Q&A with Betsy Hull, head librarian at Okemos Library in Meridian Township

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The Okemos Public Library is starting to rebuild its virtual and in-person programs, said Betsy Hull, the head librarian for the past 12 years.

“We have people coming in to use the Wi-Fi, we have people coming in to use the public computers, so in terms of the business we’re doing, it’s been a lot more normal,” said Hull. “I’m just looking for more people.”

Over the course of the past two years, Hull has noticed a sharp decline in the number of people visiting the library. She attributes the lack of people to the rise and fall of COVID-19 cases that have had an unsteady ebb and flow.

Hull said, “There really is no typical work day, but we’re getting back to a more stable pattern.”

Along with the public use of equipment, Okemos Library has four different story times a week for different age groups. Hull said, “These story times are more than just for fun, they’re a foundation for literacy.” It doesn’t stop there, though, as Hull mentions they have classes for citizenship certification to welcome in the large demographic of international people in the area. On the website for Okemos Library, various programs can be found for people to take.

 Hull reiterates that there is something for everyone at this library. The library has Adobe software on the computers, charging ports, computer accessories and even a micro food pantry for residents in need.

Residents in the area can also get in touch with the library on all social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

At the Okemos Library, Betsy Hull’s main goal is to make the area a good environment for all who come in. “I want everyone to know that this library is a safe place,” Hull said, “we’re going to do everything we can to make people feel welcome in this library, because that’s what’s important.”

Hull said libraries aren’t like they used to be. “Libraries are still a vibrant place,” Hull said, “because people are looking for a community space that’s safe to be in, more so than ever. You can find that here at the library.”

Spartan Newsroom Reporter Aubrey Rademacher spoke with Head Librarian, Betsy Hull, about the Okemos Library and how COVID-19 is impacting their job.


Betsy Hull:

“Well, there really is no typical work day, especially these last two years. But we’re getting back to a more stable pattern, which is good. We do a full range of programs for both children and adults, we’ve been able to nurture that along. We’re in a pattern of rebuild, we’ve gotten back to in-person programs, we still have virtual programs, we have hybrid programs. We have people coming in to use the Wi-FI, we have people coming in to use the public computers. So, in terms of the business we’re doing, that’s back to a pattern. I’m just looking for more people. We’re not as busy as we were two years ago.

Aubrey: “Okay-“

Betsy Hull:

“But, we’ll get there, we’ll get there. We have four story times,” 

*Holds up a 4 with her hands* 

“How’s that, this many stories a week. Three of four preschools and toddlers, and there’s a baby one. The story times are more than just getting kids to sit and enjoy stories. 

They are a precursor and a foundation for literacy, teaching them to listen, teaching them to look, teaching them to form word patterns, you know, literacy practice. Here in Okemos, we have ESL classes for children and adults. We do citizenship classes because we have a very large international community in Okemos. We have citizenship programs, we have book groups, so, you gotta have something for everybody, every day. 

The building itself is owned by Meridian Township, and Meridian Township has a mask mandate. Right now I’m in my office, and I’m talking to you, but once I open my door, my mask goes on, when I go out into the public, the mask goes on, the public is required to wear masks while they’re here. I just want people to know that when they come to this library, they’re in a safe environment. Our staff is going to take care of them, we’re doing everything we can do to protect our own health and protect their health. 

If they don’t feel confident coming in, they can still call us up or go online, and we have curbside service so they don’t have to come into the building if they don’t want that, for take-out, so to say. But I want them to know that we’re looking out for them. We’re gonna do everything we can to make them feel safe and welcome and comfortable coming into this library. That’s what’s important. We are still offering many virtual programs and hybrid programs. Go to the website, go to our Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram, whatever platform you’re on, and look at what you can get involved with through those mediums, if you don’t want to make the time to come in for whatever reason. Libraries are still a vibrant place and people are looking for — whatever town they’re living in, big town, little town — they’re looking for a community space that’s safe to be at. That’s what people are looking for, you know, more so than ever. They’re looking for a place of community and they can find it here at the library!”

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