Omaha resident and recent UNO graduate Christine Stehno didn’t fear many things as a child. She wasn’t afraid of storms, lightening or thunder; but what she did fear was libraries and librarians.
Christine’s fears began as an elementary student, when she recalled being intimidated by the card catalog and library staff at her school library. “I needed a lot of help. I was scared to ask. I remember either crying or being really frustrated while I was [there].”
At another library, there was one librarian in particular who seemed unapproachable. Christine was afraid to ask for assistance for fear she’d get reprimanded. “I loved reading, I loved going to the library to get books, but I was scared of her. [And] the checking out process was always scary.”
As Christine entered adulthood, her fear of libraries subsided – but not entirely.
In 2011, Christine faced her library fears head-on when she began working for the City of Omaha Parks and Recreation department. She was required to teach nature classes to preschoolers at Hummel Park Nature Center. It was then she realized that she’d have to use Omaha Public Library for her job. “One of the things we incorporated into our classes was displaying and reading storybooks. I was encouraged to check out books from the Library.”
Out of necessity, at first, Christine turned to youth services librarian Nancy Chmiel at Saddlebrook Branch, 14850 Laurel Ave., for assistance. Christine’s perspective on libraries and librarians took a positive turn, as Nancy “played a huge role” in disintegrating Christine’s library fears. “She was always willing to help, or give me ideas. She’s very passionate about working in the Library. I always felt like I can go to her and ask questions without intimidation. She went above and beyond,” Christine noted.
“I love the Library now!” she exclaimed. She confidently checks out books, and has discovered that OPL’s online card catalog is an easy way to use the library at her own pace and without fear. Furthermore, she has found the holds and pick-up process to be convenient.
Through her newfound discovery of the Library, she has come to realize that the Library serves an important role in kids’ lives. “No one goes outside anymore. That’s a lot of the focus of my job with the preschoolers, is to read books, go outside, and stick to that old school kind of stuff.” That means fewer video games and less time in front of the television. And for future kids of her own, “I can bring them [to the Library] and show them how it’s positive and that librarians aren’t scary and they do want to help you,” Christine said.
“Without the Library my job would not be successful. Partnering with them has helped a lot.”