Renee Riczker has been working at the West Orange Public Library since the beginning of 1995, and has been the library’s director since the end of last July. Although she lives in Green Brook, her husband’s family is from West Orange, so she feels very connected to the town. Patch spoke with her about books and library programming. Here’s what she said:
What is your favorite part of your job?
“My favorite part of this job is that I’m part of an organization that positively impacts people’s lives every single day. I see people smiling in here all the time - a child who just learned how to read, someone who just found a job – it’s really about making people’s lives better,” said Riczker. She added with a laugh, “I also like being around books all day.”
What is one thing that you want residents to know about the library that a lot of people might not know?
“I’d like them to know what a great value they get in their library. Libraries are funded with municipal property tax, and the average household only pays $10 a month toward the library,” Riczker explained.
So what does each household get for $10 a month? “Free access to 150,000 print books, as well as magazines, newspapers, CDs, movies, eBooks, and audio books. They also get access to computers, wireless internet, free classes and workshops, as well as really knowledgeable and skilled librarians to help people find information. You can ask reference questions in person, on the phone, or can connect by chat on the library’s website.”
What programs would you like to bring to the library?
“The library has a long history of providing really wonderful programs to the community. I want to continue to bring the same caliber of activities to residents,” said Riczker. Speaking of the plethora of programs for everyone from infants to senior citizens, she continued, “There are book discussions, lectures, and author visits. Right now we’re working with Luna Stage to do a series of workshops with senior citizens that bring out their creativity while sharpening their memory. We also run a children’s chess club that is amazingly successful. There is a West Orange lecture series, and a summer reading program, which begins with a free concert for children.
Riczker hopes to continue to run these high quality programs, even though, “With library budget cuts it’s hard to maintain this caliber of programs. We are always happy to receive financial contribution from people who want to help.”
What was the last truly great book that you read? Do you remember reading a book that you just had to tell someone about?
“I don’t know if I would say that it’s a ‘truly great book,’ but I recently read ‘Seriously…I’m Kidding’ by Ellen DeGeneres. It made me laugh out loud, and was a great stress reliever. I also recently read ‘The Shallows’ by Nicholas Carr. It talked about our brain’s plasticity and ability to change, and about how extensive use of the Internet impacts our neural pathways. The author feels it could be causing people to lose deep thought and the ability to focus. It was interesting to read how technology might be impacting us.”
What do you like to do in your spare time?
“Of course I like to read, and I also like to write and travel. My husband and I are beekeepers, so we raise honeybees. I’m also helping my husband with his new business. I like to learn new things all the time, and right now I’m studying hypnotherapy.”