From left, UCPL Children’s Librarian engages with a young library visitor.  Garst said that her enjoyment of her role at the library means it doesn’t even feel like a job.


When Unicoi County Public Library Children’s Librarian Hannah Garst notches hours on her time sheet, it’s not just for the pay.

Garst, who recently accepted the post of children’s librarian, said her real motivation for reporting to work is her quest to improve the community day by day.

“Sometimes I really don’t want to leave at night because I enjoy what I do here,” said Garst.

After recent staffing changes at the UCPL went into effect, Garst said her role as the circulation coordinator was expanded, allowing her to simultaneously take on the the job of children’s librarian for the local library.

Garst said the decision to transfer her skills to the Erwin scene was an easy one after speaking with UCPL Director Suzy Bomgardner.

“Suzy encouraged me to come here a little over a year ago, and as soon as I came for my interview, I fell in love with this place,” said Garst. “I fell in love with not only the building, but the community.”

Working in a library wasn’t always a path Garst expected to take. Before taking on the entity’s workload, Garst attended college for photography where she learned how to craft pottery and embraced other creative endeavors.

Around that time, she started working at Coalition for Kids and discovered her underlying passion. She said the organization needed an after-school care coordinator, which she happily accepted.

“The library was just a bunch of books shoved on a shelf for someone to borrow,” said Garst. “There was no organization system.”

She noted that the strategic planning and groundwork projects prompted Garst to develop a sense for what she wanted to do for the rest of her life.

Garst spent much of her days organizing the building and implementing new programs. Eventually, she made the move to Unicoi County where she continues to implement her own ideas, while carrying through with Bomgardner’s overall vision for UCPL.

“For all of us, this is not just a job,” she said. “I really think that everyone has their entire heart into this position. We’re all trying to find ways to meet the needs of the community.”

At the top of her future ambitions, Garst said that she wants to launch an initiative that would help children and teens discover a passion for reading.

“When I was growing up, I always loved to read, but there were people that did not love to read, and I never understood that,” said Garst. “As I became an adult, I realized that everyone really does enjoy reading, it’s just about finding what they like to read.”

She said while certain kids may not enjoy reading a fiction novel, they may uncover an interest in examining “how machines work” or find delight in “reading about sport’s records.”

The UCPL has plenty of tools to tackle a wide variety of youth interest. Garst said the library’s telescope, solar system kit and other instruments has allowed the entity to reach a broader community within Erwin.

But at the end of the day, Garst said that UCPL cannot implement their initiative alone. She noted that communal involvement has helped the library expand their services.

“It’s just a lovely community who tries to help each other out any way they can, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know the folks here.”

For more information on the UCPL, visit ucpl.net or call the library at (423) 743-6533.


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