Gale is one of the newest staff members at Friends. Whether she’s writing birthday cards, shooting you an email, waving across the Pen Pals lobby, or picking up the phone to say thank you, Gale has had the pleasure of getting to know many members of the Friends community since she started in December.
A reader, a mother, an educator, Gale grew up in Trinidad, where she only knew of two libraries, both quite a commute away. “We didn’t have access to books. I was fortunate that I had family members who constantly gave me books for my birthday. The library isn’t something that one should take for granted because there are many communities that don’t have one,” she shared.
One of the earliest books she received in those days was a copy of Heidi, by Johanna Spyri. She recounts how reading Heidi transported her to the Swiss Alps, to that thick cheese that the grandfather would serve to Heidi. “I too could escape and imagine, feel, sense and even smell what was going on,” she shares.
"My favorite part of my work is when people share with me why they love the library, why the library is a must-have in their life, or their community. I’ve heard so many wonderful stories about how it makes life better."
When Gale moved to Minnesota with her husband and two-year-old in 1991, the library was a place to connect with others, read to their imaginative child, and learn about their new surroundings.
Gale found refuge at the Southdale Library with quiet, after-dinner reading. During the summer, the family made an adventure of visiting other Hennepin County libraries (her kids especially loved to say hello to the dragon statue at Brookdale Library). She signed up her son, Josh, for book clubs. If he complained, she recalls with a smirk, she would sign him up for more. Her children all eventually took to reading, befriended the Children’s Librarian, and frequent the library today.
Everywhere she travels, whether to a big city or small town, a visit to the local library is always on the itinerary. She enjoys seeing the ways they vary in different parts of the country. Her enthusiasm is fueled by hearing the stories of Friends members: “My favorite part of my work is when people share with me why they love the library, why the library is a must-have in their life and their community. I’ve heard so many wonderful stories about how it makes life better,” she says.
Some folks tell Gale how the library was there for them during the very difficult, isolating years of the pandemic. Some share how they believe the freedom of thought and ideas is something to be protected. Other tell her how they love that the library is inclusive and one of the few places in the community that is safe for everyone.
"People who love the library are a wonderful group of people. In talking with people who donate, you find there is that commonality there. They believe the library is a unique space, and our world would not be the same without it."
“I too think the library is a joy and a safe place. We have that in common,” says Gale.
For decades, she has acted upon these beliefs. In her career as a community mentor in education and nonprofits, Gale advocated for libraries with the families she served. She invited the library staff to present at community events. She researched literacy and acquainted immigrants with the library as a safe and engaging place for the entire family.
Here at Friends, she’s found she’s in good company. “People who love the library are a wonderful group of people. In talking with people who donate, you find there is that commonality there. They believe the library is a unique space, and our world would not be the same without it. They want to maintain that. They want to add something to that effort. It’s a treasure.”
When Gale steps into her work each day, reviewing the generous gifts and support of Friends members, she feels a sacredness in the practice. “Each time we get a gift, it’s not taken for granted. It is as it sounds, a gift. It’s something we appreciate and have gratitude for. It’s not just a number coming in. It’s someone giving their hard-earned money. This is special to us, and they are special to us.” It’s important for each individual to hear that they are a part of the Friends community, she believes.
The next time you answer the phone, know that a listening ear and a book-loving heart could be on the other end of the line. You may just be hearing from Gale, a fellow library friend.