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Turning the Page: Meet Your New La Mesa Librarian, Heather Pisani-Kristl

Pisani-Kristl replaced Ruth Ketchum, who was a temporary successor to Liz Hildreth. Hildreth retired in March 2011 after serving since 2005.

If you've ventured into the La Mesa Branch library in recent months, you may have seen a new face greeting you. It is that of Heather Pisani-Kristl, who took over as head librarian in November.

Pisani-Kristl replaced Ruth Ketchum, who was a temporary successor to Liz Hildreth. Hildreth retired in March of 2011 after serving in the position since 2005.

La Mesa-Mount Helix Patch conducted an email interview with Pisani-Kristl, as a way for you to meet the newest librarian in the city.

Patch: When did you begin as librarian in La Mesa? 

Heather Pisani-Kristl: I began on November 2.

Patch: Where were you working before La Mesa? 

Pisani-Kristl: I was the Collection Development Manager for the San Diego County Library system, responsible for the book and media budgets for our 35-branch system and the titles that SDCL librarians select for our customers.  Having an inside track on publishing is catnip for a reader like myself, but I missed working directly with customers, and La Mesa is a great opportunity to do so.

Patch: How long have you been a librarian? Where have you worked previously? 

Pisani-Kristl: I’ve been a professional librarian since 1998, and have worked for public libraries in Framingham, Massachusetts; Norfolk, Massachusetts; and the Casa de Oro Branch at San Diego County Library.  Like many of the staff at San Diego County Library, I’ve also been a paraprofessional library staffer and gained experience in academic and law libraries while attending library school.  However, I like public libraries best, because the customers are most interesting.

Patch: What is your favorite thing about being a librarian? 

Pisani-Kristl: Every day is different and public librarianship taps so many skill areas – recommending books, teaching computer and ebook skills, helping kids develop a “library habit” – that there’s no opportunity to be bored.  We get to know our customers and see their personal and professional growth.

Patch: What do you like the most about working at the La Mesa branch so far? The least? 

Pisani-Kristl: I love the broad variety of customers in La Mesa, and the fact that they are great readers and movie buffs. They have so much enthusiasm for the items and services that the library offers. Also, the Friends of the La Mesa Library is one of the most supportive Friends groups in the County Library system – they want to make sure the library’s customers have access to a full menu of events, books, and movies.

Our library’s biggest challenge, though, is meeting our customers’ needs in 10,000 square-feet.  Last year, La Mesa was the busiest branch at SDCL, checking out 858,000 items to customers and hosting 360,000 visitors.  We are constantly trying to think of new ways to provide space for the books, studying, and computing that our customers need.

Patch: What would you like to do at the library that isn't happening already?  

Pisani-Kristl: I would like to see the library become more of a place for community-building and dialogue across demographic groups. That might take the form of a discussion group tackling the big philosophical and political questions of our day, or a documentary series where viewers share their insights after viewing films.

Patch: Anything else you would like to add? 

Pisani-Kristl: In addition to our youth storytimes and adult book discussion groups, La Mesa offers several unique services for customers, including Google Chromebooks (netbooks) that can be used in the library, and a Text-A-Librarian service (619-928-2251) for reference questions. Whether you have a lot of time to spend at the library, or very little, we are there for you.

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