More than anything, Susann Kaback misses the kids.
Thanks to technology, the youngest visitors to the Deptford Free Public Library still get to enjoy stories and crafts with their beloved children’s librarian, with “Miss Susann” posting regular storytimes and art projects on the library Facebook page. It’s not the same as face-to-face interaction, of course, but it’s the next best thing.
But for Kaback – the only children’s librarian the Deptford Library has ever had – the opportunity to see her tiny fans has been, until recently, whittled down to fleeting socially distanced sightings from afar happened upon by chance when one visits the library to check out new books.
More recently, when the weather cooperates, Kaback has been able to host outdoor storytimes at Deptford Library Park, next door to the Ward Drive building. There are no hugs or physical contact, but there are plenty of smiling eyes above face masks.
“It keeps a connection with the children,” Kaback said of the outdoor story times.
Connection is also what has kept her at the Deptford Library for going on 47 years.
“I’ve met a lot of lovely people through the years,” Kaback said, adding she is now – during non-COVID times – reading stories to the children of children she hosted years ago. “I just enjoy the work. I’ve never wanted to leave.”
A double major in library sciences and elementary education at Glassboro State College — now Rowan University — Kaback was taking a course with Marie Scholding, Deptford library’s reference librarian at the time, and Geraldine Johnson, who served as the library’s board president. They suggested she apply for the Deptford library’s new position of part-time children’s librarian.
The rest, as they say, is history – or at least the start of a really exciting chapter book.
After six months in the part-time position, Kaback became a full-time library employee. She credits the people she works with and, of course, the children, for keeping her job one she is happy to come to each day.
Typically, she has two story times a week for different ages, and there are seasonal age-appropriate crafts offered. Kaback comes up with all of the crafts herself by searching through websites and books. There are celebrations during the year, too – for Read Across America and literary birthdays, such as those of Dr. Seuss and popular characters Elephant and Piggy from Mo Willems’ books.
Willems is one of Kaback’s favorite children’s authors, along with Mercer Mayer. Kaback loves to see the reactions from the children when she shares a favorite book – or any book, really. The librarian keeps up with new authors, too.
“If you don’t read, you don’t grow, and in order to grow you have to read and find out,” Kaback explained. “There’s a lot of the world (the children) don’t know about. Thank God for books.”
Kaback’s love of her library kids is evident when she talks about her job and when she discusses her dog. Prince Charming, Kaback’s golden retriever and Labrador mix, was named by the kids at the library.
“I asked the children what I should name him, and I think we were doing fairy tales at the time,” Kaback said with a laugh. “The name really does suit the dog!”
At home, Kaback also is mom to a rambunctious cat, Jasper. When not busy with her pets, she enjoys spending time with family: her brother, Bill Kaback, and her niece, Ashley Stevens, along with Ashley’s husband Ray and daughter Kaylee. She enjoys reading (of course) and cooking, too, and COVID has given her ample time to experiment in the kitchen.
It’s not only the kids who love Kaback – her coworkers think highly of the longtime children’s librarian, too.
“It’s nice. She’s been doing it for so long,” Library Director Jenna McAndrews noted. “All the kids love her. She has such a strong community connection.”
Due to her long tenure, Kaback has seen changes the Deptford library has gone through over the years, from its start at a property donated by a church on Almonesson Road, to its current building at 670 Ward Drive in the early 1990s. The building was expanded in the late ’90s to what it is today.
Kaback has taken all of those changes in stride. It’s the recent changes that have left the children’s librarian emotional.
“I want to see my kids again,” she said.
Until then, Kabak will continue reaching out to her little library-goers online. She has no plans to slow down her story time and craft videos any time soon – at least not until events return to the library in person.
To see Kaback’s videos and check the library’s current hours, visit www.deptfordpubliclibrary.org. Choose the “Social Media” tab to navigate to Kaback’s videos on Facebook.