By Naomi Klouda
The new librarian of the Homer Public Library moved into her role last week, delighted with the facilities and the way the community supports its busy library.
Ann Dixon, an author of some renown, comes to Homer from Willow where she worked 10 years as a public librarian and five years as school librarian at Willow Elementary School. She is the author of several children’s books: “The Sleeping Lady,” “Winter Is,” “Blueberry Shoes,” “Big Enough Anna,” “When Poesy Peeked at Christmas,” “Trick or Treat,” “Waiting for Noel,” “Big Enough Anna” and a non-fiction juvenile book, “Alone Across the Arctic,” that tells of Pam Flower’s solo journey.
As both a writer and a librarian, Dixon’s life literally is filled with books. “I am a writer and I am a librarian. Sometimes one takes precedence over the other, but they are both always there,” she said.
The move to Homer feels like a good fit, especially since after 30 years in Alaska, it puts her next a setting like the one she grew up in on Puget Sound.
“I saw the position advertised on list serve and I thought, ‘Oh, I should apply for that. It was mid-winter, and the more I thought about it, I realized I should do it,” Dixon said. The City of Homer hired her to replace Helen Hill, who retired in April.
Dixon was still settling into her role last week, one so filled with tasks that she wasn’t immediately able to get her own library card yet. She will be in charge of an annual budget of $730,578 this year, not including a $27,000 Rasmuson grant that will allow for new book and media purchases. The library has 10,075 registered borrowers, meaning a large proportion of the area population of 12,000 use the library. Last year, the traffic counted 125,441 attendees at the library.
“Sounds like the Homer library is very well-appreciated,” Dixon said. One of the best assets is the group, Friends of the Homer Library, which regularly volunteer to help put away books and other tasks to support staff. “Not every town has one that is this organized, and you have the Library Advisory Commission as well,” Dixon said. In her work for other libraries, she was called on to discuss budgetary issues, as she will here in Homer. Each year, the library and its expenses are analyzed for possible cuts, with some years council members proposing to eliminate the $20,000 new book budget, such as happened last year. In the end, the book budget wasn’t cut, but the process of possible staff layoffs and hours of operation cut still tends to ensue.
In her soft-spoken manner and a voice that stays at the low decibel level librarians tend to encourage in their patrons, Dixon talks about keeping all these duties in balance. Among her library duties for the Mat-Su Borough, occasional writing came as part of the job, such as a report she completed for the borough assessing the feasibility of providing outreach services.
“The Valley is so spread out that this was identified as a real need, to reach families who may not be using the library,” she said.
The report still hadn’t been implemented, but is there for future reference and use.
She also has freelanced magazine articles, most often about outdoor and environmental topics. She tells of a bookish childhood of reading and keeping journals, though when she went to college it was to earn a bachelor of arts in Swedish language and literature from the University of Washington, completing studies in Sweden. She also earned a master’s degree in library science. But books were always a lure, even while working in libraries.
“More than once, while shelving picture books at the campus library where I worked, I earned the evil eye from my supervisor. Once again, she’d caught me reading, rather than shelving, those books,” she writes of herself on her author website at www.anndixon.com.
Children found a happy coincidence at Willow Elementary when their school librarian also authored books they enjoyed reading. Dixon conducts story hour for preschoolers, a chance for Homer’s children to find that coincidence for themselves as well.
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