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Librarian encourages literacy and play

By Don Fennell

Published 10:49 PDT, Fri October 18, 2019

Last Updated: 2:13 PDT, Wed May 12, 2021

October may be best known in Canada as the official start of hockey season, and Thanksgiving. It’s also Canadian Library Month, a chance to celebrate and say thank you to the many individuals dedicated to enriching our lives from a literary perspective.

As Richmond Public Library extends an invitation to the public to drop by any of its branches and learn something new, we’re recognizing two individuals who epitomize heart in each of their library roles.

As one of the Children and Family Services librarians, while also being involved in a variety of programs for children at Richmond Public Library, Johanna is a valued member of the team.

“Johanna plans and delivers library services with a special focus on children, youth and families,” says chief librarian Susan Walters. “Each and every day, whether she’s working in our children’s department at (the main) Brighouse (branch) or out in the community, Johanna is connecting with our community and making a difference in a young life.”

Walters notes that not everyone knows that to be a librarian, you must have a masters degree in library and information studies in addition to an undergraduate degree. That’s a minimum of six years of post-secondary education. She adds that public libraries open doors to lifelong learning and as one of our librarians, Johanna.

How did you come to find yourself in this role?

“Following a Masters of Education, I taught all ages at a school for the deaf. After moving to Vancouver, I attended the University of British Columbia for a Masters of Library and Information Studies, and was immediately drawn to Richmond Public Library for its staff and community.”

What interests/inspires you most about your role? What do you like the most about what you do?

“I have a deliberate interest in early literacy, children and youth services, outreach, advocacy, inclusion, and leadership with youth. Organizing programs such as Babytime, Family Storytimes, Kids’ Book Clubs, and the Teen Sign Language Club allows me to encourage literacy and play. By leading workshops for teachers-in-training, I am able to share my knowledge and exuberance with an entire new generation of educators and even teach them some new signs to use in their classroom.

The Teen Sign Language Club began as a cumulation of my skills and interests. By now, steady participation is seen from almost 20 teens each week who learn not only sign language but also about deaf culture, special needs, and human rights issues while playing games and having fun. Teens have gone on to begin sign language clubs at their schools and also choosing American sign language to fulfill their high school language requirement. It’s a dynamic group of young adults and I enjoy seeing them grow to understand more about themselves and the world around them.”

How do you feel you and your role most benefit the community?

“I am able to connect with families and the community to let them know how valuable early literacy and the library are.”

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