Paula was born and raised in the city of Houston. Attending Reagan High School and growing up in the Heights area "back when it was full of middle and lower income families." She started her love of books early in life and even worked part-time shelving books at the Houston Public Library (HPL) while in High School. During her time working with HPL she became intrigued by the art of storytelling. “True storytelling is like a small theatrical performance. It is an eye opening experience for many children, they are so engaged because you are bringing the story to life.” Paula loved the children’s library services so much that she attended U of H Downtown and then the University of North Texas to pursue her career in library services. Paula achieved her first position out of college at the Barbara Bush branch of the Harris County Public Library where she spent 3 years in the outreach department.
I shared a few statistics surrounding low literacy in Houston such as, only 1 age appropriate book available per 300 children in low income neighborhoods and the fact that many of our area’s kindergartners are ill prepared when they enter school, to which Paula replied, “ It is scary and frightful but I can see how that matches.”
She reflected on her time at the library where she sees many children being dropped off by a parent, sometimes with an older sibling sometimes alone, to wander the library while their parents attend classes, do homework, or search for books in the adult sections of the branch. “In the morning programs you will almost always see a parent with their child. These are the more affluent families attending story time and things like that. In the evening however, some parents will drop their kids off and leave. Librarians will befriend these children, no one is refused. We have created a "take-and-make" program to keep these types of kids engaged. But, if we see a two year old alone we have to address it.” The library has even created a brochure about the concern of safety for small children in a public library.
The Harris County Public Libraries offer many options outside of borrowing books. Children can also have access to computers with internet available or the learning stations that are not connected to the internet but allow kids to play literacy based games and stay engaged. The library outreach programs are doing their part to reach children who may not otherwise make it into one of the many branches for whatever reason. Paula enjoys going out into the community and loves the work she is doing but says “It is unsettling because I don’t know what is going to happen to them when I leave.”