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Teaching a love of language

Youth Services Librarian Lori Lindner reads a Storytime story.

 SOLON– Most of Solon knows Lori Lindner as a reporter and photographer for the Solon Economist and North Liberty Leader newspapers. For the past 10 years, Lindner helped record the towns’ news and photographed its events.
But these days, she’s writing more lesson plans than news stories. This spring, she transitioned into a new role in Solon: the youth services librarian for the Solon Public Library.
She spends her days leading Storytime, teaching Babygarten classes and keeping the library’s children’s collection in order. She’s also responsible for planning and conducting weekly activities, like early dismissal programs for school-age students on Thursday afternoons; family events; and outreach work, like bringing Storytime to local day care centers.
It’s a big change from the newspaper world– but it is also a realm in which Lindner feels entirely comfortable. Her background is in education.
After earning her degrees in early childhood and special education from the University of Iowa, she worked in both the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City school districts, mostly working with special needs and at-risk kids. Special education was a good fit for Lindner because she grew up with two siblings who had special needs.
“I just had a lot of empathy for families who had those considerations in their lives because I had lived through it,” she said. “It was kind of my calling.”
Some of the most important aspects of special education are emotional– the encouragement, the championing of students and families, the understanding all have something to offer. Lindner brings this attitude to the library, and more.
“Everybody who comes through the door is an important person, and there’s a valuable interaction to be had there,” she said. “And I think our job when they come through the door is to make them feel welcome and comfortable, that no question is silly, that we can help them find the answer.” She also hopes to build upon the solid foundation of high-quality programming already set by her predecessors and continue to bring new, exciting offerings to keep the library’s young patrons coming through the doors.
Lindner’s education philosophy is heavily influenced by her first-ever principal, Susan Lagos Lavenz, while teaching in Cedar Rapids. Lagos Lavenz, now a dean at the University of Iowa’s College of Education, lived and taught by a creed, “Everybody does the best they can with what they have.”
“To me, that means we don’t always know what people are going through when we encounter them, and we don’t always know what their needs are,” Lindner said. “If you just keep that in mind, that helps you to be particularly empathetic and understanding and compassionate. That has really guided me in my interaction in all my careers.”
Solon Public Library Director Kris Brown said Lindner is a perfect fit for the position. Brown said Lindner has great enthusiasm for the library’s programs and has even added fun extras. During Babygarten, for instance, Brown said Lindner led the finger play and songs typical of the program but also brought in something additional each week, like an easy craft for parents to do at home.
In Babygarten– which is a story time designed especially for babies under age 2– Lindner shares books and sings songs to help caregivers understand the importance of such interactions in the eventual development of language and reading.
“It’s never too early to start engaging kids with books, the sound of language and the joy that can be derived from playful language,” Lindner said.
Brown said Lindner also is great at making library patrons feel welcome.
“One of the things that’s always impressed me is, she remembers people’s names, no matter how old you are,” Brown said. “That impresses the kids. I think it makes them feel more welcome.”
Lindner is already familiar with many of the library’s services– she served as the youth services librarian when the position was part-time several years ago. This helped make the transition an easy one, Brown said.
Other responsibilities of the youth services librarian are to plan and prepare for special programming, like the Summer Reading Program, holiday parties and family game nights. Since April is National Poetry Month, the library partnered with Lakeview students on a project featuring the poetry of children’s writer Jack Prelutsky.
Lindner said her previous role at the newspapers will remain dear to her.
“In my position at the newspaper, I met so many great people who taught me a lot,” she said. “I just want to say thank you to everyone who shared their stories, afforded me their time to help me make sure our articles were accurate and relevant, and all our staff who helped us make the newspaper what is has become today.”
But she feels at home at the library, meeting a wide range of families throughout the entire community and working on a personal level with patrons.
“I feel I am meant to be of service to my community,” she said. “And while I think the newspaper certainly serves the community, it was just time for me to be of service in a different way.”
In her new role, Lindner hopes to help everyone recognize the important role they play in supporting what she feels is one of Solon’s most important assets... its library.