New manager sees libraries as ‘a haven for the curious’
by Joni Astrup
“A haven for the curious.”
That’s one way Will Hollerich describes libraries.
As the new branch manager at the Elk River Library, Hollerich is a strong library advocate.
“I am passionate about public libraries. I think they serve a really important role in society,” he said.
Libraries promote lifelong learning for adults, serve as a place for people to come and exchange ideas and offer a lot of information, he said. In the case of the Elk River Library, which is part of the St. Cloud-based Great River Regional Library system, almost 1 million books and other items are available.
Hollerich said the library acts as a free bookstore, newsstand, video store and music store; provides free access to computers and the Internet; offers reference (information and research) service; provides spaces for reading, study, meeting and cultural events for adults and children; and offers various other services like readers’ advisory, proctoring, interlibrary loan and technical support for e-book readers.
Family ties to libraries
An interest in libraries runs in Hollerich’s family. His grandmother was a public high school librarian in Spring Valley, Ill., and an aunt works in college libraries. His other grandmother also worked in a school library.
“I guess it’s in the blood,” Hollerich said with a laugh.
He spent his early years in Santa Clara, Calif., before moving to the Twin Cities when he was 10. He is a graduate of Cretin-Derham Hall in St. Paul. After high school he went to the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, graduating in 2006 with a Spanish major. During college he spent a semester in Seville, Spain.
Hollerich has a master’s degree in library science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and has had experience with several libraries.
While working on his master’s degree he worked for the university library, cataloging foreign materials. He volunteered at the Ramsey County Public Library in Roseville and worked for the Century College Library in White Bear Lake as well.
He also has a decade of supervisory experience in retail, but has come to realize libraries are a better fit.
“Libraries are for me,” he said. “I don’t expect to return to that other world. Libraries are really a wonderful thing.”
He said there is a lot to learn with his new job at the Elk River Library and has appreciated everyone who has helped make his transition as easy as possible, especially the library staff.
Hollerich replaces Mick Stoffers, who retired in October after 27 years with the library.
“It’s been really exciting. I find the city charming, the people here are very nice and the patrons are friendly, intelligent and kind,” Hollerich said.
He described the library staff as “very competent” and he loves the library building and collection.
The library gets a lot of support from the city and the patrons, he said. There are many library volunteers and a very active Friends of the Elk River Library group that sponsors events like book sales and author readings.
Hollerich particularly enjoys interacting with library patrons and answering reference questions.
In the future he would like to see more young adults use the Elk River Library and thinks it would be wonderful to see some programming aimed at teens.
He is fluent in Spanish and also is interested in offering a bilingual Spanish-English story hour. “I did something like that in Illinois, while I was in school,” he said. “It was a lot of fun.”
Hollerich and his wife, Sarah, live in St. Paul. He has a variety of interests including reading, walking, travel, live theater and movies. He has been involved in theater and enjoys reading about history, politics, philosophy and religion.