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New head librarian at Willmar Public Library favors more services for teenagers

WILLMAR -- Public libraries across the country are becoming a little noisier and a little less quiet.

The trend toward more vibrant and open library spaces is not lost on Chris Beyerl, the new head librarian at Willmar Public Library.

"We're not necessarily the shush-shush-type model anymore,'' Beyerl said.

One of Beyerl's first projects will be to increase services for teens.

"I think we're finding that a lot of teens visit the library if they have their own special place, and along with that would build on their collection and move all of their items to a more central location,'' she said.

Beyerl began her duties in early September and replaces Laurie Ortega, who was named assistant director at Pioneerland Library System.

Beyerl previously served four years as children's librarian and 18 months as head librarian at Redwood Falls Public Library.

At Redwood Falls, Beyerl said, teens can check out music video games. The library also has Wii interactive video games and holds Dance Dance Revolution competitions with other libraries.

"There's a lot of really fun programming that you can do for teens to get them excited to come to the library,'' Beyerl said.

Customers expect their libraries to have technology, as well as books, for gathering information. Beyerl said the Internet is never going to replace books, but it's certainly a big part of the information-gathering process.

She supports the City Council's decision to spend about $8,000 to install wireless Internet service at the library. She said the Redwood Falls Library installed wireless Internet last year.

Beyerl would also like to focus on services to pre-kindergarten-age children. She strongly believes that reading to children is important during the years preceding kindergarten.

"In today's world, if a child has not been read to before he or she starts school, or have any idea what a book is or letters are or anything like that, they're going to be lost when they get to kindergarten because they're expected to learn how to read in kindergarten,'' Beyerl said.

Beyerl said she'd like to work with schools and programs that encourage parents to read to their children.

"I know that the staff here is already doing a lot of that, so we can just build on that. That would be great,'' she said.

Beyerl grew up on a farm north of Clara City, graduated from Clara City High School and was an elementary teacher at MACCRAY Public Schools. She entered the library field because she was encouraged to fill an open position as MACCRAY media specialist.

Beyerl said Redwood Falls has a wonderful library, but she said Willmar is closer to home and the library is larger, with a staff of 15 full-time and part-time employees.

"Willmar has a nice library they can be really proud of, and I think it's a really good resource for the community, and we hope to build on that, too.''