Heather Kesey stepped into the librarian slot at the Emma Humphrey Library in Vale last fall. Kesey said the library has lots to offer local residents who have a library card. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell).
VALE – The right time to fulfill a goal for Heather Kesey arrived nearly a year ago. That’s when the longtime Vale resident applied for the librarian slot at the Emma Humphrey Library.
“I have always wanted to work at the library but it was never the right time,” said Kesey.
It was September 2020, and Kesey said she was looking for work just as the city was searching for a part-time librarian.
“I love to read and I’ve always loved coming in here with my kids,” said Kesey.
For Kesey – who moved to Vale with her family in 2000 – the library is not just a place to store books. For her, the library at 150 A St. E. is a doorway to the internet, reading programs and fun. Residents can also rent movies from the library.
“This is such a resource,” said Kesey.
At the time she stepped into the job, the nation, as well as Malheur County, was firmly locked in the Covid pandemic. That meant city buildings – including the library – were often closed. Yet Kesey said the Covid restrictions actually turned out to be a benefit “because I was able to ease into being the librarian,” said Kesey.
One of her main goals was to obtain state and federal grants to help the library. So far, her search has proved to be a success.
A federal grant will enable Kesey to promote reading with adults and children. Under the program, children and adults who have a library card read books then receive a ticket for each book they read. That ticket is then entered into a contest for prizes. Another federal Covid grant paved the way for Kesey to acquire a new laptop, video camera, microphone and a Smart TV.
Kesey said she also acquired a $3,000 grant from the American Library Association geared toward rural libraries. That grant, she said, can be used a number of different ways to “spur a conversation with the community.”
“The topic is completely open. What I proposed, though, in my grant application was I wanted to talk about the different things the library could become to the community,” said Kesey.
Kesey said she wants the library to grow.
“I’d like to see it open full time,” said Kesey.
Now, the library is open Tuesday and Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday. Friday and Saturday the library is open from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. The library is closed Monday and on holidays.
As Covid restrictions lifted, traffic at the library began to climb, and that is good news, said Kesey.
“I want to see more people come and use the library,” said Kesey.
One key asset to the library, said Kesey, is the fact there is no charge to use its services if you have a library card and live in Malheur County. And there are more opportunities for people to get more books, said Kesey, because the Vale library has a cooperative agreement with libraries in Ontario and Nyssa and other book centers across eastern Oregon.
Kesey said her work has allowed her to connect with the community, and meet many people over the past eight months. Helping senior citizens access information – especially regarding Social Security benefits – online during the pandemic is something she’s especially proud of.
“The Social Security office was closed during Covid. Many seniors just don’t have computers so they had to find information online,” said Kesey.
Her biggest frustration over the past eight months was “not being able to help everyone,” said Kesey, because funding only allows for two part-time employees – Kesey and library assistant Brittany Fife.
“I’m just one person, so I rely on volunteers,” said Kesey.
Kesey said she is eager to bring back traditional popular library events such as Storytime.
She said the library will sponsor a Storytime Saturday, July 3, at 1 p.m. during the Vale 4th of July Rodeo and Oregon Trail Days festivities.
News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected]
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