OCEAN PARK — Jenny Grenfell certainly enjoyed being branch manager in Belfair, North Mason County. But the Timberland Regional Library job lacked one thing. Close proximity to the beach.
When Ocean Park branch manager, Iver Mathison, announced his retirement, Grenfell jumped at the opportunity to apply as his replacement. She’d once lived in Ocean Shores for four years, loved being on the coast and was “trying to find a way to get back out here,” she said last week, from her office. “I’ve had my eye on this branch for a while.”
She started at the Ocean Park branch just a few weeks ago and is already immersed in her work and the community. Her outgoing, bubbly, approachable personality has her easily fitting in no matter what the circumstances.
Just before the end of this school year, Grenfell teamed up with co-worker, Frances Makowski — another former teacher — and went to the local schools to talk to students about Timberland’s Summer Reading Program, “A Universe of Stories.”
Lots of plans in the works
Grenfell is planning lots of programs and activities, not for just summer, but year around and not just for kids, but also adults.
“This is a great community hub already and I just want to increase that over the winter. I’d like to see a bunch of different programs just to give folks stuff to do when it’s too blowy to go out to the beach,” Grenfell said. Yes, she knows the keys to coastal living.
One of her goals is to “heighten the relationship between the school and the library.”
She glanced in the direction of Ocean Park Elementary, which is basically across the street. She said the teachers can easily bring their students over to the library.
Stay safe at the library
Also, she’s examining new after school programs that could be implemented. And one thing she stressed is that kids need to know the library is a safe place. Young people can come there, whether it’s after school or other open times including Saturdays. The librarians will listen and offer any help they can. When kids are in their building, Grenfell said, “We can influence them and make a safe place for them. Maybe their home life isn’t so good. If things aren’t safe at home, come here.”
When she was in the public school system, Grenfell commented she was more or less obligated to talk to parents about a student’s problems. But at the library, “I can advocate for the child.” She won’t automatically take the parent’s side. “There’s things we can do to let the child know that we listen to them and take their safety seriously and ask how can we help?” She said that somebody has to take that kid’s side.
Teaching experience comes into play
Grenfell has taught in elementary schools, including kindergarten through eighth grade music. That, and her library experience combine to work in her favor. She said, “It’s an awesome combination, because I know from my teaching and various experiences how to work with kids, so it’s my specialty.” But it also works in her ability to help adults. She added, “Something I like best about this job is the ability to teach kids and adults the next step. How do you find what you’re looking for?”
After all her previous schooling (a bachelor’s degree in education and also a master’s of education, both from Western Washington University) she earned a master of library and information science degree from the University of Washington. She recalled, “When I was in library school, one of the professors described what is an ‘information gap.’ You’re going along in your life and all of the sudden, you need a piece of information, another book, a movie, you need something. That really struck a chord with me. I knew the library was the place that could help you bridge whatever that gap is. You can find that form, find that book, find that movie, learn how to do this skill that you want, make a resume, all these different things that we (as librarians) can help you with, so you can go on with your life. And that’s how I use the library for the bridge, for that gap. So, that’s teaching on a big scale. It helps me relate better to people.”
Washington is her home
Grenfell was raised in the south Seattle suburb of Burien. She left the state once for about two and a half years to live in Siskiyou County in California. But now, here on the Peninsula she is where she truly wants to be.
Welcome back to the beach, Jenny Grenfell.