Libraries went through a wealth of changes during the pandemic, from shutting their doors completely to ramping up new services. Jade Cabagnot came on as the new branch manager for Wentworth Library in September 2020 in the midst of those changes. While we’re still struggling with the pandemic, library services are back and better than ever.
We talk with Cabagnot about library changes and improvements, the importance of representation in library books, and some favorite reads.
“Representation matters. Reading characters who don’t look like them helps them understand other people’s experiences and makes them more empathetic.”Jade Cabagnot
More About Jade Cabagnot
Before coming to Wentworth, Cabagnot served as the branch manager at the Inver Glen Library and was a youth services librarian in Rosemount before that. She previously worked in the Chicago Public Library.
Cabagnot lives in St. Paul with her husband and three-year-old twins. She loves exploring parks, hiking, practicing yoga, and listening to podcasts when she has time (which is rare). Cabagnot grew up in the Philippines and can speak Tagalog, Aklanon, Ilonggo, and a bit of Spanish.
Conversation With Jade Cabagnot
We talked with Cabagnot about what’s happening at the library. Here’s our conversation:
Library yard signs have gone up around the city and there’s a new ‘Discover Your Library’ promotion. Can you tell us what that’s about?
We launched the ‘Discover Your Library’ campaign this fall to raise awareness around library services that were not available during the pandemic. We wanted to let people know that our meeting rooms, 3D printers, children’s areas are available, and we are open with expanded hours including evenings, Saturdays, and Sundays beginning January 9.
We saw some big changes in the library during the pandemic, from increased digital offerings and WiFi hotspots to curbside pickup. What have been some of the positive improvements for the library?
The pandemic pushed us to innovate, reimagine services, and deliver them in different formats. This includes virtual events and classes, curbside services, take and make kits, Books by Mail, and ‘internet to go’ through Chromebook and Wi-Fi hotspot kits, among others. We also took advantage of our outdoor space by adding picnic tables around the library for people to sit, read, or work during warmer weather.
The Dakota County Commissioners just approved dropping library fines for children and youth materials. How does it help the library to do away with fines?
We’re expecting that users who are blocked because of fines will use the library again. This has been the experience of other library systems that eliminated library fines. Research also shows that fines on youth materials result in parental decisions not to use the library. This change removes barriers especially for those who need free access to library materials the most. It increases literacy and helps with the library’s mission to promote learning to all. It also aligns with the library’s commitment to equity and inclusion.
In recent months we’ve seen books and especially school libraries come under fire for supposedly controversial issues like race and LGBTQ+ themes. What’s your take on this battle between censorship and freedom? The library seeks to have a broad range of materials—why is that so important?
School librarians are professionally trained and highly skilled to curate their collection to meet the needs of the students they serve. One of Dakota County Library’s objectives for selecting materials that I strongly support is to provide access to different viewpoints and encourage freedom of expression, which is the opposite of censorship. I also believe in the concept of books as mirrors and windows. When readers see themselves and their experiences reflected in the stories that they read, this can be affirming, and it tells them that they matter. Representation matters. Reading characters who don’t look like them helps them understand other people’s experiences and makes them more empathetic.
What are your favorite reads? What books do you recommend most often?
I usually ask people first what they’ve read recently that they liked before I recommend anything. Some books I’ve read recently that I highly recommend are The Seed Keeper by Diane Wilson, Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley, and The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen. I have also recently re-read Cathy Park Hong’s Minor Feelings.
Why did you decide to be a librarian?
Aside from my love for books and reading, I like helping people find information and giving them access to opportunities and experiences that they might not have.
South St. Paul is in the process of getting a new library, and as much as we love Wentworth it’s hard not to be a little jealous. What’s the timeline for a remodel at Wentworth?
Yes, I think it will be great for the South St. Paul library community. More info about South St. Paul project and timeline can be found here.
Right now, the plan is to have the design process for Wentworth happen in 2023 with the actual remodel taking place in 2024. This is part of the overall county Capital Improvement Program (CIP) plan approved by the Board on December 14. Although timelines could shift for various reasons—this is more budget planning than a firm timeline. If something unexpected comes up, funds in the CIP plan for Wentworth could be allocated elsewhere. But I’m looking forward to it.
What do you love about West St. Paul?
I love the parks and Amore Coffee. Walking at Thompson County Park, going to events at Southview Park last summer, and meeting with community partners at Amore Coffee got me through some difficult times this year.
Thanks to Jade Cabagnot for talking with us.
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