Image by Andy Thompson

On Tuesday, January 17, I interviewed Kate Van Auken, director at Rawson Memorial District Library, over a delicious lunch at Nick’s Country Oven in Cass City.

I first met Kate last August when I toured the library and did a write-up titled Rural Gem: Rawson Memorial District Library. At our initial meeting, I learned that Kate was also enrolled in LIS 6510. Just a few weeks later, we found out that we’d be working together in a group for class projects with fellow student (now alum) Darlene Hellenberg. Both Kate and Darlene have been contributors for Hermionish.

Rawson Memorial District Library is located in downtown Cass City, Michigan which is about 15 miles east of Caro, the county seat of Tuscola County. From my home library (Sandusky District Library), Rawson is 30 miles southeast or 40 minutes. To give an understanding of the library’s location for those not familiar with the area, RMDL is about 100 miles north (roughly 2 hours) of Purdy-Kresge Library, home of the School of Library and Information Science, on Wayne State University’s downtown Detroit campus.

Service Area, Size, and Operating Budget
RMDL serves the Village of Cass City, Elkland Township, Elmwood Township, and Novesta Township. The population in the area is about 9,000 giving the library a Class 3 designation. According to the Library of Michigan, a Class 3 library serves a population of 7,000 to 11,999 and needs to:

  • Be open a minimum of 30 hours per week;
  • Employ (at least 30 hours per week) a director with at least a Level 3 certificate.

Other relevant facts and figures:

  • Operating budget: just over $300,000
  • 32,000: number of items in the collection
  • 60,000: the number annual circulation hovers around
  • Staff: 7 part-time, 4 full-time
  • 60: the number of hours open to the public each week

About the Director
Background: Kate studied business and marketing at Clemson University. Ten years ago, this month, she took the reins and became director of Rawson Memorial District Library.

As mentioned earlier in this post, she is currently working on her MLIS degree via Wayne State University’s online program and expects to graduate in spring of 2013. “The MLIS definitely enhances my on-the-job training. I think it makes you more committed.”

Favorite part of the job: “All the social aspects. I love the programming and my staff. You get to be a part of people’s lives.” Kate added, “If you want to sit behind your desk and do reports — that’s one thing — but you should be out at the desk and circulating like the books.”

Review sources: “New York Times Book Review, People magazine, BookPage, Kirkus, Library Journal…I look at a lot of different things.”

Advice to those entering the profession: “No matter what position you have in the library, you’ll learn lots from other staff. Listen, listen, listen. God gave us two ears and one mouth.”

Notes and Observations

  • Like Bad Axe Area District Library, RMDL also shelves juvenile and young adult non-fiction materials with the adult non-fiction collection.
  • Beverly Dear, director of Sanilac District Library, and Kate split the subscription cost for BookPage. 
  • Favorite collections to buy for: young adult and non-fiction.
  • In the past, RMDL has had a program: patrons can donate to a charity and their library fines will be forgiven.
  • The library has a middle school book club!
  • In April of 2004, Rawson Memorial District Library’s young adult area was featured in the Voice Youth Advocates (27, no1, p 28 – 29) — YA Spaces of Your Dreams
  • The library serves Amish populations. 
  • Prior to joining Rawson, Kate was the evening coordinator for Baker College in Cass City.
More photos to come…