Oprah Winfrey, eat your heart out — you’re not the only one who can create a buzz about books.
Kim Patton, Lawrence Public Library’s young adult specialist, encourages local teens to read for fun and personal reflection.
She’s been nominated for president of the Young Adult Library Services Division of the American Library Association and, if successful, will appear on national television to share her enthusiasm and ideas about getting teens more involved with libraries. She’s also co-authored a book, “A Year of Programming for Teens.”
Patton’s love affair with books started in early childhood.
“I read everywhere I went,” she recalls. “On car trips, on the swing set, I even propped a book up while washing dishes. I drove my mom crazy; she thought I wasn’t social enough. When I brought books to the table at mealtimes, she often sent me to my room on punishment.”
She pauses and laughs.
“So, what did I do? I read in peace. Score one for me. It took mom a while to figure that one out.”
In junior and senior high, she discovered Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, classics and cheap, sleazy romances.
Like many teens, Patton pushed boundaries big time. In an attempt to remove her from the influences of a “bad crowd,” her mother sent her to a Kansas City church for a youth retreat. The plan backfired slightly. She met her husband, Brian.
After she enrolled at KU the next year, love eliminated study and she dropped out of school. She married, became a full-time mom, surrounded her three children with books and took them regularly to the library’s storytime. When a part-time vacancy arose in the children’s section in 1990, she applied, and she was thrilled to get the job.
In 1999, she established the library’s young adult section, feeling it was important for them to have a section of their own.
She visits area junior and senior high schools regularly to encourage students to read for pleasure. She says boys are more interested in nonfiction books, especially biographies.
Junior high boys like a science book called “Yuck” about body functions. Girls prefer books on “friendships, pop princesses, popularity and body issues,” Patton says.
During lunch on Wednesdays, Patton visits the Douglas County Juvenile Detention Center to read to detainees and distributes books donated by Friends of the Library.
“You can hear a pin drop when I read book excerpts,” she says. “The teens tell me reading helps them survive the tough times.”
Patton reopened her school books in 2003 and completed her bachelor’s degree from Baker University. She now is completing a Master of Science in Management at Baker and a master’s in library and information science (with a young adult specialty) through Florida State University.
“Returning to school’s been great,” Patton says. “My kids are older, and I’m smarter. I got another chance to complete my higher education and learn more about the developing and changing role of libraries while doing the job I love.”