PENDLETON — Leigh Ann Wright is still settling in as the new teen librarian at Pendleton Community Public Library, a job she started in January.
While the two main parts of her job are teen programming and managing the young adult book collection, she started out focusing on programs, she said.
It might be easy to understand why.
Wright, a 1999 graduate of Pendleton Heights High School and a graduate of Franklin College with a bachelor’s degree in recreation, spent 15 years working at Yellowstone National Park, where she was director of the employee recreation program.
“It’s a very diverse program. We had ski trips and hiking trips and wildlife watching trips,” Wright said.
Other activities included athletic leagues and tournaments, photo contests, movie times and bingo, as well as pool tournaments in the employee pub.
“We also ran the gyms and the exercise facilities in the park — there are five of those,” she said.
Wright said not many people outside of the park system are aware the “completely and totally internal” program at Yellowstone.
The park, which bills itself on its website as “the world’s first national park,” was established March 1, 1872, when President Ulysses S. Grant signed the Yellowstone National Park Protection Act into law.
The employee recreation program, Wright said, “was a way to show the employees that there was something just for them.”
The employees “live there, eat there,” she said.
Within the park system, “it’s very unique to Yellowstone.”
In 2021, Wright said she decided for a variety of personal reasons that “it was time to move on.”
And move back — to Pendleton, which she considers home, where she has family.
At first, “I just wanted to sleep for about six months and go from there,” Wright said.
In addition to returning home, she also wanted to return to her former employer — the Pendleton library.
She worked at the library for more than a year about 20 years ago, she said.
“Really the library was one of the only places I wanted to think about working,” she said.
Wright said she applied for a part-time circulation position in January 2022 and started in April.
About six months later, the teen librarian job came open and she applied and got it.
So far, Wright said she’s been spending about 80% of her time working on programming as she also learns the ropes of curating the young adult book collection.
She plans to keep some of the prior teen programs going, including The Game Corner, a weekly gathering when youths get to play video games on a big screen.
Another keeper is the monthly anime society meeting, which focuses on animation, manga and “other Japanese culture stuff.”
New programs Wright is working on include workshops on subjects teens “might have a little of in school but they want more,” she said.
This includes a creative writing workshop set for March and an art workshop that probably will take place this summer.
She said she’d also like to do a monthly craft night, “nothing special, just sit around and gossip, de-stress,” she said.
Another new program might seem plucked from her Yellowstone days.
“I’ve reached out to the Indiana Audubon Society; I would love to have them do an in-person birding workshop for the teens.”
In the future, she said, she’d also like to organize a life-skills series that focuses on things such as cooking, crocheting and gardening.
Eventually, she plans for the book collection side of her job to comprise about 60% of her job, with programming dropping to 30% and 10% other.
“I am the one researching which books are popular and good,” she said. “The main way I’ve been researching the books are (through) the publications that we get.”
She said every week the library receives multiple magazines, each highlighting 10 to 15 new young adult books.
The magazines include full descriptions, recommended age group and more.
Wright said it’s then up to her to pick the books she wants to order, keep an eye on future releases and manage her budget to make sure she’s spending wisely.
“It’s a very new process for me,” she said.
She said there’s an online vendor specifically for libraries “where we can buy most of our books … normally not paying full price.”
The other part of managing the young adult books is to “weed out the old ones to make sure we don’t have anything inappropriate.”
Wright said she feels especially fortunate to be in the new teen librarian position because it is the only one at the library that combines programming with the management of a collection.
And while she loves the programming, she is looking forward to reading and providing good material to young people.
“I’ve always loved the library,” Wright said. “I wanted a position where I was basically more ensconced in books.”