Veronica Manthei is one eclectic lady. Stop her the next time she reports for duty as a Library Technical Assistant at the North-East Branch, and you're likely to find her with a slew of books, audiobooks, and movies checked out to her account.
Some of them, quite likely, in Spanish.
"The rule in my house growing up was, 'You cross the threshold, you speak Spanish,'" Manthei says.
To give you an idea: When we visited with Manthei, she had 39 checkouts, including The Rum Diary on audiobook in her car, LL Cool J's Platinum Workout in her kitchen, a romance novel (ahem, Viking Heat) in her purse, The Discovery of Witches on playaway, a couple of indie movies on DVD, several graphic novels, and season two of Glee.
Her eclecticism doesn't end there.
Born in Boston to Argentine parents, she grew up in Florida. She then went to college first at George Washington University in D.C., where she studied political science and special education, then completed her schooling at the University of Texas at Austin, with a degree in biology.
Since then, she's lived in New York, New Jersey, and Iowa. In 2006, she and her husband, Gregory (who's of German-Czech descent), and their two children, Alexandra and Garion, moved to Kansas City.
"I've told my husband, 'We don't need a house, we need a covered wagon,'" Manthei says, and laughs.
In her four and a half years at North-East she's also diversified her duties. She's taken up the reins of children's programming at the branch and also conducts reading outreach programs that take her to the Foreign Language Academy, J.A. Rogers Elementary School, and Holy Cross Catholic School multiple times a month.
At each site, she reads for students in kindergarten through second grade, with an emphasis on bilingual books.
"I like engaging kids and knowing they're excited," Manthei says. "I hope it will inspire them to come into the Library to check out books and get excited about reading at school."
This past summer, Manthei brought her engagement skills to the Summer Reading Outreach program, in which she and a team of part-time staffers under Outreach Manager Carrie McDonald conducted reading programs at 20 non-Library sites. Thanks to the efforts of Manthei and her co-workers, 2,700 kids signed up for Summer Reading through the Outreach program.
When she's not conducting reading programs for kids, Manthei is needed at the front desk, where she assists Spanish-speaking customers on a daily basis. Many of them come in for help with job applications, legal paperwork, and the like.
"I feel valuable when I can help someone understand something he or she wouldn't have if I couldn't speak Spanish," she says.
Muy bien, Veronica.