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She shares her love of reading with kids

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Ruthanne Bassett’s love of reading prompted her to switch careers from traditional teaching to library work.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

POSTED March 2, 2012 8:33 p.m.

Ruthanne Bassett always knew that she belonged in a library.

An avid reader, Bassett volunteered at the Manteca Library when she was a high school student, and found herself drawn to the world of book lending during her years as both a substitute and full-time elementary school teacher.

So when a position finally opened for a circulation clerk 15 years ago, Bassett waved goodbye to the world of traditional education and embarked on a journey from which she hasn’t looked back.

“I really like working with kids and that’s something that I get to do here,” she said – noting that she has still maintained her teaching credential. “This is the place that I feel I belong. Sometimes I think I should have been a librarian from the start.”

While Bassett never pursued library sciences while she was in college – a necessity to carry the official title of librarian – she says that she’s perfectly happy as a library assistant that gets to interact with the public in a multitude of ways.

She serves as the point person for nearly all of the special programs that are put on for children during summer vacation, and hosts the children’s story time every week. It gives her a chance to flash back to her time in the classroom and interact closely with the young people coming down with their parents to take advantage of what the library has to offer.

Some of her time is spent of the reference desk. It is where questions topics can range from automotive repair to art from the impressionist movement. And she still periodically works to maintain the library’s collection of more than 50,000 volumes and shelves when time allows.

Her true passion, however, is for the kids.

“I read a lot of story books and picture books and that’s where I get the idea for some of the stories I bring into the story time,” she said. “I read some mysteries and often times I’ll have people tell me about a book from a particular genre that I don’t often read, and when I finally do read it I’ll find that I like it a lot.

“I like the books by Gary Paulsen – he wrote a survival story titled ‘Hatchet.’ I also like the picture books by Mo Willems like ‘Don’t Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus.”

In her tenure at the library, Bassett has seen a whole assortment of reading fads come and go – most recently with the ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ series in the children’s books at the ‘Twilight’ series for young adults. Whenever a movie is being made from a book – as happens quite frequently with books penned by author Nicholas Sparks – the surge in checkouts for that particular title, she says, can be seen.

But with a shift into the digital age, Bassett says that she’s seen more and more people exploring alternative ways to enjoy what the library has to offer from books on tape that can be enjoyed on the drive into work to digital copies that can be viewed on smartphones and tablet computers.

“We are getting people that are coming in and asking about the e-book lending program because they like the idea of having an assortment of books right at their fingertips,” Bassett said. “People can already use the computer to renew their checkouts, so this just adds something new that we’re expecting will continue to grow as people learn more about it.”

Checking out books the old fashioned way, however, still hasn’t fallen out of favor.

On any given day a steady stream of patrons flow through the door and sign up for a library card – something that Bassett says catches her and the other library staffers off guard because the number of people coming in never seems to dwindle.

Not only does the county library system offer branch-to-branch lending, but a new program called Link Plus allows for books from as far away as Sacramento, San Francisco and even San Diego to be sent to the library on loan – expanding the catalog without actually having to create space on the shelves.

“There are a lot of new things that didn’t exist when I first started doing this,” Bassett said. “There are a lot more ways for people get information today, and the library is working to keep up with that.”

— Jason Campbell
staff reporter

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