Schlow’s Head of Children’s Services librarian shares favorite books, reading philosophies – The Daily Collegian Online

As a child reading Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women” for the first time, Anita Ditz cried so much over the death of Beth March that she fogged up her glasses and couldn’t see for hours.

Ditz’s “lifelong love” for literature hasn’t diminished over 34 years working as a Schlow Centre Region Library employee. But despite her passion for books, Ditz did not originally plan on becoming any sort of librarian.

“I fell into it,” she said. “Sheer dumb luck.”

Ditz — who was originally a biology major as an undergraduate — was going to use her love of helping people to be a physical therapist.

During her years at Clarion University, however, she ended up working in a library as a subsidy for her classes, and every class she took seemed to focus on children’s literature, or families, or how to work with children. Ditz later graduated from the Clarion University of Pennsylvania with a master’s degree in library science.

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Ditz began working for Schlow in 1983, and has seen the library shift from a former post office where the children’s entrance was similar to a “broom closet” and led to a space “something like a cave,” to a more open location with high ceilings and bright, soft lighting where children could explore and find new books.

As she prepares to leave, Ditz believes that her job is among the best.

“Being able to help people when they need it, to me is very satisfying,” she said, noting that the library profession is very customer-service oriented. “The connections with the kids and the books and the families is the best of all possible worlds.”

One of her other favorite activities is being with the children and watching the library’s monarch butterflies go through their cocoon and emergence stages.

Growing up hasn’t diminished Ditz’s love of children’s literature. Now, she counts the artistic designs of Maurice Sendak ’s “Where the Wild Things Are” and Mo Willems’s “Elephant and Piggie” among classic literary picks like Mark Twain’s “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and Ludwig Bemelman’s “Madeline.”

As she prepares to have more free time on her hands during retirement, Ditz plans to fill her time with interests outside the world of books.

“I love to travel,” Ditz said. “If anybody wants to travel, I am available to be a travel companion,” she joked.

Ditz also hopes to have more time to organize her home, work in her garden (a favorite pastime) and explore a newfound interest in watercolor painting and acrylics.

When it comes to reading, Ditz is a fan of fiction, particularly science fiction by Issac Asimov and Ray Bradbury .

“I love to read fiction,” Ditz said. “When somebody first reads about sharks, or about planets, or rocket ships or things like that, it broadens your life. It gives you so much more breadth and I certainly think reading — especially reading fiction — helps you develop empathy. Fiction gives you a chance to stimulate your imagination — all books do.”

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Empathy is important, Ditz said, because “if you have empathy for someone you’re not so prone to judge them, and if you aren’t judging people then you aren’t looking for the differences between you; in fact you’re finding the similarities, so I’m a very strong proponent of reading bringing us together instead of dividing us.”

As she finishes up her time as the head of the department, Ditz said she has done a little bit of everything during her 34 years, from purchasing print materials, working with audiovisual materials, running story times or helping to organize the summer reading program.”

One of the things that she hopes kids can take away from the library (and the summer reading program, of which I was a volunteer during the summers) is more than just an armful of books — it is the ability to be engaged with words.

“We try to encourage [kids] to find what they love, to find the books that make them engaged and page-turning and having to stay up late to finish that book,” Ditz said, “because I think once they reach that level of involvement you’ll find yourself eager to learn. And we’re trying to create lifelong learners.”

Ditz has some advice when it comes to those who want to follow in her footsteps.

“You should really care about kids and learning,” she said. “Books, because you can’t sell books, you can’t convey enthusiasm if you are not truly enthusiastic yourself, you have to be a reader. You have to enjoy helping people.”


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