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Jill Veerkamp is a jack of all trades at the St. Charles Library

Jill Veerkamp became the head librarian at the St. Charles Public Library in December, after over five years as the editor of the St. Charles Press.

Jill Veerkamp
Jill Veerkamp poses for a portrait inside the St. Charles Library in St. Charles on Wednesday, August 3, 2022.
Tucker Allen Covey / Post Bulletin
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ST. CHARLES, Minn. — Jill Veerkamp has always been connected in some way to the St. Charles Public Library. When she was a kid, she frequently visited the library. Since December, after more than five years as the editor of the St. Charles Press, Veerkamp has served as the head librarian at the public library.

Veerkamp sat down with the Post Bulletin and detailed her career change, what she does as head librarian and her plans for the library.

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Were you born and raised in St. Charles?

Yep. I graduated in 2000. We actually moved to town in elementary school. We first moved to an apartment on Whitewater Avenue, just across the parking lot. It was summer, and I didn't know anybody. So the first thing I do, or one of the first things I did, was come over to the public library here. And so I've been coming here ever since.

How long have you been working at the library?

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Since the end of December of 2020. Like December 28.

And you were a news editor before that. How long were you in journalism?

Just the five and a half years I was at the St. Charles Press.

What was the draw there?

I was looking for a position that was available in my local community. I've lived in big cities, and outside of Minnesota, and I just wanted to come back home. I was already working part-time in town here, but it was a nice full-time position. But I really enjoyed getting to know my community even more, and meeting all the people as the editor at the St. Charles Press, then later was St. Charles Press and the Lewiston Journal. Just being able to serve my local community as their public voice.

Why did you end up switching careers?

Well, this is actually the career that I went to school for. I went to graduate school at Kent State University. I got my master's in library and information science, and worked in the Columbus, Ohio, library system for a while. I came back here actually, through my master's program. You have an option of doing something like a thesis or, there's one other thing I can't remember, but then also a practicum. So I actually came back here to do my practicum experience. So I spent about a month and a half working closely with the former librarian here, Sharon Grossardt. She was here since, like, 1980 or ‘81, I can't remember for sure. So she's been here forever. It was a phenomenal experience to learn from her. I graduated, and then decided I really wanted to move back home.

What's everything that goes into being the head librarian?

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There's a lot, especially compared to smaller libraries – you have more of a jack of all trades type of thing, just because we don't have massive staff like Rochester. I'm assuming they can specialize a bit more. But it's everything from planning the programs to ordering the materials, to maintaining the collection, to being at the circulation desk. Probably forgetting a lot of different things … asking for funding from various organizations, applying for grant funding. Storytime.

What do you love most about working at the library?

Just being able to serve my community once again, in this new role. Planning programs is excellent. Basically, I think, ‘Oh, I want to learn more about this topic. Let's get a person to talk about it.’ And then everybody can come and do it. Last night (for Night to Unite) we had a superb salsa band from the Twin Cities come and play for a couple hours. We invited local law enforcement, so we had the Winona County Sheriff's Office doing canine demonstrations. We had the St. Charles Police doing their own thing, like they had a driving simulator here last night. The fire department was here with their truck. Same with the ambulance. So yeah, just just finding different ways to engage the community is just great, either in big ways, like National Night Out, or just in small ways, like providing a place for people to come after school to make use of the WiFi, do their homework or this room is often rented out for meetings, or for people needing to use their use of room for a presentation, or take tests, that type of thing.

On the events and programs topic, it seems there's always something happening here. Why is it important to you to bring the community here?

As there's so many different demands in people's lives, the library can no longer just sit here and expect people to come. We have to be out there in the community to promote our services and say, ‘Hey, we have a hot spot to check out, you might want to try that.’ Or, ‘Hey, we have DVDs, you don't need to buy that most recent movie, we actually have it here. And you can check out and it's all free.’ We go beyond just checking out books. We provide spaces, we have board games – kids are over there actually today doing Jenga. We have a place for kids to come in and be safe, so they get out of the heat, or, in the winter, get out of the cold.

Are there any big plans that you kind of have coming up? What do you want the next five years of the library to look like?

I think it's just to keep going as we have been going. Just promoting us as a community spot for people to come and enjoy our programs, enjoy the free resources. We created this lounge area – it was not here a year ago. So that's a nice place for people coming down and reading the newspaper or the magazines. We also carved up a few other spaces for people to either do homework, hang out on their laptops, that type of stuff. So yeah, just continue to promote ourselves as a vital aspect of the community.

Asked & Answered is a weekly question-and-answer column featuring people of southeastern Minnesota. Is there somebody you'd like to see featured? Send suggestions to news@postbulletin.com .

Abby Sharpe joined the Post Bulletin in February 2022 after graduating from Arizona State University with a sports journalism degree. While at ASU, she created short- and long-form stories for audio and digital. Readers can reach Abby at 507-285-7723 or asharpe@postbulletin.com.
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