We Live Here Auténtico! | How Can I Help You? | Literacy, Service and a Librarian's Love Centers a City
The folks of Fairmont City, Illinois didn’t realize how much they needed a library until they’d gotten one. It took some convincing. Thank goodness for Katie Heaton! She knew a good librarian puts their ear down, listens and really pays attention to the needs of their patrons. “You can hear the heartbeat of the community and when you hear that heartbeat, you can figure out what the needs are”, Katie says. Her goal was always to meet the needs of the people she served, whatever that need may be, from literacy to resources to broader partnerships and community services.
Only 10 miles from St. Louis, Fairmont City is home for a small population of 2,381 with an average annual household income of around $50k according to 2020 census data. Why would this small town, with a poverty rate of 26.98% want to pay for something they’ve never had nor anticipated they’d really need? After all, when it came down to things of priority for this community, especially during the pandemic, a library did not top their list. Service providers and aid organizations reported food as first, then utility, rent, funeral assistance and mortgage assistance in that order. One bill that families consistently paid for, sometimes before they’d buy food was the phone bill. During COVID their smart-phones, tablets, computers, smart-TVs and streaming services were their connection to their jobs, teachers and medical providers.
Fairmont City probably couldn’t imagine life without their library now and Katie is still excited to rise to the challenge every day. Libraries are gateways to knowledge and culture. They play a fundamental role in society. They are a place for personal growth and reinvention as well as a place for help to navigate this world in the information age. Libraries are a gathering place for civic and cultural engagement and a trusted place for preserving culture. For Katie Heaton and her Fairmont City library patrons, it is so much more.
Need a boost to your ideas around positive community change and personal impact? This episode with Katie Heaton is a great place to start. Hear how a keen ear and concerned heart for helping people truly makes a difference.