For the past decade, Melissa Kane has served as director of the Cascade Public Library, working to build and evolve the library’s services to meet the changing needs of the community.
A native of Dubuque, Kane graduated from the University of Iowa in 1998 with a Bachelor’s Degree in English, later earning her Master’s Degree in library information science from the University of Northern Iowa in 2001. At the time, she worked at the Hudson Public Library as a part-time staffer with the goal of making library work her full career.
“It felt like it would be a good fit for me,” said Kane. “I’ve always loved reading and I have a lot of memories of spending time at the library growing up and throughout high school. Every day after school, I’d walk from (Dubuque) Senior High School to the Carnegie Stout Library and sit upstairs reading near an old clock.”
After completing her degree, Kane worked full-time as director of the Allen College Library in Waterloo while living in Manchester with her family. However, she eventually found the constant drive to Waterloo was a bit too much and opted to run an in-home daycare to be closer to her sons. In 2013, Kane accepted the position of Cascade Library Director.
According to Kane, the responsibilities of a library director can change depending on the library’s size. Larger libraries tend to have directors work more behind the scenes, but Kane’s work involves program planning, outreach work with schools and daycare, supervising staff and making sure all hours are covered constantly, budget planning, ordering materials, public promotions and cataloging materials. Kane said new library materials are chosen based on a mix of reviews and popular local demand. Her favorite part of her job is finding ways the library can help patrons and how to bring in different people.
To be certified as a public librarian, Kane must also undergo 55 continuing education hours every three years. These include preparing for summer reading programs, learning about policy and procedure and being trained to use new resources.
In the decade of Kane’s directorship, she’s overseen the growth and evolution of the library to meet the needs and demands of the community. Kane said this is the nature of libraries which have gone from collections of books and media to offering checkouts of games, technology and even neckties.
“The role libraries play in communities is always evolving — we have to pay attention to what the community is looking for and what we want to offer. If they’re looking for up-to-date technology they can use and find out if they like it before making an expensive purchase, that’s the kind of thing we want to do. It’s amazing how many different things libraries check out — some check out neckties for people who don’t own any and need them for an interview.
“It’s wonderful to see how much the community has contributed to the fundraising,” she said. “Over my 10 years here, they have been very supportive, coming to programs and believing in what we do… Over the years we’ve built programs, built the collection and built what we do to the point that, even if the books weren’t overwhelming the space, these walls can’t hold us.”
One of Kane’s plans for further community expansion is to attract teenage patronage by giving them their own section in the new library building.
“Families are probably our biggest source and we have quite a few senior citizens who utilize the library, but I feel the people we need to reach are kids high-school age through college. We need to do more to reach those people, but right now we don’t have good space for that. High school kids don’t really want to hang out where the librarians are sitting, but they also don’t want to be in the children’s room. With the new library, there will be a designated space for them.”
Kane’s favorite books are historical fiction and the works of Stephen King, but she considers herself to have a wide range and chooses based on her current mood and interest.