I Am Collingswood: Dot Garabedian
Dot Garabedian has overseen the children's collection at Collingswood Public Library for more than 16 years, building a solid collection of reading materials for the next generation.
Dot Garabedian, youth services director at Collingswood Public Library, describes herself as a "cheerleader for reading and literacy." She credits Collingswood with making it easier to reach out to young readers by supporting the library and its activities.
Collingswood Patch: How long have you been with Collingswood library? What are your duties as youth services coordinator?
Dot Garabedian: I've been full-time in children's and youth services for 16 years. Before that, I was part-time, I did circulation.
My duties? Story times, ordering all the books and doing collection development. We're the cheerleaders for reading and literacy, that's our main goal.
Patch: What do you think of the popularity of electronic devices, such as the Kindle, among readers?
Garabedian: I've never used a Kindle. I know how to load one, but I've never read a book on one.
Patch: So you're a book person.
Garabedian: I'm an old person!
Patch: When would you say kids are typically ready to start reading?
Garabedian: It's really weird because the kids are starting to read in kindergarten now. Collingswood has full-day kindergarten and it really makes a difference.
Patch: How can we motivate kids who struggle with reading and reading comprehension?
Garabedian: Well, I know what I did with my own children. I would read a page and they would read a page; I'd kind of make it interactive. Choose subjects they like. Try graphic novels. Some people are really against them, but I think some kids need the pictures. I think graphic novels can be a good transition when you're going from picture books to more weighty books.
Patch: Tell me about the collection of graphic novels—comic books—at the library which you helped develop.
Garabedian: Teenagers really like them, but it's surprising how many adults like them too. The kids go for the manga [Japanese comics -ed.] and the adults tend to go for the super heroes. That's an over-generalization, maybe, but seems that's the trend.
It's interesting because we had to learn about them, and we got a grant and were really able to develop the collection. We even get to go to Comic Con. How cool is that? We go to New York. They have a lot of giveaways so we pick up a lot of comic books to give out on our Comic Book Day.
Patch: Comic Book Day? You mean you give out FREE COMIC BOOKS?
Garabedian: Yes! We're sponsored by Fat Jack's Comic Crypt. We've been doing that for about five years. It's the first Saturday in May.
Patch: What are you reading now?
Garabedian: It's called The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fford. It's science fiction; it's all about books.
Patch: What’s your favorite book and who is your favorite author?
Garabedian: I think you have favorite books at different times in your life. I can't say my favorite book in high school is still my favorite book. In high school it was Siddhartha by Hesse.
I also loved Balzac and the English writers, Dickens and all that. But I can't really say, I don't think I ever really have a favorite book.
Patch: Well then, what's your book of the moment?
Garabedian: Drop Dead Healthy by A.J. Jacobs. That was really a lot of fun to read. It's non-fiction. He takes two years and he tries to become the healthiest person by dieting and trying all these exercise regimes. He's laugh-out-loud funny. I highly recommend that book.
Patch: How would you say reading enhances people’s lives?
Garabedian: If you're a good reader, you can do anything. It opens up everything to you, whatever field you decide to go into. I think it's the most important thing that parents set the example. If the child sees them reading, I think that's really an incentive.
Patch: What’s the best part of your job?
Garabedian: What's interesting about this library and the community as well is that so many people help us.
We're supported by the commissioners; Dr. Oswald, the school superintendent, he puts our summer programs out there, he's so supportive. The kids from the middle school and high school, they volunteer at the Book Festival. The Friends of the Library, they support our summer programs. Anne Woodcock, a member of the Friends of the Library and a member of our board of trustees, she goes to the assemblies with us when we go out to the schools to tout the summer reading program.
We have backing from the [library] board of trustees. We even have the people who come and purchase books for us from the giving tree.
To me that's really great. Everybody is involved and so helpful to us. We don't do anything by ourselves.
Patch: Do you feel that Collingswood is a literary town? Is this a community of readers?
Garabedian: Well, I think the answer, “Book Festival” says it all!
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