By the book: Northwest-Shoals head librarian shares love of reading

FRANKLIN LIVING—

“I’m passionate about libraries. This is very much a calling for me.”

As the head librarian at Northwest-Shoals Community College, Lori Skinner is living her passion by helping people connect with books and other resources that will open the world to them. While people might picture a college library as being full of dusty textbooks and scholarly tomes, designed only for studious academic types, this vision is far from the truth – at least at NW-SCC, where libraries on both campuses stand ready to serve the public as well as student populations.

“I don’t know that community members realize we are here for them also,” said Skinner. “It’s important to me, having that access to literacy.”

Skinner, who earned her own associate’s degree at NW-SCC before going on to complete her bachelor’s at the University of North Alabama and her Master of Librarian and Information Science at The University of Alabama, said she became enamored with reading as a child when she realized everything she could learn about the world just from reading about it in a book. After college she worked in libraries in Shelby County, Alabama, Washington state and South Carolina, as well as at Mississippi State University, before returning to her local alma mater – first working in adult education at Northwest-Shoals and then taking the head librarian position in August 2021.

Skinner works on both campuses, and she said she feels a particular draw to serve the community in Phil Campbell, as the community deals with being in something of a “library desert.” Although she praised the libraries in Russellville and Red Bay, as well as the books-by-mail program coordinated by the Northwest Regional Library – of which the Weatherford Library in Red Bay is a part – she said she is eager for the community to know the NW-SCC library is here to serve its needs.

The James A. Glasgow Library, on the Phil Campbell campus, boasts fiction titles as well as a small children’s collection. The library can also be a resource to help people connect with the Alabama Virtual Library or obtain a certain title through interlibrary loan.

“We do have regular community patrons,” Skinner said. “I love to see people come in and talk about what they’ve enjoyed and not enjoyed.”

In addition to more than 60K volumes plus 30K e-books, Northwest-Shoals libraries also offer a selection of DVDs and audiobooks. Updating and adding to those collections has been a priority for Skinner since she took the job. Community members who wish to be library patrons can obtain a library card online or in person by presenting a photo ID, and they can check out seven items at a time for two weeks; items can be renewed by phone, online or in person, Skinner added.

For Skinner, the goal is to make connections and get books in people’s hands. Having grown up in Hodges, Vina and Hamilton, Skinner said living in an area with fewer resources has made her value them that much more. “It’s important to me for people to know the library is theirs, and we are here for their success,” she said. She loves to help people find titles they will love.

As she looks to the future, Skinner said she hopes the library can also reach the community through hosting special events, like speakers who will appeal to students as well as the public – presenting academic topics with wide appeal. One way the library reached out to Phil Campbell this year was with a book giveaway in conjunction with Read Across America festivities in March. Her staff and the NW-SCC nursing program teamed up to offer up “what felt like 1.2 million books” free to the community.

Skinner and her husband Eric, who works in law enforcement, have one son, Gabe, who is turning 10. The family lives in Hamilton.

For more information about Northwest-Shoals Community College library services, visit https://nwscc.edu/patriot-central/library or call the Shoals branch at 256-331-5283 or the Phil Campbell branch at 256-331-6271.

HOLIDAY READING RECOMMENDATIONS

For those who are ready to cozy up with a good book this season, Lori Skinner has a few holiday-themed titles to recommend:

“Eliza Starts a Rumor” — By Jane L. Rosen

In “Eliza Starts a Rumor” by Jane L. Rosen, agoraphobic Eliza has forced herself to visit the market to prepare for Thanksgiving. While shopping, she overhears a group of young moms call her online neighborhood group boring. In a moment of weakness, she starts a rumor to spice things up. Featuring both humor and deep emotional storylines, the ripple effects of the rumor are revealed during Thanksgiving dinner.

“Thanksgiving” — By Janet Evanovich

If you enjoy Hallmark movies, you might want to pick up an oldie-but-goodie by Janet Evanovich, author of the popular Stephanie Plum series. “Thanksgiving” is set in Williamsburg, Virginia, and features a love-shy potter and historical re-enactor who meets her match when she rescues a silly rabbit that belongs to a new-to-town pediatrician. This one was first published in 1988 and shows a bit of age, but it will thrill those looking for a happily ever after during the Thanksgiving season.

“‘Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving” — By Dav Pilkey

If you have fans of “Captain Underpants” or “Dog Man” in your household, you will definitely want to share “’Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving” by Dav Pilkey with your young readers. When a group of children visit a turkey farm before Thanksgiving, they discover the fate that awaits the birds they have met. Taking matters into their own hands, they smuggle the birds to their homes. This one is a beloved classic and will make the reader laugh along with the audience.

“A Christmas Memory, One Christmas and The Thanksgiving Visitor” — By Truman Capote

Beloved author Truman Capote revisits his boyhood spent with his elderly cousins, three spinsters and a bachelor, in rural Alabama through the character of Buddy. Through three short stories, “A Christmas Memory, One Christmas and the Thanksgiving Visitor,” Capote explores themes of humanity, home and love.  Definitely pick up this classic collection to capture the spirit of the holiday season.

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