Celebrating national library week: q&a


Photo by Giana Pistoria

Caroline Schaffer, Former Deputy Features Editor

This previously ran in our April 2022 print issue.

Fueled by her passion for English and books, librarian Kelly Bower brings her inviting and outgoing personality into the Emmaus High School library. 

Recently winning the 2022 Excellence in Education Award in Pennsylvania awarded by Alpha Delta Kappa, an international honorary organization for female educators, Bower proves she has found her place as a librarian. 

While this job was never a part of her plan, she now feels perfectly at home in the stacks where she can be of service to students of Emmaus. Whether it means guiding someone to a book or instructing a class on databases, Bower is always happy to help any students that walk into the library. Surrounded by shelves upon shelves of books, Bower has been dedicated to the EHS library for 15 years now.

Stinger: What first inspired you to become a librarian? 

Bower: To be honest with you, I had no intention of becoming a librarian. I was [a high school] English teacher and I had exhausted all of the courses that I could take at Kutztown University. I had gone through all the English courses because I already have a master’s. So I already went through all of those and I was looking to just continue my education… Because English teachers do research papers every year and use libraries. [I just thought] I’ll throw that against the wall and see if it sticks [with] no real interest in librarianship. So anyway, they approved that, and I went in not even knowing if I was going to like it. And I loved it, like almost love at first sight when I was in a class. 

Stinger: What is your favorite part about being a librarian in a high school? 

Bower: I just absolutely love it. I love English so much. I love that and of course, you know, making life a little easier for students, so that when they get out on their own, like, let’s say they go to college, they’re not intimidated to go into a library. If [I am] inviting, maybe they’ll have the courage to ask for help again, so I find that very rewarding. 

Stinger: What is your least favorite aspect? 

Bower: Maybe just how things have changed recently. It’s more right now just because of the situation with not being able to hire people. And I think the school district is having a really hard time getting help. So a lot of classes now are put in the library like every day. And that some- times keeps people from wanting to book here with real classes, because they don’t want to deal with the distractions of having study halls all around them. So I mean, I love helping, I really do, even if it’s just classes that are put in here; I love helping. That’s like the goal of my life to be of service. But I just find that a little frustrating because it’s starting to chip away a little bit at what I do as far as instructing. 

Stinger: What do you wish more people understood about librarians? 

Bower: When I used to teach English at Whitehall… I used to see our former librarian in there, and I always thought, “Boy, that must be the life. He probably gets to sit there and read the newspaper all day.” [But] I feel like I’m working my little tushy off. Every time we see him, it looks like he’s just kind of sitting there or he’s going through books and well, what is he doing? I guess what I wish more people would kind of get is that it really is involved. There’s a lot more than people know to make things go smoothly. It’s kind of like an iceberg. You see a little tiny [tip], but there’s a lot more. I don’t think people realize it’s a four-year degree. There’s like a lot of work — you write papers, just like any other [degree]. You don’t see that I’m sitting at home going through book journals over the weekend or creating displays for National Library Week that’s coming up and I’m going to Hobby Lobby trying to find things that are going to fit in our window. [There is] extra stuff, fun stuff. 

Stinger: When did your love for reading and books begin? 

Bower: People are gonna laugh if they read this, but I used to, instead of going outside and playing with my friends and my family, I would go down to the basement in our house [and] because my parents used to go to a supermarket that would offer [a bonus] back in the day, they used to give you a volume of an encyclopedia set. My parents got an entire en- cyclopedia set [so I would] go downstairs and read the encyclopedias literally cover to cover, every single one. I just always like learning about things. 

Stinger: What is your favorite book you have ever read? 

Bower: Oh, Age of Innocence is absolutely 100% percent my favorite book. [It is] by Edith Wharton. It is like high school only with adults. It’s like old time New York. And the adults there are very concerned with appearances, going to the opera, and eating with certain forks and spoons and you can only marry the certain type of people. But there’s all this gossiping that goes on underneath. But I just find it written so beautifully and it’s so spot on accurate about human nature. — [especially] how we want to look one way on the outside. The main character has a choice whether he wants to follow what society expects of him, or if he wants to follow his heart. It’s like a head versus heart, which I just think is timeless. But just an absolutely beautiful book. 

Stinger: How do you bring passion into your work? 

Bower: I don’t think I can help it, because I think I’m naturally exuberant. Maybe I’m giving myself too much credit, but I’m not even Italian and I talk [with my hands]. If you like what you do, you can’t help but have it flow over into what you do. I think people can see it [in] your energy. And if you’re not energetic, you better not become a librarian because you don’t sit. I’m all over the place all the time. But I just think it’s a natural extension of a love for what you do for a living. So my advice to other people would be [to] figure out what you like, because your work, the work part of your life, it’s a really long time. So you want to be happy every day. You need to find some- thing you love, and maybe I’m not 100% happy every day, but I’m 90% happy every day at least here.