Veteran Librarian Confesses to Love Affair With Books
February 7, 2010
Cathy Grambau has always loved libraries – everything about them. Her most cherished childhood memories are of trips to the Brighton Library near her home in Buffalo, New York. "I remember walking to the library with my best friend on snowy Saturdays," she says. "We’d check out books and walk back to my house, where we’d get cozy, sip hot chocolate and read together."
Though not your average bookworm, Grambau’s youthful love affair with books has never abated. It led her to a 23-year career as media coordinator at the Treasure Mountain Middle School library. From 1977 through 2000, she introduced thousands of Park City middle schoolers to the joys of reading and learning. Grambau is very proud of that. She’d probably still be there, if not for a policy change a decade ago that required a Utah School Library Certificate to hold the position. But, as her story reveals, you just can’t keep a good librarian down.
Grambau was born and grew up in Buffalo, New York. In high school she enjoyed intramural sports and study hall in the library. After graduation she attended nearby Erie Community College, where she trained to be a medical assistant. She worked as a dental assistant for a year before realizing it wasn’t for her. She soon found a new job as a proofreader at a publishing house.
She met Fred Grambau in 1975 through mutual friends while attending the Allentown Art Festival in Buffalo. He’d been a standout player at the University of Michigan and played pro football for the Kansas City Chiefs. When they met, he was playing for the Canadian Football League. The two hit it off and were married a few years later.
When Fred’s pro football career ended, the couple began looking for new opportunities. In the fall of 1976 they pulled anchor and moved to Park City, a town Fred has visited briefly in the early 70s on his way home from the Rose Bowl (Michigan lost). "My parents thought we were crazy," Grambau recalls. "I’d lived in Buffalo all my life, so this was a huge move."
They skied almost every day that first winter, then began looking for jobs in the spring. Fred took a job in construction, the first step toward what would become a long and successful career as a builder and real estate developer. An ad in the Park Record for a library aide at the high school caught Grambau’s eye. "It was right down my alley so I applied and, surprisingly, got the job," she says.
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That marked the beginning of a long an distinguished career with the Park City School District. Grambau excelled in her new job and, when the Treasure Mountain Middle School was built in the early 1980s, she was offered the job of media coordinator at the new school. She jumped at the chance. The Grambaus also began their family in the 1980s. They have two grown daughters, Elizabeth, 26, and Jessica, 22.
Grambau reflects fondly on her career. "I loved working with the children and teaching them how to use the library. I just think libraries are amazing places and I’ve always wanted to share that with people," she confesses. She’s quick to assign much of her success to her two friends and co-workers, Jeanie Wierman and Kirsten Kobler. "They both started out as
parent/volunteers and later worked on staff. I can’t say enough about both of them."
Among Grambau’s many accomplishments during her career was the co-founding of the Park City School District Daycare Center in 1984. "Raising two small children, I really needed quality daycare," she explains. "I joined forces with a couple of other teachers in similar situations. We pushed for and got on-site daycare. It was located at the Treasure Mountain Middle School for many years and it’s still in existence today at the Park City High School." Today, the daycare program is available to the children of all school district employees.
Throughout the late 1980s and early ’90s, Grambau juggled career and parental responsibilities while taking classes toward her Utah School Library Certificate. Though she almost completed requirements for the certificate, she succumbed to the demands of full-time work and parenthood.
When a policy change at the state level made the Utah School Library Certificate mandatory for her coordinator’s job, Grambau was offered a position as a reading aide. Reluctant to step down from her long-held post, she chose early retirement instead.
Though a bureaucratic whim foreshortened her career, Grambau says she has no regrets. "At first I enjoyed retirement, but I got bored rather quickly," says Grambau. "I tried my hand at the retail business for a while, but it wasn’t for me. I guess I missed the library."
In 2005, at the urging of her longtime friend Kirsten, Grambau applied for a clerk’s job at the Summit County Kimball Junction Branch library. Not surprisingly, she got the job and, for the last five years, has been back doing what she loves most. "I’m not anybody special there, just a circulation clerk, but I really love it." she gleams. "My favorite thing is talking about books with patrons and making suggestions for reading."
Grambau hopes libraries are here to stay. She’s never seen a Kindle wireless reader and has nothing bad to say about them. Still, she prefers holding a book. "To me, books are treasures. It’s also surprising to me how many people come into the library to check out DVDs instead of books. They don’t know what they’re missing."
Grambau admires parents who bring their children to the library. "I’ve seen mothers come in, let their children pick out books and then read to them for an hour. That’s just fantastic."
The veteran librarian says there’s no place she’d rather be. Best of all, she’s been reunited with her two longtime friends, Kirsten and Jeanie. "Kirsten is on staff here and Jeanie is a volunteer. It’s great. Around here they call us the "Care Bears," she jokes.
As for any unfinished business, Grambau says she’d still like to write a children’s book. Knowing her, she’ll get it done – sooner or later.
Favorite foods: beef on kimmelweck and Buffalo wings [in homage to her hometown]
Favorite things to do: quilting, cooking and running. "I’ll be running my fourth Salt Lake
half-marathon next April."
Favorite reading/authors: historical fiction, cookbooks and quilting books. "One of my favorite
fiction writers is Jodi Picoult."
Favorite music: "Golden oldies"
Animal companions: "My dear chocolate lab Maggie."
HEAD: Veteran Librarian Confesses to Love Affair With Books
DECK: She devoted 23 years to teaching Park City children how to use the library.
QUOTE: "I just think libraries are amazing places and I’ve always wanted to share
that with people."
CAPTION: Cathy Grambau in her natural habitat at the Kimball Junction Library.
She believes in introducing children to books at a very early age.