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‘Gadget lover’ accepts coordinator role at Eola Road Branch


Heather Sturm took her children on a tour of the Eola Road Branch Library before she accepted the position of Branch Coordinator there.

Her daughter, Annabel, 5, liked all the stuffed animals in the Children’s Department. And Otto, 9, wanted to make sure there was a good graphic novels section. (There was.)

They both liked that there was a playground outside.

My son said, “Take it, Mom!” Sturm said.

She took it. (Former Eola Road Branch Coordinator Debra Stombres is now the director of Morton Grove Public Library.)

The Sturm family recently moved to the area from Michigan, where Sturm was the director of Manchester District Library, about 30 minutes southwest of Ann Arbor.

“I was there nine years,” Sturm said. “I had a very good board and staff.”

Sturm grew up in Salina, Kansas. Her mom, a nurse, had always liked to read, and she wanted her children – Heather and her younger brother Matthew – to cultivate a love of reading.

Sturm’s parents divorced when she was 11. “We were big library users after my dad left,” she said. “Money was tight, and so we spent a lot of time at the library. That was our entertainment.”

Sturm remembers her delight in earning an “adult library card” at the age of 12. A teacher remarked that she and her brother “must have golden footsteps on the way to the library” because they were there so often.

Although the reading bug had bit Sturm, the idea to become a librarian never crossed her mind.

After high school she chose to attend Drake University in Des Moines “because they had a really good financial aid package,” she said with a smile, “and because I liked the size of the campus and the fact that they were a teaching college and a small private university.”

Her undergraduate degree was in international relations. The major appealed to her because of all of the components that went into obtaining the degree, including studying European languages, history and business.

She didn’t know it at the time, but it was “a really good background for library science,” she said.

She and husband Jon met while they were in school and married after graduation.

Because of her college background and the interest she had in journalism, she said, she “fell into marketing support jobs” after earning her degree. “I took jobs that I could find for awhile, but once we settled in Wisconsin, I decided to find a career I could specialize in,” she said.

Sturm went to a workshop at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where a mini-course in picking career paths was offered. She took the Strong Interest Inventory (SII) career assessment test, and the career that came back at the top of her list was librarian.

“And I thought, ‘Of course, there is always someone who has to run the library,’” Sturm said.

She enrolled in the program for a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science at Madison.

Upon graduation, her first position was reference librarian in the Adult Services Department at Matheson Memorial Library in Elkhorn. She was there three years before a job change for her husband took them to Michigan.

Her position as library director of Manchester District Library came next.

The change was a bit of a challenge because Wisconsin public libraries are run differently from those in Michigan, she said.  (Wisconsin libraries are all city libraries, and the Manchester Library is a district library.)

“There was a lot to learn, but I had fun figuring it all out,” Sturm said. “Manchester is a rural community. There were a lot of farms, a lot of skilled craftspeople, and lots of artists working in the area. Some of our patrons commuted to Dearborn or Detroit.”

Sturm said she worked with some employees in Manchester who have been library staff members for decades.

“Once you get hooked into a library, you love it and stay forever,” she said. “A lot of it is that you get to know your patrons and it is fun to go to work.”

Sturm also liked offering programs that library patrons would enjoy, like knitting and book discussion groups.

“I did a lot of health-related programming, including programs on veganism and preparing healthy foods like fruit leather,” she said.

Sturm likes to knit and sew, and she and her family enjoy camping. Both children are in Scouting programs.

One thing that Sturm will always have within reach, she said, is some gadget or another.

“I warned my staff that I live by my gadgets,” she said. “They will often see me with my smart phone or tablet.”

Sturm said her own children have amazed her with their technological savvy. It’s something she will think about when pondering what her patrons at the Eola Road Branch might want.

“I think it will be fun to figure out who our library users are and what kind of technology they are using right now,” she said. “Then I would like to think about what is coming down the line and how we can introduce that new technology to our patrons.”

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