Know Your Librarians: Amy Morris, Westport

Amy Morris still remembers her first librarian. Growing up in Raytown, she rode her bike to the neighborhood branch of the Mid-Continent Public Library. There, she was greeted by Jean (Morris doesn't remember her last name), a librarian who broke the typical stereotype.

"She was loud and boisterous and had tons of makeup and crazy jewelry," Morris remembers. "She introduced me to lots of authors, taught me how libraries work with the Dewey Decimal System, and made me more excited about reading and libraries than I already was."

It would seem that such a monumental introduction to the value of libraries early in life would send a book-obsessed young person on the road to library school. Though that wasn't the case, Morris' path to the Westport Branch never strayed far from her love of reading and writing.

After completing her undergrad in business, Morris worked as a benefits administrator for MetLife before finding her way into teaching reading at an elementary school in Raytown. Then, she returned to school, studying English and creative writing at Avila University.

After a dispiriting stint as a writer for a direct marketing company, Morris found her way to the Kansas City Public Library's Westport Branch, where she's been happily working the service desk and running children's and adult programming (among many other tasks) for the past five years.

"It seems like I've spent half of my life in libraries. They've always been a passion of mine," she says.

Morris brings that passion to her work at the desk as well as to her programming. She recently took over planning and conducting all children's programs at the Westport Branch, including the weekly Story Time for Twos and Preschool Story Time, which regularly draws 40-80 children from nearby day care centers each week.

Morris has also had success with her Second Friday Movies series, which usually attracts around 20 people, mostly seniors, some of whom are in the habit of showing up early. "I developed a PowerPoint presentation to show before the movie with ads and trivia questions – just like in a theater. It's a great way to advertise Library events," Morris says.

The KC Unbound Blog has provided Morris with her latest creative challenge. Since the blog's inception a year ago, Morris has produced one to two book reviews per month, alternating between novels and cookbooks.

"I'm always looking for new challenges - whether that's writing book reviews or blogging about The Big Read - so the blog is an outlet for me," she says. (Look for her write-up of Tom Sawyer next week.)

What seems to energize Morris most, though, are her lively day-to-day interactions with patrons at the front desk. Whether she's recommending books, talking about the Library's new mobile app, assisting with e-reader services, or striking up conversation for the sake of getting to know her patrons better, Morris, like her early childhood hero, is herself rarely silent at the service desk.

"I get excited when I get somebody else excited about the Library," she says.

About the Author

Jason Harper is the web content developer at the Kansas City Public Library. He has been tweeting, Facebooking, blogging, and YouTubing for the Library since 2010.