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Meet the Cedar Rapids Public Library Summer Reading Corps members

Meet the Cedar Rapids Public Library Summer Reading Corps members

Serving at the Cedar Rapids Public Library for the summer through AmeriCorps, you’ll see these three Summer Reading Corps members at outreach events at area parks with the Mobile Technology Lab, and they’ll be helping out with the Summer Dare Reading Program and other Library events and programs.

Katie Struckman-Johnson sits at a Library table during an outreach event at Greene Square, with a laptop for Summer Dare registration and a pile of reading log books.

Katie Struckman-Johnson, from Vermillion, South Dakota, graduated in May with majors in anthropology and creative writing, with a museum studies certificate. She hopes to go to graduate school and is planning to study library science.

“A lifelong goal for me is to help people, and that’s the thing libraries do,” she said. “And I want to work on diversity and accessibility.”

She’s especially interested in working with incarcerated people in libraries, and this summer she’ll be working with librarian Meredith Crawford on a partnership with the Linn County Juvenile Detention Center and Fresh Start Ministries, bringing books and book discussions to the youth at the center.

Penelope Gardner sits a table with crafts at Jacolyn Park in Cedar Rapids.

Penelope Gardner has family history at the Library – her sister Elizabeth works at Ladd Library, her father used to work here, and her mother worked at the Hiawatha Public Library. 

“We’ve got a family of librarians. It was my turn,” she said. “I’ve always been a big fan of literacy because of my family, and I was raised on books.”

This fall the Cedar Rapids native will be a senior at St. Louis University, where she’s studying psychology and English.

When she’s not at the library, she said she loves to knit – she’s working on a Harry Styles sweater right now, watch “trashy TV,” and document her cat Tang’s adventures on Instagram – find Tang at @Tang_the_Tabby.

Emma Barton-Norris stands with three children as one of them uses a tablet to drive a Sphero robot.

This is Emma Barton-Norris’ second summer as a Reading Corps member. Last summer was a strange one, however, where she mostly helped the Library from home, and so she’s back for more in-person interactions this year. 

“Getting people excited to come back into the library has been fun, reconnecting with the community,” she said. “I’m excited to be here. I really like these outreach programs.”

She grew up in Cedar Rapids and just graduated from Northern Illinois University with a history degree and certificate in gender studies. This fall she plans to pursue her master’s degree in library science at the University of Iowa, where she will have an internship with the Iowa Women’s Archives. 

“I really enjoy the principles, the ideals of open access and free access. They’re really important to me,” she said. “The library is one of the last free public spaces left.”

She enjoys reading, hiking and camping. 

“I had to read a lot of heavy stuff for school, so since school ended I’ve been doing a lot of light summer reading,” she said. “I like historical fiction, and books with a sci-fi twist.”

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