By T. Q. Jones
Patrons of the Will Hampton Branch of the Austin Public Library have a new librarian in Frank Schmitzer, a 25-year-plus veteran of the Austin Public Library system and the new librarian at the Oak Hill Branch.
A native of the Los Angeles area, who got his Library degree from the University of Denver after getting his bachelor’s in history and philosophy from the University of New Mexico. Schmitzer had first attended Bowdoin College in Maine.
“Coming from the L. A. area in the 1960s, I found it hard to be comfortable in a stuffy little New England college,” he smiled, “but it was my first library job.” After graduation from Denver, Schmitzer initially ran the fine arts library at UNM, then worked for three years for a book dealer in Wiesbaden, Germany.
Back in New Mexico, he worked for the Albuquerque Public Library before moving to Austin in 1981 to work as a reference librarian at the University Hills branch. As Schmitzer moved to the Oak Hill Branch, Irma Flores-Manges—until now the only librarian the Oak Hill branch had ever known—moved to the Cepeda branch to work with the outreach programs, something she had done in the past.
Long-time patrons of the Oak Hill library would like to see major changes to the building and grounds, Schmitzer said, particularly repairs to the present building as well as an expansion of it. But the reality is there won’t be major bond money for such changes until at least the next bond cycle, about five years from now. That, however, doesn’t mean there won’t be some changes and upgrades to the Oak Hill library if the developing bond program set for November succeeds.
In addition, Schmitzer says there have already been some internal changes to improve the flow of work through the facility and other changes that have made it easier and faster to get returned books back on the shelves or back to their home libraries.
“The thing that takes the most time for us is simply getting the books back where they belong, to the branch we may have borrowed them from, or back on the shelves here.” With a dedicated staff and a “great bunch of volunteers,” that normally goes well, though Schmitzer, like heads of other organizations who use volunteers, could always use more.
“Retired people make great volunteers and many of them are looking for something to do,” he points out.
Some of the Oak Hill branch physical problems will need to be addressed soon, Schmitzer explained, including repairing worn exterior panels and obtaining new furniture and equipment. There is also a Xeriscape project that will include reclaiming the site’s failed water quality ponds.
Another thing that tends to make the operation of the library “manpower intensive” is book donations, as these have to be sorted and then sent where they are needed. Some might go into the shelves, others sold during the Oak Hill book sales, which Schmitzer plans to have every Saturday, weather permitting.
“Last week we took in over a thousand dollars from the Saturday book sale,” he said, “and, while we may not be able to do that regularly, we would like to increase the amount.” Unlike money that comes in from, say, fines, which go to the city’s general fund, the branches keep the money from things like book sales for their own use. “We also have great support from the community, both in things like volunteer help and also in donations. This week, Frost Bank donated $2,500. The patrons here really like their library.”
Donated books, by the way, can end up in several places. Many are sold at the branch, and some for more than you would expect. Schmitzer displayed a reasonably old “first edition” that had been donated and is worth over six hundred dollars. Other books may go to “Recycled Reads,” the Austin Public Library’s main bookstore out on Burnet Road.
Of course, with summer coming on, summer reading programs at the Will Hampton Branch are starting up for both children and adults. In addition to a year ’round book club, the library also offers “Steeped in Books,” which meets at the library every Tuesday at 2:00 pm.
For citizens who would like more information and a chance to offer feedback on the developing bond program, the city has supplied the following link: http://www.austintexas.gov/online-form/bond-development-survey.
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