Jolene Bradley thought she'd become a veterinarian after graduating from college with her bachelor's degree in biology.
But after serving two years in Malawi with the Peace Corps, Bradley discovered the power of books - and it changed her life.
Bradley started her new job as manager of the Brainerd Public Library on Oct. 18. She previously worked for several years within the Northwest Regional Library System, including as branch manager of the library in her hometown of Red Lake Falls. She most recently served as manager of public services for the library system before she was hired in Brainerd. She earned her master's degree in library and information science through the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.
Bradley and her husband, Jason, a schoolteacher, have a son, Connor, who will turn 1 on Dec. 3. The Bradleys met - where else? - at the library. They've been married for the past three years.
Jolene Bradley, the new Brainerd Public Library manager, said she has a few changes in store for patrons at the library.
Brainerd Dispatch/Kelly Humphrey
She has a few changes in store for patrons of the Brainerd library. The library is in the process of hiring a youth librarian, who will likely be on board by the start of the new year. Bradley said the hope is that there will be new and improved programming for young children to teens.
"I want to make sure we reach out to those young readers," said Bradley. "So we'll have a bright new year ahead of us."
Bradley said she and library staff are attempting to make the library a more dynamic place to be. Soon the entire wall across from the checkout counter will be filled with shelves of the library's newest books, to make it easier for patrons to see what books the library just got in.
"It's one of my favorite parts of my job, to see the new books come in," said Bradley. "It's like Christmas."
Bradley said the library will soon have a suggestion box out front for people to leave ideas for changes at the library. She hopes library visitors will take time to offer suggestions for improvements.
"Like at a business, you want to see something new," Bradley explained. "I think we can make the overall atmosphere glow and shine a bit more. I really need to get to know what the community wants first."
Bradley said she will look into getting grants in order to digitize the library's microfilm records, as well as its city directories and decades of high school yearbooks, which she said are starting to crumble.
"We need to make sure they're preserved for the future," she explained.
She said the library next year may be offering online subscriptions to audio e-books, which would allow patrons to "check out" an audio book online that would be downloaded to their computer. After three weeks, the books wouldn't be available anymore on the patron's computer, a way that the e-books would be digitally returned and available to be checked out again.
Bradley received her bachelor's degree at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks and then decided she wanted to travel and see the world. She spent two years serving in the Peace Corps. She was sent to a school in Malawi where she worked as the school librarian and science teacher. Most classes in the school had over 100 students per class, though she usually had about 60 students in her science courses.
As the school librarian, she discovered the power of books. She spent a lot of time getting grants and donations to build up the library. While she was there, she was able to create the school's first fiction section. She was proud of herself when she would find children sitting outside, reading fictional books for fun, for the first time.
"To them, a book was a very big deal," said Bradley. "They could never afford it."
When she returned home, she spent two years as an AmeriCorps Vista volunteer leader in North Dakota.
While Bradley loves to read, lately she's been consumed with reading books on raising 1-year-olds and board books to her young son. She said she reads a lot of book reviews, to see what types of books the library should order, but joked that she never knows how the book ends because the reviews don't have spoilers. She enjoys reading books by many authors, including Barbara Kingsolver, but she said it's hard to pick a favorite author or book.
"How do you pick your favorite," Bradley asked with a smile. "It's like, how do you pick your favorite child? They all bring a different aspect to your life. It's hard to experience it any other way."
JODIE TWEED may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5858.
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