After 23 years of service, our Youth Services Coordinator, Carri Fry, is retiring. Carri has been a part of the Derby Public Library’s many metamorphoses from the facility’s humble iterations to its now grand and growing infrastructure.
When Carri first joined the library’s team, only two employees worked in Youth Services, and due to circumstance, Carri found herself as the head of the department within a few years of employment. Now Carri manages a team of four others on staff and has supervised that team through facilitation of programs for all ages. Carri has watched our library’s Summer Reading Program evolve from just a few hundred reading finishers to the massive institution that is our summer reading program today with thousands of sign-ups and finishers and a prize package rivaling some of the country’s top libraries.
I’ve been a part of her team for nearly ten years and can still recall the joy and compassion she exuberated in my job interview. She has been a sturdy foundation for me and the Youth Services team. She’s been a leader and mentor, a voice of encouragement, and of course, “the library lady” to so many of our community’s families and their children. Her contributions to the Derby Public Library have helped to evolve our services and resources into what they are today.
Before joining the Derby Public Library’s team, Carri believed she would be a teacher. In college, she participated in preschool lab sessions and instantly knew that early education was the field for her. She would go on to become the director of a child care facility and commit most of her twenties and thirties to both aiding in the upbringing of her local community’s children, and in the raising of her own two boys.
When she was hired as the Youth Services Assistant in 1997, the Derby Public Library was a much smaller organization with barely enough room for preschool storytimes, but Carri would call upon her directorial experience once more when she became the Youth Services Coordinator.
More changes were to come for the library. She says “It has grown substantially. I was fortunate to take part in the campaign, design, and move to our new facility in 2009. And with this new building, we are able to expand the number and scope of the programs we offer the community. By incorporating technology, we have truly become a community gathering space.”
Soon Carri was adding more part-time positions into her team which allotted for expanded programming. Derby as a city was also expanding, and summer reading program seasons required additional hires and teen volunteers. Carri also introduced school-aged programming for K-5th graders into the weekly schedule and built long-lasting partnerships with some of our well-known summer performers like Jim Cosgrove and Jay and Leslie’s Laughing Matters.
When Carri reflects upon some of her greatest achievements, many examples come to mind.
“I take great pride in the the Arlee Killion Early Literacy Area and StoryWalk Derby. The Early Literacy Area was made possible by a generous gift from Arlee’s children. I had the privilege to design and implement this addition to the library in 2016. It has proven to be a very popular destination for young families and grandparents. I also had the opportunity in collaboration with the Derby Health Collaborative, City of Derby, and other community sponsors to bring StoryWalk Derby to High Park in 2017. I took the lead on this project as well as designing and installing picture books displayed in signage around the pond and in Derby’s High Park.”
Carri and I also share an achievement that we worked on together in 2016. Carri and I applied for the Association of Library Services to Children (ALSC) Curiosity Creates Grant with funding provided to the ALSC by the Walt Disney Company. We were one of 79 recipients and the only recipient in Kansas to receive the grant! Using this funding, we adapted our popular Teen Moviecraft summer program into a 12-week spring program for tweens. Carri and I also published an academic paper entitled Chasing Disney: Tween Filmmakers Get Their Shot at Creativity in the ALSC’s professional journal. This was such a highlight for both of us, and we were surprised to have won the grant and had the chance to provide our program on a much bigger scale. You can even watch us in their documentary here!
When Carri recalls some of her fondest memories, it really all goes back to the children.
“Working with children from a newborn infant’s first library experience to seeing preschool children have so much in storytime to watching them fall in love with books and reading to the teenagers who feel like they belong here…watching them grow and have families of their own and be a part of their children’s lives is the best.”
Of course, as with any position, Carri has been met with challenges over the years. From department changes and communicating with other partners to navigating and adapting our services during a global pandemic, Carri has learned so much about doing what is best for the community. When asked what are the more difficult aspects of the supervisory role, Carri says that “hiring” is one of the harder elements. “You only have a small glimpse into who this person is, and really, you have to go with your gut instinct to know if they will be the right fit.”
I’ve definitely benefited from how she’s modeled leadership over the years, and she suggests that a supervisor “should always consider the work that the team is doing and approach the team with as much understanding and empathy as possible.”
When looking to the future, Carri recommends to any new librarians to “find a specialization in the field, especially within Youth Services. Focus on a particular age group or demographic, and incorporate learning into your everyday life. Be a life-long learner.”
Carri will continue that learning even into her retirement. She plans to join the Friends of the Library and volunteer her support. She hopes to one day join the Library Board and also to act as a consultant for other libraries interested in developing early literacy elements or youth resources into their facilities. She also is looking forward to some quality time with her family.
“I’ll be spending time with my husband Monte and our sons Vaughn and Tyler and our extended family. Monte and I have been very fortunate to have been able to travel internationally a great deal in the past years and plan on more adventures once travel restrictions are lifted. In addition, we are planning on purchasing an RV to travel around the U.S.”
On my very first day at the library, Carri immediately encouraged me to jump in and give a program a try. She truly believes in the abilities of others, in their adaptability to work, and in their creativity to mold and match the needs of our patrons. Of all her talents as a leader and supervisor, one of her greatest is in her constant look towards a sustainable team. This has been most apparent now as we move into a new generation of Youth programming in an ever-evolving community and world.
Carri may be moving onto the next adventure of her life, but it’s a guarantee that she has made a lasting imprint on our library staff and on every family that she has supported. We here at the library, all of our patrons, and even our beloved books thank her for these years of service and will always remember her dedication and passion to the power of stories.