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Assistant librarian: Books & eBooks go together like stairs & elevators

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Assistant librarian: Books & eBooks go together like stairs & elevators

Rena Wiriaatmadja is a library assistant at the Manteca Library.

JASON CAMPBELL/The Bulletin


POSTED March 18, 2013 12:26 a.m.

Rena Wiriaatmadja knows books.

She knows authors. She knows genres. She knows themes, elements of style, characters and symbols.

She can tell you what Daisy meant to the central theme of The Great Gatsby, and can pick apart any of the Harry Potter books with tenacity and tact.

And that’s just what she needs to know for work.

As a Library Assistant II assigned to Manteca, Wiriaatmadja has been taking on a more central role in the operations of the library after the retirement of longtime assistant Ruthanne Bassett – taking over the iconic “story time” sessions and using her outgoing personality to help both children and adults in their navigation of the library’s resources.

The Bulletin caught up with her to find out a little bit about what goes into books and the modern library:

So why books?

“Why not? They’re wonderful. I grew up in a household that valued literacy, and I was a product of Reading Rainbow – I remember watching that and learning and loving it.”

What do you enjoy most about your job?

“The people – the fact that the job is never the same each day. And getting to share reading – the story time – I love it.”

What are some of your day-to-day responsibilities?

“I’m transitioning into story time after the wonderfully iconic Ruthanne, and do reference work at the desk – it’s an altogether pleasant experience. I try to add a little bit of sunshine to the day of the people that I come across.”

Are there challenging aspects?

“Keeping up with the current themes. I try not to be like my parents, but I can’t always know what’s popular in the world of the 14-year-old. I try to keep up with what’s hot and new in order to serve the patrons and give them the best in books, movies and television.”

Any favorite authors?

“It depends. It comes in spurts – I’m currently in a teen fiction phase because it’s gritty and real. I like reading things that I’m not particularly comfortable or familiar with – I went through a biography and historical fiction phase. I like J.K. Rowling – I’m a huge Harry Potter fan. I like Edgar Wright and Joss Whedon – I’m also on a little bit of a geek trend. I think that it helps to tap into your non-mainstream kid sometimes. It can be the key in getting others to read. I think that you should read anything that you’re curious about because if you aren’t learning something, what good is it?”

Any secret passions that stem from your job?

“I write a travel blog for the library – it’s kind of my second love. I think that travel can really be anything from heading to San Francisco for the day and checking out a new neighborhood to going overseas to Europe. I like doing things close by – I’m a big fan of Anthony Bourdain and I like going to restaurants that he recommends.”

If you had a week off, where would you like to go?

“I’m a big Giants fan so I would have to say Spring Training, and I’m somewhat of a person of limited interests so maybe traveling up and down the state would be something that I would want to do. I’d probably go to Seattle or Portland too – I love that area. I also like Los Angeles – you never get the same thing twice in that city.”

Favorite type of movie?

“Edgar Wright movies call to my sensibilities in so many ways – there’s comedy and bits of violence and tongue-in-cheek humor. I can watch them all day long, and on some occasions, I do.”

Any hobbies?

“I like cooking and listening to music – I have a friend that turned me onto a New York-based radio station that plays a lot of eclectic stuff. I’ll listen to just about anything. I love traveling – if I didn’t work I’d probably hawk my wares as a travel writer.”

What do you see as the future of libraries?

“I once heard somebody say that people didn’t stop using the stairs just because they made the elevator. I think that things like the Nook and the Kindle just help expand people’s knowledge by reading – I think that it helps seniors by allowing them to read any eBooks in large print. When my daughter goes up to see her father in Seattle she’s able to carry 30 books in the palm of her hand rather than in her luggage, and it provides access to what people want. Now libraries are adapting to the times by offering ebook lending.”

Was it difficult to master the library’s coding system?

“It’s numeric if it’s fiction – it goes from 000 to 999 – and alphabetic if its non-fiction. If you can count then it’s really easy to figure out.”

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