Susie Heimbach (MSLS ‘03) is a children’s librarian at the Mulberry Street branch of the New York Public Library. She is responsible for children’s programming, children’s reference and reader’s advisory and maintenance of the Children’s Room collection.
Heimbach is responsible for some creative programs at the Mulberry Street branch and is happy with her position there.
“I love programming for children—it’s one my favorite things about my job,” said Heimbach. “At my library, we have the greatest success with programs geared toward a younger audience, so I do weekly Book Babies and Toddler Time programs. These programs consist of simple stories, songs and rhymes, and the occasional puppet or flannel board story, plus I start and end every session with bubbles (always a crowd favorite). It’s a rollicking good time for everyone.”
“One of my newest programs that I’m very excited about is called “Kids Can Cook.” Every month, we create a seasonal treat that the kids assemble and eat. We made creepy cupcakes in October, Rice Krispies turkeys in November and graham cracker gingerbread houses in December. It’s great fun watching the kids create their own culinary masterpieces and of course they love getting to eat them at the end.”
Another series Heimbach enjoyed was called the Curiosity Club. It is a monthly science-themed storytime for preschoolers. For example, one time stories are read about food, and then they measured their small intestines (they’re about three and half times your height) and did an experiment with lemon juice that mimicked what digestive fluids do in your stomach. Another time they read stories about teeth, and then did an experiment where they dipped eggs in a variety of liquids to see if they would stain. Another time they read stories about being sick. Heimbach conducted an experiment where she put glitter on her hands and then shook all the children’s hands so they could see how germs spread.
“Another popular program we offer at my branch is called R.E.A.D. with Mudge, in which children read one-on-one with a therapy dog and certified handler,” said Heimbach. “ R.E.A.D. stands for Reading Education Assistance Dog and Mudge refers to the popular Henry and Mudge books by Cynthia Rylant. Kids clamor to cozy up with our loveable therapy dog, Theo, a shepherd mix and his dynamic trainer, Kimberly. It’s a treat to see a child reading confidently while Theo listens intently with his paw resting on the page of a book.”
“I feel very lucky to work for the New York Public Library,” said Heimbach when asked about her experiences at the NYPL. “One of the many perks of working at such a well-respected institution in such an amazing city is having the opportunity to meet children’s authors and illustrators in person. I’ve seen Lois Lowry, Uri Shulevitz, Laura Vaccaro Seeger, Jennifer Holm, Emily Jenkins, Brian Selznick and many others at different NYPL events. At my branch, we’ve hosted author/illustrator visits with the likes of Mary Ann Hoberman (her grandchildren use the branch), Elisha Cooper, Brian Floca, and Sophie Blackall. I often wonder how many of our patrons quietly working on laptops are writers or artists!
“At my branch in particular, I really appreciate the diversity of the community that we serve,” she added. “We’re located in SoHo, down the street from Little Italy, and next door to Chinatown, so we see folks from all over the world and from all walks of life. I love getting to know the children that visit our branch frequently. I pride myself on the range of services we’re able to offer, from excellent books to computers for homework and games to programs for all ages. We opened in 2007, so there are children I’ve watched grow from babies to toddlers to preschoolers, which is pretty special indeed.”
What many people don’t realize is that the library building where Heimbach works used to be a chocolate factory, operated by Hawley and Hoopes, at the turn of the twentieth century. The adult reading room was once the boiler room and in the Children’s Room, there’s a mysterious sealed vault that must’ve served some factory purpose. Heimbach says that each Halloween she toys with the idea of sticking some feet or hair out the sides!
Another bit of information not known by all is that the real Winnie-the-Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga and Tigger live at the Children’s Center in the famous Schwarzman Building on 42nd Street? The library recently hosted a 92nd birthday party for Pooh, with stories, games and activities for kids of all ages.
Heimbach says that her most valuable classes at SILS were with Dr. Brian Sturm—“Children’s Literature,” “Young Adult Literature,” “Services to Children and Youth” and “Children and Technology.” She noted that these classes in particular exposed her to a variety of great books for children and teens and got her thinking about current issues in the field of children’s librarianship. She said she also learned a lot in “Popular Materials” with Dr. Barbara Moran and in “Collection Development” with Dr. David Carr. She mentions that both these classes helped her to explore and think more deeply about different genres of literature, reader’s advisory service and developing collections that are meaningful to their users.
“My field experience at the Chapel Hill Public Library was also invaluable,” said Heimbach. “I worked with the incomparable Karin Michel, who was both a role model and a mentor. It was here that I created my first reader’s advisory list (it was a list of recommended nonfiction books for school age children), did my first storytime, answered questions at an information desk, learned about shelf reading and weeding and experienced firsthand what it’s like to work in a busy, bustling Children’s Room.”
“I have such fond memories of my time at SILS,” she says. “It’s wonderful to feel a part of that community in so many ways still. I keep in touch with many of my library school pals, and I love hearing about where librarianship has taken them. A group of friends from my class has just started doing an annual beach trip to South Carolina with our husbands and children, and let me tell you what a pleasure it is to plan a vacation with three very organized librarians! I feel fortunate that SILS helped lead me not only to a rewarding career, but also to good friends.”