Linda Uhler, the Lake Community Branch Manager, is not one to stay in her office. Her favorite part of the job is interacting with people of all ages. Today, she finger-walks her dark-haired Lego man over to three-year-old Opal’s fruit stand on a table in the sunny children’s section.
“How much for an apple?”
“600 dah-wahs,” says Opal. A tough negotiator in a pink princess shirt, she rattles off the price calmly, never breaking eye contact.
“I’ll just take one,” says Linda, smiling. After a pause, she gives Opal a serious look “But I do have 300 children, so can I have them all?”
“Sure!!!” says Opal, nodding happily, her small half-ponytail bobbing up and down on top of her head.
Opal’s mom, Angela, smiles, looking up from her book in an armchair nearby. The two come here at least once a week, surrounded by some of the “friendliest, most helpful people” Angela knows.
“The teamwork here is genuine,” says Linda, “Staff will jump in from all corners of the Library with suggestions if a patron is trying to remember the name of a movie or book. No one ever needs a nudge. We really like what we do - and we love being a core part of the community.
The Library is convenient to the daily comings and goings for many people, located on the same campus as the YMCA, a healthcare facility, and Lake Local Schools.
It became very apparent how central the Library is to the community when it was closed for renovations during the Re|Imagine Project. Eighth grader Lucy Kozy was one of many counting the days until she could return. She loves talking and doing homework with friends here after school, as well as browsing fantasy and graphic novels.
“When it was closed, I would hang out at school, waiting for my ride. There was no one right there for me if I had a problem or question. It’s fun here. I know all the staff and I feel safe.”
That safe feeling also makes it easier to try something new. Retired nurse Susan Ritman is giving a basic computer class a go to “get smarter than my grandkids.” She likes having “super organized” librarian Beth Bouchard teaching.
“We missed you,” says Beth.
Susan smiles. Her absence was clearly felt while she was away, recovering from a car accident. This is a place where staff and patrons are on a first-name basis, and a regular like Susan can’t be gone for long without people noticing and caring.
Visit Lake and see if you don’t feel the warmth of this community hub yourself. Just don’t expect the friendliness to extend to wiggle room on the price of toy apples, at least not if Opal’s minding the store!