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South County librarian earns Friends of the Library Librarian of the Year Award

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image Michelle Weinstein, Children’s Librarian at the South Shore Regional Library, ends every Baby Time session with bubbles. Photo Penny Fletcher

She has raised attendance in children's programs so that in 2012, 15,500 children and their guardians attended her program.

BY PENNY FLETCHER

“Bubbles! Bubbles!” some babies cried.

They seemed to know what was to come next even though they were not yet two.

“It’s a matter of routine, of what they’ve learned to expect,” said Michelle Weinstein, Children’s Librarian at the South Shore Regional Library, as she began to spread bubbles out over the group assembled on the floor and watched as babies grabbed for them or simply looked up and smiled.

The Baby Time program is shorter than half an hour because of the short attention span of such young babies, but parents say they try to go once or twice a week to socialize their children at an early age.

Baby Time is the program that exposes children between birth and 18 months of age to rhymes and song, reading and pictures, in a laughing, bouncy sort of way.

Other age-appropriate programs are designed for toddlers and children and teens, and Weinstein loves planning and hosting them all.

The one dad in the Baby Time group April 15, James Pisacano of Apollo Beach, alternates with his wife to take their 15-month old daughter Gia. Pisacano set Gia down after playing “The Elevator Goes Up and Down.” It was good exercise for everyone as babies are raised in the air by parents and then lowered- most laughing.

“The first time we came she learned to wave. They learn to sing songs. It’s fun for them and for us,” he said.

“A lot of my work is in the planning, which I do mostly at home,” Weinstein said. “I love what I do. I love children.”

The daughter of an Air Force dad, Weinstein said she moved around a lot as a child and lived in Europe until she was 13. Her parents retired to the South County area and she moved with them. She has since married Bryan, a civil engineer, and has been with the Tampa-Hillsborough County Library system since 1997.

At 34, she has already been recognized by Friends of the South Shore Regional Library for service above and beyond her duties.

She is the first person from South County to receive the Friends of the Library Librarian of the Year Award.

April 9 at the John F. Germany Public Library in Tampa, the main library in the county system, Weinstein was awarded the honor by Joe Stines, the county’s library director and other administration, including Renelda Sells, Chief Librarian for the county system.

Members of the Friends of the South Shore Library were there, proud that their nomination was chosen.

“We nominated Michelle for many reasons,” said Jim Duffy of Sun City Center, who spoke for the group. “She always exceeds her duties to perform the goals of the library system and has raised attendance in children’s programs so that in 2012 15,500 children and their guardians attended her programs.”

Duffy went on to detail ways Weinstein not only performs well, but works on programs at home on her own time because she loves what she does, and also concrete ways in which her expenditure requests and reports save the library system money.

“In 2012 the Friends learned that funds were available from the Greater Sun City Center Foundation for children’s programs that included ‘parent/child learning interaction’,” Duffy wrote in her nomination paper. “Michelle worked with our Library Chief, Renelda Sells, as well as representatives from the JFG (main) library staff. Michelle also worked with the staff at the County Children’s Board. Working together, they created a program that met the funding criteria. This activity was unplanned and required significant extra effort and flexibility by both the South Shore and JFG staff. Michelle named the program Family Fun Fest.”

“What a great way to start off 2012 with our Companion Programs,” said Marci Delaney, Library/Family Support Manager at the Children’s Board. “The event had a great crowd. There were 105 families, 159 adults and 183 children.”

Promoting a love of art in children is as much a library goal as promoting a love of books. People who want to help support the children’s programs at the library are encouraged to purchase Children’s Art Cards.

These cards were a joint project between Weinstein and Laurie Burhop, the library’s part-time art teaching coordinator and several local elementary schools. There was an art contest and some of the drawings were used to make the art cards which are now on sale for $5 at the library.

“Buying a card is a great way to help the Friends of the Library promote student art,” Duffy said.

But Weinstein doesn’t just do children’s programs. She is required by her job description to do cataloging, putting books away, front desk work and all other duties of a librarian.

“I just love this part best,” she said.

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