Little Katrina Hohlfeld was caught again. Caught staying up late past her bedtime, that is.
“I was the kid that got in trouble for reading with a flashlight under the covers,” reminisced the head of teen services when discussing her inspiration to join the field.
She was probably devouring the pages of the next book in the “Nancy Drew” or “The Hardy Boys” series.
“We would read them as a family and, because there are so many of them and they’re so formulaic, you can really just go off on a tear,” Hohlfeld said. “I think I admired Nancy Drew because she was adventurous and she always knew how to get out of a tricky situation. That, and she was great at research!”
Now, 32, Hohlfeld serves at Valley Cottage Library, a place that she considers a second home.
The library was her longtime hangout spot from her youth, to the teen years and now, as an adult.
While attending Nyack High School, the Valley Cottage native started working at the library as a library page and later in the circulation department.
Just like any child, Hohlfeld was uncertain what she wanted to be growing up, but no one, including herself, was surprised when she decided to go to library school.
She explored various jobs from working at Piermont’s Sidewalk Bistro to freelancing and marketing, before finding her way back to the library as Head of Teen Services in 2019.
She has librarians to thank for that.
“I just knew some really amazing librarians growing up, and now I get to work with some of the same librarians that inspired me to work in this field,” she said.
What Hohlfeld loves most about Rockland County’s libraries is how they’re all so unique, yet all so familiar.
“I think here at Valley Cottage we really excel at providing a beautiful solace for a lot of things like anything from studying to concerts, so I think we have a comfortable space that people want to come to.”
“The library is based in the community and community support, and that’s something that I care about,” she said.
One of her favorite services that the library offers is the community closet where they lend gizmos ranging from everyday household items like cake pans and knitting needles, to the fun stuff, including board games and museum passes.
She also encourages patrons to take advantage of resources such as LinkedIn Learning and Mango Languages, a learning software that has a fee, but is freewith the use of a library card.
Hohlfeld’s main patron focus, however, is entertaining teens and providing opportunities for them to learn and grow.
Most recently she launched a haiku contest, where kids get to hone their writing skills by trying out the Japanese poetic form in honor of National Poetry Month.
“I love reading submissions that come in. I offer a gift card for the winner and you get to be featured on our Instagram,” she said. “I think it’s a fun way to get teens engaged in poetry and maybe they might discover that they like writing haikus, which is cool.”
What she loves most about working in the teen services section is that the teen years are an exciting and “wild stage of life.”
“There’s so much growth. You’re interested in so many different aspects of your own humanity and they deserve a safe space to figure it all out, especially for me,” she said. “I mean, this library specifically was really informative for me in my teen years and it made me feel like a valuable part of the community. You don’t get that from a lot of other places in your life as a teenager.”
Most recently, however, teens that identify with the LGBTQ+ community and communities of color are dealing with an additional obstacle of book bans that target their communities.
Although banning and challenging books are not something that one typically sees in Rockland County, it is apparent in near by school counties, including the banning of “Gender Queer: A Memoir” at Dutchess County’s John Jay High, which was also one of nine challenged books in the libraries of Westchester’s Yorktown High School and Mildred E. Strang Middle School.
“The freedom to read is crucial to democracy,” she said. “A lot of teens want to be heard.”
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