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March 28, 2020

10/27/2011 2:10:00 PM
Cobb Library has new director
Jean Berns Jones

"If you want to give her a hug, you can." one child told another after the Story Time, and Jessie Lee-Jones welcomed several warm hugs around her knees.
"I've gotten a lot of hugs today," said Lee-Jones, the new Director of the Cobb Public Library. Children were accustomed to hugging the previous director, Sherry Nagel, and Lee-Jones is happy to carry on the affectionate tradition.
Lee-Jones compared the size of the Cobb Library with the one she used as a child in LaFarge. Like the youngsters she reads to today, she herself learned to love the library through Story Time, and she grew up to be an avid reader who frequented the facility.
When asked to imagine her youth in LaFarge without the library, she was taken aback.
"Wow," she said. "It would have been a lot more difficult. In small towns, reading makes it possible for young people to extend their horizons and learn and experience things outside of those boundaries."
"Here, I hope to build up the teen reading collection," she explained. "We'll work at weeding it out and incorporating more modern things, while keeping the classics of course."
Lee-Jones feels the library should be a place for the community to gather. A Halloween event on October 31, starting at 6 p.m., will welcome families to the library. There will be a Halloween story time, bobbing for apples, and other family activities.
"I'm looking forward to that chance to meet more people in the community," she said. "I have the opportunity to interact with about 25 pre-school age children at story time, but the older ones are more difficult to meet."
The library is also sharing the funding of another event on Wednesday, November 2nd when Wisconsin author, storyteller and historian, Jerry Apps will speak at the Cobb Community Center. Starting at 7 p.m., Apps will present a tribute to life in the country.
Funding for his appearance is made possible by the Cobb Public Library and a grant written by Sherry Nagel. The grant is through the Wisconsin Center for the Book, an affiliate of the Woodland Pattern Book Center, Milwaukee.
Another upcoming event will be a Holiday Book Sale hosted at the library in December.
The Cobb facility is open Monday and Wednesday 4-7 p.m., Tuesday and Thursday 9:30 - 5:30, and Saturday 9:30 - 12:30.
Last Saturday, 26 people visited the library during the three-hour period, which Lee-Jones feels is "pretty good" usage.
The people in Highland, Edmund, Linden and Rewey don't have libraries, so they come here, too."
It is supported by county funding, with heavy dependence on grants and donations. Budgeting is a challenge, the new director admits.
Recently she reached out to the Iowa-Grant School District to acquire the donation of two computer tables from the district's surplus materials. The request led to a project for Technical Education students at Iowa-Grant High School, who are now building a shelf for the Cobb Library.
A portion of the library's income results from recycling aluminum cans that are placed in a collection box outside. "That money makes a huge difference, and a good portion of Cobb residents participate in doing it," Lee-Jones said gratefully.
Two years ago, the library doubled its space by expanding into an adjoining storage garage belonging to the village. The proposed construction was brought before the voters in a referendum.
"The supportive community voted for it overwhelmingly; there was no question," said volunteer Linda Tucker, who helps there during Story Time.
"I would like to work on growing a more solid base of volunteers," said Lee-Jones. "There are a lot of jobs that could be done by volunteers."
Paid employees, other than the director, include one person who works six hours a week, and a student who works every other Saturday.
The story time is held every Tuesday at 10:15 a.m. and is attended by about 25 children. "The little ones really look forward to story time," said Traci Gilman, a Cobb parent whose children attend. "They have come to all the story hours," she said
In addition, the library conducts a Summer Reading Program. "It helps boost the children to read over the summer," Gilman said.
Lee-Jones graduated from LaFarge High School in 2003 and went to the UW-Stevens Point for a degree in Spanish & International Studies. While there, she worked at the university library and enjoyed it.
After graduation, she moved to Red Wing, MN and worked across the border in Wisconsin at the Elsworth Public Library. Then she moved to Madison and worked at the Middleton High School Library. Next she was employed at the Middleton Elementary School working with English Language Learners.
"That combination of experiences has allowed me to work with every age group and a diverse group of language speakers, so that makes working in a public library interesting," she said.
Lee-Jones lives with her husband in Mineral Point. "We're very comfortable living in this area," she said. "I love the hills. You can't beat the beautiful drive to work."
Currently she is studying for her Masters of Library & Information Studies at the UW-Madison, planning to graduate this May. The degree involves practical skills of use to library patrons, such as technology, researching online, and customer service. Her practicum of 120 hours is being done with Vickie Stangel, Director of the Dodgeville Public Library.
The library has always been important in a community," Lee-Jones said. "It provides a space outside a person's home or work where they can feel comfortable to come when they need to do something."
"Especially in these tough economic times, it offers internet access and technology resources, job searching resources, and free literature," she added. "Not everybody can afford to go out and buy a new best seller book, but we usually have them on the shelves."

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