MONTICELLO — Sherry Waldrep’s background in libraries goes back a while.
“When I was in high school, I worked in the library. It was a little job I had. They would open up the high school and elementary library for the summertime. I even thought at that time I might be a librarian,” said Waldrep, the new director of the Allerton Public Library.
After several years working in the field of career services at universities from Maryland to the Chicago area, her interest in library work returned when she began volunteering at the Mahomet-Seymour Junior High library.
That led to a job shelving books at the Mahomet district library, which turned into increased duties, from library assistant to coordinator of adult programming the two years preceding her hire by the Allerton Public Library board in July.
“I’ve always had a love of reading. Always. I made sure that my children have a love of reading; I did stuff with them all the time, whether it was going to story time, or going to the library on a regular basis,” said Waldrep, who has lived in Illinois for 11 years and currently resides in Mahomet.
The Wisconsin native obtained a bachelor’s degree in social work and then a master’s in educational psychology from the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee. She will finish a second master’s in library information science — this one from the University of Missouri — in December.
Her previous experience includes time at St. Mary’s College and the University of Maryland, Benedictine University, Wheaton College and Concordia University, mostly in career services. She also taught on some of those campuses, including graduate-level courses.
She enjoyed that phase of her life, but may be enjoying libraries even more. Why? Well, as someone who describes herself as an outgoing sort, it’s all about the people and interactions with them.
“I love interacting with patrons. They obviously keep a library going,” Waldrep said. “And a library is not just about books. A library is part of the community, and it can be a place where people learn.
“Yes, you can obviously learn from the book, but you can also learn through a program, you learn through arts and crafts, you can learn through a speaker. It’s a place where people can learn, and lifelong learning, I think, is very important for everyone.”
That’s why you will see Waldrep manning the desk at times, or wandering the library floor to meet people and get to know them personally.
“I like that part and will likely continue it as long as the staff doesn’t push me back to my office,” Waldrep joked. “That’s something that brings me a lot of joy — knowing people, knowing their names.”
At the same time, she is getting used to the administrative duties of being a librarian, such as generating monthly reports. She said staff and the public have been very cordial as she learns the ropes.
“The people are very, very nice. Everyone has made me feel very welcome,” Waldrep said.
She also likes showing off the relatively new library building and is able to do so as part of a Heartland Library System “library crawl,” which encourages people to visit other facilities and get their “passport” punched.
“We had our first visitors the other day and they commented, ‘Wow, this is a beautiful building.’ It is nice to have this beautiful building that people appreciate.”
She also touts the various resources the library can provide, such as a well-stocked history room, computers and books available not only at Allerton but ones that can be borrowed from other facilities.
Waldrep said she appreciates having a month under the tutelage of retiring Director Lisa Winters.
“It was really nice to have Lisa show me everything, and hear everything the director does,” Waldrep said.