she said. “Yes, a parent and child can play games on a kindle or tablet, but I don’t believe it creates quite as much of a bond with the child as reading a book.”

Laura still recalls warmly the memories of her mother reading to her at bedtime. Her favorite books were Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny, by Margaret Wise Brown. This was her first introduction to reading and the bonding time with her mother made an impact.

When Laura began to read on her own, she said, “I had a first-grade teacher who was very supportive of me. She really encouraged my love of books….I had teachers that read to us out loud a lot and showed us that books are really awesome.”

Laura continued that the library is “more than a place where books are stored.” Many programs are offered for children, such a monthly Lego club, for ages two to 11; a monthly visit from a therapy dog, where children are invited to read to the canine; and a variety of story times, for children of various ages, from birth on up.

Over the summer, Laura held a STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) program for older elementary age children. At the library, they researched and conducted science experiments.

Laura has also been trying to connect with local teens, with programs at the library such as teaching coding and java script and one where she printed pictures on T-shirts with a group of young patrons. A teen volunteer recently taught Laura to set up an Instagram account and she hopes to create one for the library to connect with local teens, to keep them interested and updated on library happenings.

She concluded that that the children’s library is a place where anyone, from babies to high schoolers, could find interesting books, programs, and more. “We have something here for everyone.”