By STEPHEN FLANAGAN JACKSON
Have you visited your area public library lately?
If not you will be amazed at the quantity and quality that all the libraries of Hillsborough County have to offer in addition to books. And the great part is, access and use of the public libraries are free, including free wireless internet on computers and private meeting rooms. Only if you live outside Hillsborough County do you have to pay and that charge is a mere $100 per year.
The various libraries in Hillsborough County have a variety of different services, events, and material so it is best to check the www.hcplc.org website or call to determine the hours of operation and what each library offers. The Hillsborough County system includes 31 branch libraries, a bookmobile, a cybermobile and a research center.
And, remember, if you still have an overdue library book kicking around your house gathering dust there are no more late fees at the Hillsborough Public Libraries. As the new librarian at the Ruskin Public Library would say, “Just bring it back!”
That new librarian is Michelle Michaud, and she just started in Ruskin in late August as the new Branch Supervisor.
Michaud grew up in Westwood, N.J., 14 miles from the George Washington Bridge in New York City. Michaud went to Westwood High School. She attended Rutgers University in New Jersey for an undergraduate degree in English Literature and for two master’s degrees: Elementary Education and Library Studies.
Asked what motivated her to choose the profession of librarian, Michaud responded, “I became a librarian in part because of career counseling. I was dissatisfied in my former careers in public relations and magazine writing and decided to get help finding what I wanted to do when I grew up. Librarian came up high on the list, so I looked into it. On reflection, it seems like a natural fit for me. I’ve always studied and worked in fields that dealt with information in one way or another.”
Michaud is highly qualified on paper and with professional experience, as well as possessing a passion for her work. “I have the master’s degree in Library Studies as mentioned. Before finishing my degree, I worked as a library assistant. Then, while in school, I worked as a children’s librarian. Both jobs were at libraries in New Jersey. I moved to Florida in 2006, and started with the Hillsborough County Public Library right away, so I’ve worked in our library system for 12 years now.”
Michaud pointed out that people come to the library in droves, and despite the exaggeration of the death of print, she said, “People do still read! I think humans are naturally drawn to stories. But while the library still offers traditional print books, our eBooks and digital audiobooks have become extremely popular with our customers.”
Just by the statistics, Michaud reports that the numbers of patrons and customers at the Ruskin Library fluctuates. For this past August there were 5,127 visits and 6,883 items checked out at Ruskin.
Ruskin, just as the other libraries in the Hillsborough system, offers more than books, magazines and reading materials.
“The library has branched out beyond books to meet our community’s learning needs, explained Michaud. “For instance, at Ruskin we offer Story Time for children, and crafting and technology classes for adults. We even have an introductory program on soldering coming up. Other branches offer sewing classes, robotics classes, and some have spaces such as recording studios available for use by the public. There’s a little something for everyone at libraries these days.”
The staff in Ruskin numbers five full-time employees and one part-time employee. Michaud said the number of volunteers varies. “We have some students who work with us in order to get service hours for Bright Futures, and then they move on. Others are snowbirds we see only during the winter months.”
Michaud enjoys her work at the counter, in the stacks and dealing with the general public. “I like the many different ways we can help people here. Our work ranges from helping a child find the perfect book to assisting retirees with the new tablet they were given at Christmas. And it’s always nice to hear that because of the library, someone was able to finish their resume and get a job for which they applied,” she said.
Asked about the future for Ruskin and the South Shore area, Michaud remarked, “It seems to be growing by leaps and bounds. There’s construction everywhere you look. I think the area will just continue to grow in the coming years.”
And, undoubtedly, the libraries as well.