Off to Work ... with Teresa Kiser, who keeps a public library plugged in
by Bill Edwards
Star Staff Writer
Apr 25, 2011 | 3312 views |  0 comments | 31 31 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Teresa Kiser, since January director of the Public Library of Anniston and Calhoun County (Anniston Star photo by Bill Wilson)
Teresa Kiser, since January director of the Public Library of Anniston and Calhoun County (Anniston Star photo by Bill Wilson)
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When Teresa Kiser goes off to work as director of the Public Library of Anniston and Calhoun County, at least she doesn’t have to serve as the building’s insect exterminator, too.

That was the case with a predecessor who ruled the roost in a different building in the middle decades of the 20th century.

“Yesterday a new job came up,” Miss Mildred Goodrich, librarian from 1920-’57, told The Star in April 1936. “We found an army of termites just outside the door and I had to take precautions against them. They could easily digest all of our books, good and bad ...”

Fast-forward 75 years and you won’t find Kiser killing bugs, but you will find her stringing computer cables and crafting large wooden directional signs to guide patrons around the stacks.

It’s a hands-on approach Kiser, 51, has used ever since being hired at PLACC in October 1999.

Her occupational background involved numbers, computers and public-sector work — she used to be a systems analyst for the waterworks department in Newport News, Va. — so it only took a library science degree to make her an ideal fit for the work she does now.

Kiser earned that qualification through the University of Alabama after she and her husband, Jerry, moved here in the late 1990s.

“Libraries at that time were just starting to get into computers” for public consumption, she said.

“I was the closest you got to an IT guy,” she said, referring to the growing field of information technology.

The internship Kiser had with her future employer in the summer of 1999 helped her see library work was much more than manning a desk.

“You don’t realize how much is done in a library ... a whole new world opened up.”

Today her job opens that world up for everyone, not just bookworms.

“There is no ordinary working day here,” Kiser said. “There are days when I hardly make it into my office.”

Other days, she hardly makes it out — writing grant applications is an important part of any library executive’s day.

A recent busy week found the library showing three movies in the Librarian trilogy, a tongue-in-cheek adventure series starring Noah Wyle; a presentation by Anniston gardener Sherry Blanton; and a special day to show off the bookmobile.

“The library is basically a community center. ... It’s not just for checking out books anymore,” Kiser said.

Obviously computer workstations are a major draw, thanks in part to the fiber optic line provided through the Alabama Supercomputer Authority, a public corporation that helps ensure Alabama schools and libraries have the fastest Internet connections the ASA can provide.

And where there are computers, there are kids — whom Kiser is happy to welcome.

“We want to bring kids back in here,” she said, such as through gaming nights on those super-fast computers.

Current computer-based offerings at or through the library include Homework Alabama, in which teachers offer live online assistance to young students at specified hours; the Alabama Virtual Library, a state-funded resource for anyone using a computer within the state; and Learning Express, a service the library subscribes to for the purpose of helping older students and adults prepare for the GED and other standardized tests.

The primary challenge now, Kiser said, is not so much how to put all the technology to good use, but how to allocate the manpower that guides the public through the presentations, attractions and services the library board wants to offer.

“Where do I pull the staff from to help with the public programs?” she asked, referring to the 20 full- and part-time employees who support the library’s mission.

Sometimes, that staff is her. She points with a carpenter’s pride to the large wooden signs she assembled about a month ago, mostly in her back yard; now those signs hang as labels over sections of shelves on the library’s main floor.

And she’s strung computer cables in the library at least twice — once about a decade ago, with some help from her father, and more recently a couple of years ago.

“They kid me about being hands-on,” she said of her staff, but added, “I can’t expect people to do things I’m not willing to do.”

If you know of anyone who’ll talk about what he or she does for a living, or you are such a person yourself, drop a line to bedwards@annistonstar.com for a possible write-up in “Off to Work.”
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