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Getting to Know....Kay Rzasa

When one would consider the interests of the typical librarian, a single word would probably come to mind: books. Arlington resident Kay Rzasa, the Branch Manager of Sherwood Hall Library in Mount Vernon, is certainly passionate about books and reading, her interests do not stop there. As the mother of three grown children, Rzasa is a woman of many hobbies that range from seeing a local play to learning Spanish or to just enjoying the sights and sounds of nature. Despite having so much to keep her busy, one of Rzasa's deepest loves has always remained the same; the community she serves every day.

Arlington Connection: When and how did you first start working at the library?

Kay Rzasa: I came to Sherwood Library two years ago and I've worked for Fairfax County Libraries for 15 years. I was the branch manager for Woodrow Wilson Library, and I worked for Tysons-Pimmit, Reston Regional, and Fairfax Regional Library, so I've been fortunate to have lots of opportunities to work with the people of Fairfax County. It's been wonderful to work in Mount Vernon. The people here are very passionate about libraries, and they use them.

AC: What does your current position involve?

KR: I supervise operations at Sherwood Library. We have a management team that supervises the entire library, and I coordinate them and help them to get what they need to be successful. Our over-arching philosophy is good public service… and we have a lot of fun too!

AC: How do you think the Internet and modern technology have affected the traditional library system? What changes do you see?

KR: Libraries have always tried to provide information, and public libraries have always been very cutting edge with the information that they provide. The Internet is really just another way of doing that. This library is very technologically advanced - we have our own technology lab. Also, as librarians, we're trained to know where information is and we can find it whether it's in print or in cyber space.

AC: What types of people do you see come into the library most often?

KR: Everybody. Everyone in the community uses the library. Moms come in holding babies; lots of senior citizens and students — everybody. The library's director and I have a goal for every single person in Fairfax County to use a library in some way. Certainly we're about books here, but we're also really about the community and networking.

AC: In what ways would you suggest making reading more popular among today's children/teenagers?

KR: The most important thing people can do is read to children and read themselves. Read books and magazines together. You can even write books with your children by recording your own experiences, which you can do using modern technology. Write silly poems and letters, anything to reinforce the power of the written word and find the joy in it. Find out what your kids will get excited about, whether it's learning about dinosaurs or even just reading a cookbook.

AC: How do you feel about the popularity of audio-books? Do they give people the same experience that print books do?

KR: The experiences are different but they are also complementary. Print books and audio-books are not in competition. I know that for so many people, the experience they spend with an audio-book is so valuable. They can just listen and enjoy, whether they are commuting to work in the morning or doing chores around the house. The newest technology is downloadable audio-books, and those are very popular today, particularly with biographies and autobiographies. There are many formats for many resources.

AC: Is there a particularly popular book genre that you've noticed during your time here?

KR: The latest thing is our "Hot Picks," and they've been featured since the beginning of the year. With these, we offer extra copies of current popular best-sellers and people can keep them for two weeks. You don't have to wait for them to be on or off reserve, because they go straight to the shelf. It is a very efficient way of making everybody happy.

AC: What book has had the most impact on your own life?

KR: One of the joys of working in a library is that I've learned that there are so many books for every season of our lives. I really couldn't pick just one book. I continually get inspired by fiction and nonfiction, especially by biographies when it comes to nonfiction.

AC: What is your favorite movie?

KR: I'm not sure. The one I saw last was "The Queen," which I really enjoyed, but I wouldn't say it's my favorite. Like my reading taste, my movie taste has always been very eclectic. I loved the smaller art films when I was a teenager and those are still good. I enjoy movie history and seeing how they've changed through the decades — it's like a text book. I'm also looking forward to scoping out some of the theatres that are doing opera.

AC: What do you consider to be your greatest achievements?

KR: I think helping my kids come to productive adulthood. I've also liked working with professionals in Fairfax County and seeing the people who I've mentored come into their own. That's not just a responsibility, but a real joy, as well.

AC: Describe your family....

KR: I live with my partner of ten years, Deb, in Arlington. I have three kids. My daughter, Claire, is 25 and entering graduate school for psychology. My son, Jim, is 22 and working in Reston. My other son, Gabe, is 35 and a high school principal in Georgia. He and his wife have two beautiful little girls. They're all wonderful people and I'm very lucky. I also have two cats!

AC: What are your interests/hobbies?

KR: I love all kind of theatre. I go to high school shows; I think it's important to support student arts. I go to local theatre and to shows in New York when I can afford it! I also was lucky enough to see some theatre in London. Live art, in general, is very exciting. I also like to garden and I've dabbled in flower arranging. I wish I could say something more exciting, like motorcycling, but I don't do that!

AC: What is your favorite local restaurant?

KR: I had a very nice dinner at Indigo Landing a while back, which I really enjoyed. I like any place that creates any kind of healthy or inventive cuisine. I love fusion food, which takes two types of cooking styles — like American and French — and adapts them together in different ways.

AC: What is your favorite place in the community?

KR: I like to sit along the banks of the river in any location along the parkway. I'll just sit there, listening to the birds and watching the river, just enjoying the beauty of the land and the peacefulness. The experience keeps me humble.

AC: What are your personal goals?

KR: I think right now, I'm looking forward to getting to know the community even more, to help people learn more about the library; the riches and treasures that are here. I'd also love to able to study Spanish to learn the language well enough that I could read some of the great works in both Spanish and English. Right now, I can read children's books in Spanish — probably just as well as your average second grader!