The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

February 7, 2014

Librarian putting new focus on teen readers

JOHNSTOWN — Ashley Flynn, director of Highland Community Library, is all about bringing new events to the library at 330 Schoolhouse Road in Richland Township.

The newest innovation is an area all for teens, with eye-popping colors and plenty of books from the library’s YA, or young adult, collection.

Flynn said she had to move several shelves of young adult books from their cramped, out-of-the-way space into a place where teens could see them and sit down and enjoy them.

Flynn, who lives in Loretto, has been director at the library for a year. In that time she has seen a need for more programming for teens.

“They’re a hard group because they have so many different interests,” Flynn said. “Programming for them is critical at libraries. We need more than books and need to give kids more options for stuff to do.”

Flynn added that when teens are too young to have a driver’s license, they feel comfortable being able to get out of the house and having somewhere to hang out.

Those options are free at the library, while a trip to the movie theater can cost $20.

At 26, Flynn is not so far removed from the teens who are her favorite age group.

A teen book club for age 13 to 17 is still in the building stages, but is seeing some success.

“We just had our third meeting,” Flynn said. “We have a solid group of seven to eight kids, with new ones filtering in.”

Flynn said after the book club is over, teens enjoy hanging around to interact and discuss books, videos and other interests with her.

A new teen game night is scheduled for

6 p.m. Wednesday with board games, snacks and a drawing for books.

In addition to her other duties, Flynn also keeps up the library’s Facebook page.

She is pushing to have what she calls one cool thing a month at the library, depending on public funding.

Flynn is planning a zombie walk for near Halloween and hopes to add teens and adults to the summer reading program.

For Valentine’s Day, a new “Blind Date with a Book” program will pair readers with a book whose identity has been concealed except for a brief description, similar to an online dating profile such as match.com.

Readers rate their date after reading at least 30 pages, and a winner will be pulled from the submitted rating cards and given a prize.

“I’m happy with the direction the library is going in,” Flynn said. “The adult book club is our strongest program.”

Flynn is a graduate of Penn Cambria High School and the University of Pittsburgh.

Aiming at becoming a writer, she got a bachelor’s degree in writing and literature.

In the middle of her senior year at Pitt when she was looking for a master’s degree program, Flynn discovered it was possible to take courses to become a professional librarian.

She received her master’s degree in library science from Clarion University.

“I didn’t know I wanted to be a librarian,” Flynn said.

“I didn’t think about how you got to be a librarian. I thought you just grew up and became a librarian.”

Flynn’s first job as a librarian was as the director of the Cresson Public Library beginning in September 2010.

She served there for two years before coming to the Highland library last January, with one year as director of Gallitzin Public Library as well as Cresson.

“I love it,” Flynn said. “I can’t imagine doing anything else. I thought I’d be an academic librarian, but it’s been public libraries.”

When she was just out of college, Flynn worked as a newspaper reporter for The Mainliner.

During that time, she also was working at the Cresson library and working on her master’s degree.

Flynn also is kept busy at the Highland library, but admits she likes to read a bit of everything.

“I read all the time,” she said. “I like fantasy and the supernatural. I like to read memoirs, not biographies, as a writing vehicle.”

When she gets the time, writing is definitely in Flynn’s plans.

“I would want to write YA novels,” she said. “That’s what I read.”

Ruth Rice covers Features for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at Twitter.com/RuthRiceTD.

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