Chris reads a story to five small children

What Makes a Librarian – Chris Baumgarn

“ … instead of the inaccurate image of librarians as either ‘meek, underpaid, overly fussy old ladies’ or ‘cops who happen to understand the Dewey Decimal System,’ a librarian is more accurately an outspoken, extraordinarily well-educated civil libertarian who also is a technological whiz and might very well be male.”

Chicago Tribune

Chris Baumgarn, the Silver City Public Library Children’s Librarian, brings programs to the Library that spark curiosity, are innovative, eye opening, and unexpected –  all to further the passion for learning in children and teens.

Literacy and learning start at the Library with two early childhood programs, Storytimeand Babytime: Sing and Play. This time of sharing with parents and their children sets up a model for learning that can be continued at home. This last December, 2018, Storytime included knitted hats  for the children made by volunteers from Yada Yada Yarn.

knit hats to be distributed to children at storytime, December 2018

Additionally, Chris develops the Easy Reader book collection. He considers this to be the most important reading material in the Children’s section. These are for children who are just beginning to read for themselves. Separate from these are the Easy Books, designed for parents to read to their children. These books are full of beautiful, marvelous, and oftentimes funny illustrations, enjoyed by both parents and children.

Before coming to Silver City, Chris worked at the Thomas Branigan Memorial Library in Las Cruces where he developed a Japanese Anime Film Club for children.  They made tea and sushi (both the candy kind and real) which later evolved into making foods that represented many different countries.

When Chris offers programs for children and teens, his primary criteria is that they be fun. He has shown family movies like Elf, and children’s movies like Alice in Wonderland. And there are frequent food projects like pizza making, hand-made ice cream and root beer floats,  sushi made from candy parts, and salsa, to name a few.

Chris grew up in the small town of Manchester in eastern Iowa. His father worked as a water safety environmentalist for the State of Iowa. Chris became a young fisherman in creeks near his home and at his grandfather’s farm in a fresh water pond that included ice fishing in the winter.

In the small town of Sumner Iowa, population 2,500, where Chris Baumgarn’s grandfather lived, the  Sumner Public Library has a collection of 141 cake bowls that can be checked out to patrons.

Like the Sumner Public Library with its cake bowls, Chris states that the Silver City Public Library, “Can be anything our community wants it to be, anything we can possibly think of.”

He believes that the Library is very progressive because it is willing to try new things; programs such as Zoo to You, a  guest ventriloquist, a guitar teacher, Smokey the Bear, storytellers and Explora – a program with fun science projects.

There were lots of books in Chris’s childhood home. As an adult, Chris began showing picture books  to his children “ from almost at birth”. As his children grew, Chris read the same books to them that were read to him. His own favorites were The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis and all of the Harry Potter books.

 So on July 31st, Harry’s (30 something?) Birthday, Chris set up a Happy Birthday banner at the Library and arranged a party with decorations, party favors, cake,  and then popcorn with the movie The Sorcerer’s Stone.

He came to the Library in 2016 to a full-time position. Concurrently, he began his on-line Master in Library Science studies at University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. He reports that he spent 10 hours studying each Saturday and Sunday and a few hours each day after work, taking tests, and writing papers. Along with all of this, Chris has been a single parent since his 2 children were 3 and 5 years old – now 17 and 19.

Chris brings his technical wizardry to programs such as Wild Works (robotics and more) and Future Engineers (LEGO®, circuits, and more). Chris explains that these programs are not two dimensional: they require using different parts of the brain than reading does. They learn to use their imagination and problem solve and, if they choose, to play collaborative games.

With WildWorks, young people have the opportunity to learn how things work. They can look up designs on the computer or make their own programs. Sphero is a programming toy that they can experiment with: driving it around with a finger or on an iPad to make it turn, follow a pattern, or change its color.

Young patrons at WildWorks

He recently introduced the program Minecraft Club for young patrons, from ages 6 to 12. They can build whole visual worlds on their computers; villages, castles, landscapes, the Titanic, the White House, Tombstone, whatever they can imagine, there are endless possibilities. At the first session, he prepared for 8 participants and unexpectedly 20 arrived. A sure sign that this program has met his goal of appeal to these patrons.

Because of his dedication to helping young people find their paths in life, one could think that he’s  stepped into Mr. Rogers’ shoes.

Chris ends his emails with a quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupery:

“All grown-ups were once children… but only a few of them remember it.”

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