Rolling out the red carpet at Calipatria library

April 15, 2002|By DARREN SIMON

Staff Writer

Dateline: Calipatria

CALIPATRIA — Ask Teri Woelke to describe how she runs this city's small but active library and she doesn't have to think much about her answer.

"This is not a ‘shhhhhh' library," she says, placing her right index finger to her mouth and mimicking the motion for people to be quiet.

"We are not your typical library where you have to be really quiet," she continues. "We don't let them run around and scream, but they don't have to tiptoe around this library."


Woelke's goal is simple — to make sure people are not intimidated by the Calipatria library or any other library.

For 21 years she has worked at making sure everyone who comes into her library feels welcome and has the help they need so they do not feel intimidated, whether searching for books or doing research.

And, she said, if they learn to use the resources at the Calipatria library they can feel more at ease when they use resources at larger libraries.

"If they don't know what they want, if they need information for themselves, it can be intimidating," Woelke said.

For that reason, one of her favorite parts about working as a librarian is helping people learn to use the Internet for their research or to conduct searches for books they need.

"I enjoy just helping people find what they want to read or to find the research material they need," she said.

Woelke also enjoys the sense of community she has in working in a neighborhood library.

She knows almost everyone who comes into the library — children or adults — and they look to her for information not only about how to use library resources but about what is happening around town.

Woelke wouldn't have it any other way, because she is part of the Calipatria community and has been for more than two decades.

Woelke was born in Denver and her family later moved to Azuza. She graduated from Azuza High School and attended Citrus College in Azuza.

About that time she went to work as an operator for a telephone company. During that time when she met the man who would become her husband, John Woelke.

They met when John was on leave from the military in 1968. They had a second meeting in 1969, again when John was on leave.

They married in 1970 and in the early part of their marriage the Woelkes bounced from the Imperial Valley to other areas before finally settling here.

They first moved to the Imperial Valley in 1970, settling in Brawley. They lived in the Valley for a short time before deciding to try Azuza again. However, they moved back to the Valley a second time when they found their daughter had trouble breathing in a larger city.

Still, they tried moving one more time — this time to El Cajon. They lived there for a year before they moved back to the Valley. This return would be their last. They settled in Calipatria in 1975 and that is where they raised their four children.

John went to work for the Imperial Irrigation District and Teri stayed home to raise their children. John became part of the city's leadership, serving on the City Council for several terms.

In 1981, Teri Woelke sought a part-time job at the Calipatria library, working under then librarian Christine Clay. When she died, Woelke became the librarian.

Technically, Woelke is a library clerk who works under Imperial County librarian Connie Barrington. But to the people of Calipatria, Woelke is their librarian whose efforts have made a difference in the community.

Kim Taylor, a close friend of Woelke's and a member of the Friends of the Library organization for the Calipatria library, said Woelke is always willing to help others.

"She is very compassionate and giving of herself to others," Taylor said, adding, "She is a great resource."

Woelke is quick to credit the Friends of the Library for their effort to make sure the library remains successful even in lean years. She said with the help of the Friends of the Library and others who have donated to the library the library is able to have family literacy and summer reading programs for children.

On the day a reporter was in the library to interview Woelke several children found their way into the library after school.

Some went to the computers to play educational games while others moved toward small, children-sized desks to do their homework.

Yasmin Campos, 10, a fourth-grader at Fremont Primary School, got busy on a computer playing an "Arthur" game based on the Public Broadcasting System cartoon character.

Yasmin said of Woelke, "She is very nice to me and she sometimes gives me candy."

Yasmin added she likes to come to the library and does so nearly every day after school.

"There are lots of arts and crafts and you can use the computers and check out books," Yasmin said.

Crystal Sabala, 9, and her friend Tiffany Daffern, 9, both fourth-graders at Fremont, said they like to come to the library to do their homework.

Crystal said of Woelke, "She helps us try to find the right books we want."

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