The Librarian at the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Public Library

old library

Image of the original library built in 1914.

Nestled in the Northern Black Hills lies a library whose staff offers a warmhearted greeting to newcomers and frequent patrons. The Phoebe Apperson Hearst Public Library was built at the behest of Phoebe Apperson Hearst, a widow of the mining magnate and U.S. Senator, in 1914. The original building included the Homestake Opera House and Recreation Center, that was known as “The Jewel of the Black Hills.” This building housed a grand auditorium, swimming pool, bowling alley, billiard hall, social rooms, and a library. This was a center for the local community. Phoebe Hearst was insistent on helping her community with philanthropic works.

On the fateful day of April 2, 1984, there was a fire that consumed most of the Homestake Opera House and Recreation Center. The Library was moved in to the space between the Homestake Opera House and the Black Hills Mining Museum. It is still located in a centralized spot on Main Street which helps to ensure the community can access its services.

window SRP 2012

Present day image of the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Library.

Over this past winter break, I was able to interview the director of the Hearst Library, Cyndie Harlan. The moment I first walked into this small town public library,I knew that the space was designed to be inviting. The staff was also welcoming and gregarious. Together they created an environment where curiosity could thrive.

The interview consists of nine questions about her job history, how she came to librarianship, how she likes her job, and how she keeps engaged.

     1. Why did you choose librarianship?

     “Librarianship chose me” stated Cyndie. She told me how she had received a Bachelor’s in Nursing. She worked in that field for 15 years. When moving to Lead, South Dakota, she wanted to find employment where she could be a contributing member of her new community. She thought that the library would be a great way to express this commitment, plus she confessed that she “always loved libraries.”

     2. What drew you to public libraries?

     This question had a simple answer: there was only one library in Lead.

     3. How long have you work at the Phoebe Hearst Library?

     She has worked at the library for eight years and in the director position for seven years.

     4. What steps did you take to get into your current position?

     Cyndie began working at the Hearst Library as the Children’s Librarian in a part time capacity. As she grew to be a vital member of the community, the position gained more hours, so that she was a full time staff member. After learning about how this library worked and gaining more experience interacting with different public library functions and service, the director at that time was preparing to retire and asked Cyndie if she would be interested in this position. Indeed, Cyndie was.

    She also took advantage of the South Dakota Library Association and South Dakota State Library “Library Training Institute,” which helped her learn fundamental aspects of librarianship and specialized knowledge relating to public libraries. She enrolled in a public library management course which was instrumental for her as she took over as director. She also used this experience to network with other librarians from around the state and other small town public libraries similar to Lead’s Hearst Library.

     5. What does a typical day look like for you?

     Cyndie responded in a similar manner as many other librarians before her, she stated that she does not have a typical day. She is never bored and each day is a surprise. Some of her main duties are budgetary issues, interlibrary loan, management meetings, answering phones, patron assistance, and circulation desk duties, which is split between her and her two staff members. Her favorite part of her position is interacting with the public.

     6. What do you like most and least about your job?

     She loves her community and it shows because she always looks happy to be at the library serving the patrons. She struggled to find something she likes the least, but she finally came up with what she found most challenging which was multitasking and triaging situations.

     7. What are you looking forward to when you think about the future of librarianship?

     Cyndie thinks that programming is the definition of the 21st century library. Programming brings people in for training, education, and learning new skills such as the craft of knitting. She believes that superb and engaging programming makes and will continue to make the library the “community center of Lead,” as the library continues to focus on its mission to meet the needs of its community. In addition, she believes that ebooks will help continue to make the library an important part of the community.

     8. How do you engage in the profession?

     Cyndie engages in the profession by attending the annual South Dakota Library Association conference. She is also a member of the West River Rural Forum, which hosts quarterly meetings. These meetings are designed as brainstorming sessions, networking with regional librarians, and an opportunity for rural librarians to share knowledge with each other. She benefits from these interactions because they profoundly improve her knowledge.

     9. What advice to you have for young professional and people interested in libraries?

     Cyndie believes that young professionals will never regret their decision to be a librarian because there is never a dull moment, you will always be challenged and learning. It is a worthwhile occupation that allows you to serve and contribute. Libraries are thriving and vibrant places. Additionally, libraries play an important role in education, especially of children. Libraries are instrumental in providing children invaluable opportunities to learn how to read and learn.

Whatever type of library you choose to work in, the message and feeling is the same. Libraries are special places that encourage curiosity and learning in a community focused manner. For me,patronizing the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Library was more than just some where to check out books and use other library services because of how wonderful the librarian and her staff were. I felt like I was a member of the Lead community.