Meet Your Librarian Series: Children’s Librarian, Jennifer Zachman
One of the earliest manifestations of becoming a librarian may lie with Children’s Librarian Jennifer Zachman. Born in Canada and raised primarily in Minnesota and in a small town in Wisconsin, Jennifer recounts creating her very own library due slips for books she would loan out to friends.
“I had a lot of books surrounding me at home, and I remember creating paper due date cards in my books with spaces for the name and date they were checked out. If I gave them out to somebody, I would get them back,” Jennifer said of her early childhood. When she wasn’t reading or tracking her personal collection’s due dates, young Jennifer created scrapbooks. In the space that asks “what do you want to be when you grow up?” Jennifer filed in the blank with “librarian.”
Growing up in a small town meant Jennifer and her sister were far from a public library and often created their own entertainment. Whenever they drove to visit a library, she recalls coming home with a stack of over 20 books and devouring them.
Jennifer went on to study Library Science and earned her Master’s Degree from the University of Wisconsin, eventually making her way to Fort Collins where her early childhood career manifestations have resulted in 24 years of service to the community at Poudre Libraries.
The Best of Both Worlds
From her short time working in our reference department at Old Town Library to spending over two decades serving customers at Harmony Library, Jennifer exemplifies the keystone of librarianship: public service. On a day-to-day basis, Jennifer approaches her work with constant curiosity. “Leading up to work, I often think, what am I going to learn today?” she says of her work.
The joy of the search for answers and the learning along the way is known in the library world as “reference.” Both reference and children’s librarianship are Jennifer’s top interests in the field.
As a unique joint-use facility between Poudre Libraries and Front Range Community College, Harmony Library is the perfect place for these two worlds to collide.
“Coming to Harmony brought the best of both worlds together. I love that we have the joint-use focus and we help folks from babies all the way up. I get to do children’s programming and children’s materials, but I also get to do the reference work that I enjoy.”
Whether it’s helping a Front Range student find research articles or helping a child find books about dinosaurs, she always seeks to understand the needs of our customers.
Rhymes and Riddles
Serving families and children who pass through Harmony Library, Jennifer has witnessed countless special moments. “I have a heart for kids. I’ve always loved them. They always warm my heart and watching them grow up is so fun – seeing them learn and when they begin to understand things and the aha moments in their eyes.”
Once, Jennifer shared a rhyme about a bunny who munched the carrot nose off of a snowman at a storytime; a few days later, she received a thank you note from the child’s mother for this winter rhyme. Not only had her child loved the rhyme, but the short jingle had inspired them to eat more vegetables – particularly carrots!
Another dedicated daycare group that regularly came to Jennifer’s storytimes would caravan to Harmony Library listening to a song Jennifer introduced them to – “The Library Song” by Tom Chapin.
Jennifer also shared jingles, rhymes, and songs with her own daughter who will soon graduate from Rocky Mountain High School. Her daughter grew up listening to Raffi (one of her favorites was Baby Beluga) with her mom and got her very own one-on-one storytimes regularly.
Keeping it Fresh
Storytimes are an integral part of children’s librarianship and over the years Jennifer has found unique ways to make them extra special and ensure they stay fresh. “There are new ideas out there that I like to incorporate, and I also know the things that work really well and keep it interesting for the audiences and fresh for me, too. Even though I have a massive folder of storytime materials, I don’t necessarily feel stuck in the past,” she says.
Jennifer is responsible for creating storytimes at Poudre Libraries specifically oriented towards babies. Originally called “Mother Goose” storytimes and now known as “Baby Storytimes,” these storytimes are based on decades of research shows ages 0-3 years are critical to early literacy. Jennifer’s baby-centered storytimes have endured for over 20 years. Beyond baby storytimes, one of Jennifer’s all-time favorites was a glow-in-the-dark storytime.
A Flutist’s Flare for Storytimes
Perhaps one of the most special parts of Jennifer’s storytimes, regardless of their age orientation or time of day, is her use of the flute.
For decades, Jennifer has drawn on her musical skills, bringing her flute to begin storytime sessions. “I always chuckle with folks that may not have been to storytimes. I typically pull out the flute right away as my hook. I’ll start playing and all of the sudden the whole room hushes.”
For one series of storytimes that Jennifer conducted outside of the District, a group of preschoolers grew their knowledge of the anatomy of the flute. At the beginning of each storytime, she would walk through the pieces of the instrument as she put it together to play for her captive audience. Eventually, the preschoolers were able to identify the pieces of the flute more accurately than the average adult.
Sharing her flutist skills at storytimes returns Jennifer to her passion for music. For a short time, she was in a community band in the Midwest and played in an orchestra in Minnesota. Today, she enjoys playing the flute and the piano occasionally as well as singing during her time off. Besides her musical renditions at home, she loves reading, walking, and spending time with her family and friends.
Zachman, Detective Librarian
Twenty-four years of service to Poudre Libraries also encompasses remarkable changes in the way libraries function and the constantly expanding list of services and resources we provide. Technology has been the most fundamental changes Jennifer has witnessed over the years.
She recounts a class in Library school where they were examining the use of CD-ROMS and her professor said something about them being gone in a couple of years. “We were just being introduced to them. I was kind of like, what are you talking about? But of course, here we are now with downloadables and the internet.”
Jennifer has welcomed the challenge and learning curves that come with new technologies. Her philosophy to getting to know technology and assisting patrons in using them is to always have an open mind.
“Working together to determine what [customers] need and finding that solution or answer wherever it might be is part of the great detective work of my job…We [librarians] are interested in a lot, we wouldn’t be doing this if we didn’t want to be helping people and enjoy the search. People are often afraid they’re bugging us when they ask a question at the reference desk and they’re not! That’s why we’re here.”
Lifelong Learning, the Library, and Les Autré Affaires
Enjoying the search for answers is also a piece of lifelong education that integral to the library philosophy.
Jennifer loves to read a variety of genres from thrillers to mysteries to the occasional romance novel, and of course children’s books. Her favorite book of all time is Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. One of her new favorite authors is Karen Kingsbury.
Earlier this year, Jennifer, her sister, and her parents took a trip to France to celebrate a milestone birthday for Jennifer. The COVID-19 pandemic delayed two previously planned trips but proved to be a wonderful learning experience worth the wait.
The trip was organized by a Road Scholar program and learning was infused along every stop of the journey, from informative tours of Normandy beaches and WWII history to the home and gardens of renowned impressionist artist Claude Monet. Karen Kingsbury’s Forgiving Paris was the perfect read for her wonderful vacation and paired well with “the buttery, flaky, croissants that would just dissolve like air.”
You can drop by Harmony Library to partake in Jennifer’s storytimes (where she may play the flute), enjoy the Indoor Story Stroll she coordinated for November 2022, or ask her the most recent burning question you’ve had.
“Putting the people first and figuring out how I can best help them is very much a part of who I am.” -Jennifer Zachman, Children’s Librarian, Harmony Library