When Kristin Anderson accepted the job of Ashland branch manager for Jackson County Library Services, it was a homecoming of sorts. Her parents and brother live in Ashland.
She has fond memories of coming to Ashland many times to visit them after they moved here about 10 years ago. She is happy to be making her home here now.
It was a journey that began 46 years ago. She was born and raised in San Jose, California, earned degrees at three different universities, and worked in Columbus, Ohio, on two jobs before launching a library career 13 years ago.
“I worked in the printing industry a short time after I got my degree in philosophy and economics from Scripps College,” she said.
She went back to school, earning an MBA from the University of Texas in Austin, and then moved back to Columbus where she got a job in marketing for Highlights for Children, a company that produces magazines and other products.
“Central Ohio has really strong libraries and I am a voracious reader. I soon realized that it was books and literature that really got me excited,” she said.
So, it was back to school to earn a Master of Library and Information Science degree from Kent State University. Armed with her latest degree, she was hired by the Columbus Metropolitan Library (CML) in 2004.
“I started as a para-professional and two years later became the youth services manager at the international library, the Northern Lights branch,” she said. It is one of the most heavily used locations in CML’s 22-library system and serves a large number of immigrants. Among them is the second largest Somali population in the country as well as Bhutanese/Nepali and other foreign born.
It was satisfying work.
“What always made me feel most successful was when people from populations on the margin felt welcome,” Anderson said.
After 13 years in the CML system, she was ready for a change.
“It was going to be either in central Ohio where my network was or in the Pacific Northwest where I had family.”
She was excited to see a posting for a job in Ashland on the Pacific Northwest Library Association board. That helped her decide.
Her first impression of Jackson County Libraries was a positive one, despite the stress of going through a rigorous, comprehensive interview process.
“People were kind and supporting,” she said. “And after I was hired, they made sure I got the information I needed to help me be successful on the job. Everybody in the Ashland branch was so welcoming.”
She sees a lot of positives.
“It’s a wonderful branch with a depth of programs,” Anderson said. “Plus, there’s the support of so many volunteers and the Friends of the Library. That’s not the case everywhere.”
On the job for only a few weeks, Anderson is looking forward to looking through and reviewing the collection in the coming months. Her immediate priorities are to build relationships with volunteers and staff, and to take a look at what the library should be offering that it isn’t now.
One challenge that libraries have is to adapt to an evolving community and changing demographics.
“Technology will be a really big part of that,” she said. “We want to provide access to information for people who don’t have it. One way is through more public computers. A good percentage of ours is dedicated to non-members’ use.”
Outreach is important to Anderson. She sees opportunities in building partnerships with other organizations, such as the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the schools,
“Our summer reading club is part of that process,” she said. “If kids don’t keep reading over the summer, there can be a decline by the time they go back to school in the fall, what they call a summer slide.”
What would Anderson say to someone who is thinking about volunteering?
“I would tell them how rewarding it is to be part of a crew of like-minded people who are contributing and making a difference,” she said.
She loves her work. “People would describe me as passionate,” she said. “Maybe that’s just another word for the kind of enthusiasm that can be a little scary.”
Today, Anderson reads books both on paper and digitally.
“I’m an ambidextrous reader,” she said, smiling. “I still read children’s and teen stories. I like fantasies with strong female characters.
“I also like the retelling of stories from oral traditions, and when old stories are made new again, like (Oregon Shakespeare Festival) does on stage.”
On her digital reader now is “If We Were Villains,” by M. L. Rio, a Shakespeare themed story about seven young actors who get caught up in a murder mystery. It’s part coming-of-age story, part confession.
Jane Austen is among her all-time favorite authors. “I love ‘Pride and Prejudice.’ Another favorite of mine in children’s literature is ‘The Blue Sword’ by Robin McKinley,” she said.
What would people be surprised to know about her?
“I have several literary tattoos,” she confessed. “One of them is a line from Jane Austen: ‘Obstinate Headstrong Girl.’”
Her parents are Linda and Allan Anderson. He is president of Ashland's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) and she is a member of Soroptimists and on the board of Camelot Theatre. Her brother, Aaron, also lives in Ashland.
When she’s not working, she enjoys outings in the dog park with her Vizsla breed, Seymour, or curling up on the couch with a good book. For a “headstrong girl,” she knows how to relax.
—Jim Flint is a retired newspaper editor and publisher living in Ashland. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.