Summit County Library director enjoys interacting with his patrons
Daniel Compton has seen the role of libraries evolve in the past nine years since he became director of the Summit County Library system, which includes the Kimball Junction, Coalville and Kamas Valley branches.
“A lot of people grew up with quiet libraries that had that stereotypical librarian who would shush you,” Compton said. “Today’s libraries are no longer like that. They have become and exciting and safe places for the entire community to gather.”
The Summit County Library branches provide the requisite access to literature and other multimedia, and they also offer an array of programs that promote literacy, create art and broaden their horizons, Compton said.
Those programs include story times for babies, toddlers and preschoolers; crafternoons and mother and daughter book clubs, he said.
“We have groups of kids who constantly come in to participate in some of these programs,” he said. “We do still have those dedicated areas that are quiet, because we understand that people still want a space to read or to study. But we enjoy offering other programs to the public.”
Other offerings include Lego clubs, meditation classes and the Book 2 Film Club, Compton said.
“I have really enjoyed that club,” he said of Book 2 Film. “We’ve shown more than 60 films since we started, and we discuss the film and book it was based on after each screening. It’s so interesting and fun to hear what people bring to the table. We learn so much from each other as neighbors.”
Compton said programs like these are necessary to the survival of libraries because of an increased reliance on modern technology.
Libraries have had to adapt their services to a world where references don’t require a trip to the library or knowledge of the Dewey Decimal System.
Before the internet, if someone needed to find a book or a reference for research, they would ask a librarian, Compton said.
“These days, many people have internet access, so they aren’t coming into the library to ask librarians those types of questions,” Compton said. “But you still see people coming in because they still want a human connection and interaction.”
Compton cited a 2010 remark by Neil Gaiman to make his point.
“Google can bring you back, you know, 100,000 answers,” the author had said in an interview. “A librarian can bring you back the right one.”
“Because of that, we invite people to come and talk to us about books that they like,” Compton said. “We want to develop that bond, because we can make recommendations through that personal touch.”
Compton first started working at the Kimball Junction Branch in 2005, after his dream of becoming a schoolteacher didn’t pan out.
“I wanted to find another field where I could still enjoy some teaching opportunities, share knowledge with people, and give them opportunities to grow,” he said. “So I became a part-time library clerk and held onto the hopes of going to library school.”
As a clerk, Compton fell in love with the library.
“I saw the impact it could have on people,” he said. “I saw many opportunities to teach, whether it was basic computer classes and other services like that. And I found my niche here.”
In 2006, Summit County granted Compton’s wish and helped pay for his schooling that ultimately resulted in his getting a master’s degree in library science.
“I started a program through the University of Texas, and they had a cohort who would meet me in Las Vegas for face-to-face classes,” Compton said. “They rest of my studies was done online.”
Compton graduated with the degree in 2008.
“I can’t believe it’s already been more than 10 years since I graduated,” he said. “Not everyone can say that their employer has invested in them like Summit County has, and that only makes me want to work harder and give something back to the community.”
In 2010, Compton became the Summit County Library director, and has enjoyed working with its 23 employees, including Kimball Junction Branch youth services librarian Kirsten Nilsson, Bookmobile manager Shaylee Phelps and Yvonne Judd and Lee Whiting, the respective Coalville and Kamas Valley branch managers.
He has also overseen some major developments within the libraries.
“In the past few years, we’ve seen the construction of a new Coalville facility, a new Kamas Valley facility, and purchased a new Bookmobile,” Compton said. “We also have a new remote book locker in Henefer, a place that didn’t have access to our services except when the Bookmobile would stop there.”
Summit County Library patrons with a library card who live in Henefer can go online or call the library to request materials, and the library staff will deliver the materials to the locker, according to Compton.
Patrons need to have a current library card to access the locker, he said.
“Once they are finished with the materials, they can return them to the locker,” Compton said.
The only big challenge Compton faces as library director is finding funding.
“We always want to do more, and we’ve been lucky in Summit County because the budget has remained close to being the same from year to year,” he said. “We are also able to get creative and apply for grants, which we did to get the Henefer locker.”
Compton said his job as library director has also benefited his three children.
“It has helped me be more curious and interested in what’s going on in the world, and I try to share everything I learn with my kids,” he said. “I want to expose them to different authors and books.”
Their favorite books are graphic novels, Compton said with a laugh.
Many have dismissed graphic novels as being glorified comic books, he said.
“But as a librarian, I can say it doesn’t matter what the kids are reading, as long as they are excited about reading,” Compton said. “I hear horror stories of people who don’t read because they were forced to read something that just turned them off. And I just want them to read whatever the heck you want.”
Compton said he doesn’t have a favorite author or book.
“I do like Neil Gaiman, though,” he said. “He’s a person who I really respect. I love his books, and I love what he stands for, because he is a great advocate for libraries.”
For information, visit thesummitcountylibrary.org.
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