“I’m pretty enthusiastic,” Heather Dickerson said, as she popped up straight in her chair.
Dickerson is now in her third week at the Lewis and Clark Library as the new Teen Services librarian, but by watching her interact with Helena’s teenagers, you would think she’s been there for a lot longer.
Following the departure of Pad McCracken, Dickerson has come into the reputable program at the library with big shoes to fill.
In fact, McCracken’s activities still linger in the minds of several teens at the library.
“‘When is Zombie Fest? Pad used to always do Zombie Fest, are you doing Zombie Fest?’” Dickerson said of recent interactions with teens. And she’s right on it. If there’s a program that the teens want, she will give it her all to make sure it happens.
She said a meeting will be happening soon to bring the teenagers together to coordinate the Zombie Fest. She’s not going to lead the organizing though. That will be entirely up to the teens.
“Working with teens is really unique because they are little, mini-adults in training and totally need ownership,” said Dickerson. “They need to do these things themselves and that’s how they become better adults and more functioning adults.”
“I’m no longer a teen. I can’t out-teen a teen,” she said jokingly. But she does seem to have an innate understanding of teenagers.
Dickerson’s past has taken her across the country, organizing and working alongside teens. She started off in her hometown of Alam, N.Y., where she coordinated an afterschool program for at-risk rural kids. She then traveled to the Rocky Mountains to attend a fellowship at Eagle Rock School in Estes Park, Colo. California was her next stop, where she worked seasonally as an outdoor educator, taking teenagers rock climbing, canoeing and hiking.
She said she had an epiphany while driving a cube truck in California, listening to NPR radio, “I said to myself, ‘Hey, I want to be a librarian,’ so I moved back to upstate New York, taught preschool and applied to graduate school.”
From there she attended the University of Pittsburgh and received a master’s in library and information science and children and youth services. She has since been in Helena for three weeks with her fiancé, Paul, and her cat, Phineas.
“The (Helena) community is really great,” she said. “The people here in the library are wonderful.”
Dickerson likes to rock climb, backpack and, starting this winter, she plans to cross-country ski.
She said, “I’ve never lived in Montana and being able to get out and explore is pretty awesome!”
She also likes to cook and, obviously, likes to read.
“I probably read three books a week,” she said. “I came from a library with a much smaller collection. Our library (here) has a really big, good collection.”
She said there are books out there for everyone, especially teens.
“I never just push a book on a teen,” she said. “(I say), ‘Tell me about the books you like to read or tell me about your favorite TV shows,’ and then I will recommend a book accordingly.”
It’s about getting to know the teens first, she said.
“I haven’t had much time to work with her,” said fellow librarian Suzanne Schwichtenberg, “but the one interaction I saw her have with a teen, she was respectful and interested in what the other person had to say. Active listener.”
SchwichtenBerg also said Dickerson has some great ideas, including the Teen Read Week, which begins Oct. 14. Dickerson has planned hands-on projects for Monday, treat-a-reader for Tuesday and a frightful movie showing for Friday. She said that may be her big debut, but she plans to keep on running once she hits the ground.
For more activities coming to the Lewis and Clark Library, visit their website at www.lewisandclarklibrary.org.
Dylan Brown: 447-4077; Dylan.email@example.com; on Twitter: IR_dylanbrown