Chesley Baker Bailey Class of 1993
Program Specialist, Childrens Department, Burke County Public Library

My love of the library began as a child when my mother took me to the library every week each summer. I remember I won a prize for reading the most books during a Summer Reading Program one year. I also remember reading The Book of the Gnomes in the Childrens Area of The Muses Bookstore for hours on end.

Chesley Baker Bailey has taken that childhood love for books and turned it into a lifelong mission to inspire and encourage reading for the children of Burke County. I am a Program Specialist in the Childrens Department at the Burke County Public Library. My job entails planning and carrying out large community/family events as well as story times and library programs for children in elementary school.

I enjoy meeting all the children and their families when they attend our library programs. I always emphasize how important learning how to read is to the school groups that visit the library because almost everything that you do in life requires you to read something.

Chesleys love for the children inspires her each day. I have administrative duties that make my work more challenging, but I prefer being in the programs with the children and their families. It always makes my day to see the children leaving with new books to read and that they are so proud of the crafts/artwork that they created during story time. It is always great to see them make new friends during our library programs as well.

Her days in the high school media center helped to reinforce her love for books and paved the way for her future career. I did a work study in the library at East Burke, and Phyllis Garrison was one of my favorite instructors/teachers. I learned about the Dewey Decimal system, how to catalog and shelve books, and how to check out books to the students during my work study. I remember that it was rewarding to help other students find books in the library and checking these books out for them. Since I am an avid reader, I enjoy helping others find books that they will enjoy reading.

While I was in college, I worked part time in an after school program with children in grades K-5. We planned activities, field trips, crafts, and more for them each week. It was during that time that I knew I had a calling to work with children. I feel that I am one of those people who children seem to be drawn too.

I attended Western Piedmont Community College for quite some time. I liked it there so much I ended up getting two degrees: one in Office Systems Technology and one in Recreational Therapy. I also received the Early Childhood Credentials. While I do not have a degree in Library Science, I feel that I use the knowledge from the two degrees on a daily basis. Planning events and programs is very similar to planning recreational events, and the classes I took with the Office Systems Degree help with performing my administrative duties. I also worked for a short time at WPCC in the computer lab teaching Basic Typing and assisting the other instructors with grading papers.

By shadowing Miss Garrison during my work study in the library at East Burke, I learned everything I needed to know about how to get started with a library career. Some of my instructors at WPCC were also great inspirations for me. Cindy Konarski was my Recreational Therapy instructor for most of my classes. She taught me how to work hard, how to treat people with disabilities with equality, and also how to climb an Alpine Tower. I was a climbing instructor part time during college at the Alpine Tower at WPCC. David Benner and his father Bob Benner were my Physical Education and Health Instructors during my Recreational Therapy degree. They taught me the importance of physical education, nutrition, and even how to hike, canoe, and rock climb! I continue to hike many trails in Western NC as a hobby. Sherry Willard, Laura Gilliam, and Dave Tubergen were influential instructors to me while obtaining my Office Systems Technology degree. They made learning fun, were excellent role models, and expected the best of their students.

But Chesley didnt spend all of her time in the library while in high school. There were other activities that I remember vividly and that I enjoyed. One was participating in a Cinderella play. Miss Garrison was also our theater instructor, and I was one of the stepsisters who tried on the slipper, but the shoe didnt fit. I also remember being a contestant in the Miss East Burke pageant my junior year. I didnt win, but it was an honor to be nominated by classmates to represent our homeroom."

My career has inspired me to branch out and partner with other agencies in the community to have events for families. I have provided story times in the past at a local bookstore called Adventure Bound Books and in the local school system. We have partnered with a local art studio TOSS Art to provide multicultural art and reading workshops that were centered around the Guatemalan culture. I also have worked closely with a local Girl Scout troop to provide programming. My goals continue to be centered around bringing our community closer together.

The people and the services at the public library are an integral and essential part of our community, and Chesley plays an important role in encouraging our children to enjoy books and reading. Library personnel make it their mission to encourage lifelong learning, and there is no better time to begin than in childhood.

Published December 2020

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