By Mary Owen
“Once upon a time …”
There was a lady who really, really loved to read stories to a few of the little children who lived in her neighborhood. She got them involved in each book she read by having them craft pictures of the characters. And she even sang songs and played games that seemed to relate to each and every story. The children loved the lady, who was funny and kind. And soon her circle of little friends grew bigger and bigger with every story she told, until all the children who lived near her came to listen to her tales.
Not for for Casle Portner. It’s just the beginning for this “lady” who came on board July 27 as Stayton Public Library’s children’s librarian.
“I’ve always been a fan of books and reading,” said Portner, who began her career at the Mt. Angel Public Library some 18 years ago. She also held court for young listeners at local schools and at the Molalla library.
Portner, who hails from Silverton, took her sons, Simon, now 30, and Ian, now 27, to the Mt. Angel Library when they were youngsters, instilling in them a love for books that they retain today. When then librarian Sharon Flicker advertised for a two-day-a -week position as children’s librarian, Portner, encouraged by her husband, Randy, was quick to apply – and got the job!
“Sharon saw the potential for me to be a children’s librarian,” Portner said. “She was my mentor and is still my friend.”
In her new role, Portner works hard to interest children of all ages in books that surprise, challenge and sooth them. She credits youth services partner Heidi Smith with Stayton’s storytime success.
“We’ve only just started, but more kids come every time,” Portner said.
Storytimes are an hour long and take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10 a.m. and Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. All ages are welcome, from toddlers to grandmas, Portner said.
“We wanted to add the after-school session to attract more of the older kids,” she said. “And I always try to have something interesting for the moms and others who bring the kids. I try to make it fun for them too.”
When not reading stories to Stayton kiddies, Portner chooses and buys all the books in the library’s children’s section.
“I’m looking for balance in the collection,” she said. “We need books with humor, surprises and other offerings as well as the sweet picture books.”
Portner knows that ’tweens and teens like books that are a bit more edgy than those read by younger readers. She is avidly adding those to the library’s shelves in hopes that that age group will be drawn to reading books in their spare time.
In her spare time, Portner loves to kayak. She plans to bring hers to one of the upcoming storytime sessions for youngsters to learn first-hand about kayaking. The book, no doubt, will be related to the sport as well, she said.
After 18 years in the library world, Portner is happy to be working full-time in her new position.
“This job is the culmination of everything I’ve worked for,” she said. “I’m very happy to be working in this beautiful library.”