Meet new Claremont library manager Katherine Loeser
by Andrew Alonzo | email@example.com
Whether you call it following her heart or in her mother’s footsteps, Katherine Loeser, 47, Claremont Helen Renwick Library’s new community library manager, seems to be doing both.
A passionate librarian, communicator, and daughter, Loeser is hoping to deliver Claremont library goers a warm environment just like her mom once did.
“My mom of course is the biggest influence of my life,” Loeser said. “She passed away in 2002.”
Loeser’s mother Janice grew up in East Africa in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Books were luxuries for the citizens of Mombasa, Kenya, and her mother often stayed at the local library until the next shipment of literature arrived.
“When she got to be here in California [in 1961], she definitely made use of every library that was at her disposal,” Loeser said. “I actually grew up in and around libraries.
Katherine was born in 1976 in Los Angeles. Loeser’s mother often took her two daughters to Los Angeles Public Library events.
“This is where my love of libraries started,” she said. “My mom used to take us to every free library event there was and one of them was like a dinner theater that was held by the librarians at the Los Angeles Public Library’s Central Library, and that was me and my sister, and mom’s elbow in there.”
Loeser’s mother eventually landed a job at the Atwater Village Branch Library as a clerk typist. Loeser recalled memories of gluing pockets into books and other simple tasks as a child before being old enough to volunteer as a teenager in 1989.
While in college, she spent her semesters soaking up knowledge in preparation for a career as a teacher. “I would take a class, let’s say history, and then I would take every history class they offered,” Loeser said. “I was like, ‘Well you know the more I know, the better it’s going to be to teach.’”
She graduated from Pasadena City College in 1998 with an associate degree in art and followed that up with an associate degree in science in 1999. In 2004 she earned a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies from California State University, Los Angeles, then a Master of Library and Information Science from UCLA in 2006.
When it came time for her mother to retire, library staff called Loeser to see if she knew anybody who wanted to work at the branch. Following in her mother’s footsteps was not an immediate thought. Instead, she arrived at a crossroads: build upon what she knew from her youth, or become a teacher.
“From elementary school I knew I wanted to be a teacher, and so that was my career path,” she said. “And when they reached out to me to find out if I knew anybody who wanted to be a shelver or a library page, I was like ‘I’ll do it.’ And so, I was working there.”
She began as a messenger clerk at Atwater Village Branch Library in 2000 and remained there for six years before becoming the children’s librarian in the Glendale library system. In 2011, she was promoted to library supervisor, then to senior library supervisor of children’s services in 2017. In September 2019, she left Glendale to become community library manager for the Baldwin Park Library.
“I loved Glendale,” she said. “Children’s librarianship and working with children is something you know I’ve always wanted to do. But I really missed the depth of interactions with customers of all ages. Most of the conversations were largely about dinosaurs and firetrucks — and you craved a little bit more dynamic conversation.”
Loeser started her new gig at the Claremont Helen Renwick Library on June 16. She succeeds Amy Crow, who left in 2021, as well as interim managers Cheryl Gilera and Wen Wen Zhang.
“She’s such a dynamic person and I think so highly of her, and I am going to spend my time here trying to live up to the bar Amy Crow set for here,” Loeser said. “The thing that I love about libraries is it’s not just a job, it also feels like I’m doing something that’s especially good and contributing to society.”
Loeser’s day-to-day tasks include overseeing library operations and services, answering customer questions, managing security incidents, communicating regional and countywide messages with locals, and clearing roadblocks for the library’s other managers to provide programming. She also enjoys the seemingly ordinary yet abundant interactions with customers at the library desk.
“I’m also here to help customers not only access the materials but learn about the services and materials we have,” she said.
Surrounded by books daily (and since birth), reading has been a lifetime passion. She invites patrons to ask her for recommendations.
“Heaven forbid someone comes to the desk, because I can keep going on for eons to find them the right book,” she joked. “I figured that also helps when customers come to the desk and want to find a good book.”
Since discovering audiobooks during her time in Glendale, Loeser attempts to listen to one every day. Proud of this year’s progress, Loeser showed off her Goodreads account where she’s tracked 275 so far.
Loeser’s goals for her new home library include collaborating with community groups, much like libraries did before Covid.
“I really just want to help partner with other organizations to kind of take the library out of the building into the community where we can,” she said. “I want to offer this community the best example of library service we can.”