Librarian loves how books can build character

By Tim Weideman

Jennifer Adams may have grown up in Kansas, but her love of literature has taken her many other places.

That ability to crack open a good book and, through words, step into the shoes of a completely new person with a vastly different life is what Adams enjoys the most about books, especially when it comes to children’s literature.

“I really like that aspect of —through other characters — being able to experience all these different life situations,” she said. “It might be something as little as being a little kid growing up in the South. I didn’t grow up in the South. I don’t know what kind of things, little nuances there are.”

As the Manhattan Public Library’s children’s services manager, Adams is able to help the library’s younger visitors discover the same passion for books that she had as a child growing up in Goessel.

“I get to help children find books sometimes,” she said. “I have a staff of six librarians, so I train and manage them, and they also get to help people find the best books for what they’re interested in.”

Adams has been in her current position with the library since June 1999. She graduated from Kansas State University with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English while working at the library’s circulation desk.

After graduating, Adams worked for a while in Topeka before returning to Manhattan to take her current role at the library.

“Children’s literature has been a really big interest of mine, all along,” she said. “So I really thought this would be a perfect fit for me.”

Leading children to a good read is extremely rewarding, Adams said. But she also enjoys discovering for herself new books written for younger audiences.

“A lot of times I find that the children’s books I read are more interesting and make me think more than some of the adult books that I read,” she said. “I like the characters being young people who are the ones who end up having the adventures, solving the problems. It’s just a really fun piece of literature, that coming-of-age point in people’s lives.”

At home, Adams is able to share her love for children’s literature with her sons, who are 3 and 6 years old.

“They get to hear my favorite books, and they also lead me to other books that maybe I wouldn’t have necessarily picked out myself because of their interests,” she said.

Of course, raising two sons, Adams has to expand her knowledge of children’s books to other genres.

Her oldest son, for example, used to be interested mostly in books about cars, trucks and planes.

That interest may not be shared by all younger readers, so Adams has to combine what she knows her sons like with what she’s discovered while reading books on other topics.

“I try to read across all the genres,” she said, adding the library staff does the same.

Adams said she and the rest of the library staff are excited for the building’s expansion project to wrap up, hopefully by the end of this year.

As part of the project, the library’s children’s and story time areas will expand. More space means more room for books, seating and activities.

Adams said the staff is excited to have more activities available for children.

“When we do those, we’re able to sort of convey how fun and exciting books can be,” she said.

Adams is hopeful a grand opening will be held in late November or early December.

Once the expansion is finished, Adams and the staff will be able to share even more of their passion for reading.

“I think we’ll have a lot more to offer, especially for that school-aged crowd,” she said.

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