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Youth librarian retires from Sanibel Public Library

By Staff | Nov 25, 2015

Sanibel Public Library Youth Services Librarian Barbara Dunkle. MEGHAN MCCOY

Monday will mark Sanibel Public Library Youth Services Librarian Barbara Dunkle last day after 13 years, as she will be retiring to spend more time with her husband and mother.

“I am going to miss the staff. They are like my family. I spend more time with them than I do with my husband and my mom. The kids, of course. I love being with the kids and watching them grow up. And of course their parents,” she said of leaving the library.

Before finding the position at the Sanibel Public Library, Dunkle traveled the world with her husband, Pat, who was in the military, while working at various libraries, as well as volunteering her time. She has a bachelors and master’s degree in library science.

“I have always worked in libraries my entire adult life,” she said. “There were times where it was volunteering at the library. I have also set up small libraries in a couple of different churches that I went to. I also set one up for a preschool at the military bases. It has always been in that realm. It is where my heart is. This is my passion.”

She found that she enjoyed showing children an appreciation for books, as well as how much fun reading can be.

After Pat retired from the military he told his wife since she followed him while he was in the military for many years, he would now follow her.

“So I started looking for a job. We wanted warm weather. We had lived in Hawaii for a couple of years and loved it, but it was too far away from family. So, I started looking down the west coast of Florida thinking that was more of what we were interested in, more like Hawaii,” Dunkle said. “I saw this advertisement on the internet and I applied for it and luckily got it.”

She had never been to Sanibel before taking the job, but coworkers in Washington D.C. told her she would love the island. Dunkle said now after 13 years it will be hard to leave Sanibel.

“At the same time I was interviewed for here, I had also interviewed in Bradenton for an adult position. I offered to come down for an interview and on my way down here I stopped at Bradenton and I realized at that time that my heart is with the children,” she said.

Dunkle lives in Port Charlotte, commuting two hours each way for the past eight years. The couple decided to move to Charlotte County after residing in Fort Myers for five years once her best friend moved to Southwest Florida.

Over the past 13 years she has developed new programs for the youngsters, as well as carry on others that were already in place. Dunkle said she really enjoys doing storytime at the library, as well as the island’s preschools.

“The one that I am most proud of right now has been group discussion books with the kids,” she said.

Although the program did not take off as she hoped a few years earlier, the second time around grabbed the kids attention. The program initially attracted youth in third and fourth grade.

“They get to the point when they are in sixth grade that they get so busy with outside activities, which makes it hard,” Dunkle said. “But, a couple of groups I have been able to keep through eighth grade. The ones that I have right now that are in seventh and eighth grade; I have had since they were in third grade.”

She has enjoyed watching them grow and mature over the years while being involved in the group discussions.

“I just love working with the kids,” Dunkle said.

Other highlights from her time at the Sanibel Public Library includes adding two new areas last year – an early literacy corner and the Fab Lab.

The early literacy corner is set up for birth to four and five year olds, giving them something to do, while encouraging early learning as they begin to read. The space includes activities that will help them learn their letters, putting things in order, sorting things and playing.

“That’s what we want to stir up . . . their imagination,” Dunkle said.

The Fab Lab is a shelving unit located in the children’s section providing the kids with another opportunity to be engaged while visiting the library. The shelving includes such items as duct tape, pieces of wood to build with, circuits to learn about electricity and scrapbooking material.

Dunkle said the lab has become a destination.

As the youth librarian, she has had the opportunity to work with children up to eighth grade while they attended The Sanibel School.

“I’ve actually gotten to see the kids come in as babies and they are now in sixth, seventh and eighth grade. It’s wonderful to be able to see that,” Dunkle said.

Many friendships have been formed throughout the years between Dunkle and the families that utilize the library. She shared that one of her families she has known for 13 years, while another she has known for eight years.

“It’s nice to get to know the families, as opposed to just each individual kids, which I enjoy, but it’s nice to get to know the families also,” she said.

Dunkle decided to retire after her husband shared that he was going to retire in January.

“As we talked more about it, I decided it was getting to be that time for me,” she said. “If he’s retiring, we are the same age, maybe it’s that time for me to retire also. So by the end of September, I finally made the decision.”

Although she has no other plans than spending more time with her mother and husband, she will be going on a weeklong cruise in January, something her husband scheduled.

Follow Meghan @IslanderMeghan on Twitter.