Posted by John Butterfield on Feb 04, 2018
Ann Pechacek Enjoys Connecting with Teens
 
When you want to know anything about what young people like to read or their latest social media craze or music preferences, just ask new member Ann Pechacek (pronounced Pa-ha-check), lead librarian at Worthington’s Northwest Library on Hard Road.
Ann began work at Worthington Libraries as young adult librarian in 2001 and was promoted to her current position in 2012. She has worked in libraries most of her life, starting in high school.
 
Ann was born in Muskogee, Oklahoma, but her family soon settled nearby in Tahlequah at the foothills of the Ozark Mountains and home of the Cherokee Nation. In high school she was a librarian aide and played basketball and tennis.
 
She started college at University of Oklahoma, but soon transferred to the University of Alaska Anchorage. She had thought she wanted to live in Alaska and become a teacher, but by the end of college she realized her calling was to be a librarian.
 
So Ann enrolled in the master’s program in library and information science at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg with the goal of being a reference librarian and no thought of being a teen librarian. As part of the program, she did a practicum at the Kessler Air Force Base library in Biloxi.    
 
Upon graduation in 1999, she took a position as teen librarian in the Cumberland County Public Library in Fayetteville, North Carolina, located near Fort Bragg. “My experience at Kessler must have been the reason for my getting the job because I didn’t know anything about being a teen librarian,” she says. 
 
But she worked hard and learned, and at the end of two years she had developed a great following of teens from eight middle schools and a high school. It was a great experience, but the library had limited resources – her budget for teen paperbacks was $100 – so she sought a new position and landed a job as young adult librarian in Worthington.
 
“I’ve been very lucky in the library world,” she says. “I’ve had two interviews and got both positions, and the Worthington Libraries is one of the best in the country.” Since 2012, she has been a co-lead for youth and adult services, supervising adult and youth services librarians at Northwest Library.
 
Ann says it’s challenging working with youth, as the library is not generally their first thought. “They’re really into social media, with Instagram and Snapchat their preferred platforms right now,” she explains. “But there are also many students in our area who love reading.”
 
The Northwest Library serves teens generally from Worthington Kilbourne High School and McCord Middle School as well as Dublin Scioto High School and Davis Middle School, which is located near the library.      
 
One of the ways Ann makes connections with teens is through reader advisory.  She recommends books and gives suggestions on what to read. “Once you connect with teens, you’ve really connected,” she adds. She cites examples of individuals, whom she helped as middle school and high school students, who still seek her out at the library as adults.
 
Teen literature as a genre took off in the early 2000s. It started with Twilight, a series of four vampire-themed fantasy romance novels, and the Harry Potter series of fantasy novels and just exploded after that. John Green is currently one of the most popular authors for teens. His novels are realistic and often filled with honest and raw emotions. Look for Alaska, his debut novel, and The Fault in Our Stars, have won teen literature awards.   
 
Role-playing groups are another activity that appeals to a certain segment of students. Dungeons and Dragons is a tabletop game in which participants use their imagination to undertake a quest. “They come for the camaraderie,” Ann points out. “Surprisingly, the gamers are mostly girls.”
 
Ann also has a book club that meets monthly before school at Worthington Kilbourne High School. When she worked at the Old Worthington Library, she started a Book-and-Bag group whose members discussed books over lunch. “It still exists after 16 years,” she says proudly.
 
Teens also use the library as a place for studying and doing homework. It’s not uncommon for there to be 20 to 25 teens on a school night at study tables or meeting with tutors. The libraries also have a teen space reserved exclusively for teens to hang out from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
 
One of the biggest draws at the Northwest Library is the American College Test (ACT) preparation program. The free, four-part series covers in detail each section of the ACT. Each session is three hours. Enrollment is limited to 100 students and it’s always full.
 
Worthington Libraries also has volunteen programs during the school year and the summer. Volunteens must be at least 12 years old or entering seventh grade in the fall. During the school year typical activities include: sorting and shelving library materials, assisting with special projects and producing materials for library programs. In the summer volunteens register library patrons for the Summer Reading Program and assist with other projects. Last year approximately 240 served as volunteens.
 
Ann hopes to use her connections with students at Worthington Kilbourne High School to help build the club’s Interact Club, although she admits it’s a big challenge. “Students are so busy nowadays and there are so many opportunities for them to be involved in community service projects,” she explains. “The international aspect of Rotary may be a distinction that we can explore.”
 
Her club sponsor is Chuck Gibson, who serves on the club’s board of directors and is CEO of Worthington Libraries. Bonnie Mitchell will serve as a mentor.
 
As one would expect, Ann is an avid reader whose goal each year is to read 65 to 70 books with many of them being teen books related to her work. “I have really grown to love teen literature, but not the whinny books,” she notes.  One of her favorite authors is Jason Reynolds, an African-American whose stories involve boys surviving in their neighborhoods.
 
In 2015 Ann was invited by the Young Adult Library Services Association to serve on the 2016 committee selecting the best book written for teens, the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature. She joined eight other librarians from across the country, each reading over 250 books. The winner was Bone Gap by Laura Ruby.
 
Ann also likes to travel. Highlights include a photo safari in Botswana and Zambia, including whitewater rafting down the Zambezi River, along with trips to Ireland, Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic. Her father’s heritage is Czechoslovakian, and her mother’s family was from Ireland so visits to these countries were particularly meaningful to Ann. Scotland is likely her next overseas trip.
 
As for sports, Ann is a big fan of University of Oklahoma football. She feels a special connection with the team, as her grandfather was a water boy for construction workers when the stadium in Norman was built and later he and her great uncle played for the team. Sooner Born and Sooner Bred.
 
Ann lives in the south Clintonville area in a home partially furnished with antiques she inherited from her parents. She is particularly proud of an old Victrola record player that still works. She is a graduate of Leadership Worthington and participated in the City of Worthington’s Citizen Academy.