SLIS Alumna Helps Others, Starts a New Chapter as Librarian

Patrons sometimes visit the Spirit Lake Public Library looking for assistance in dealing with life's challenges.

Citizens of this community in northwest Iowa may need help finding a new job or acquiring more information about a recently diagnosed health condition. Whatever the request, library director Cindy Davis is ready to help.

“People with real, basic life needs come in wanting to know where to turn. For me, helping with medical issues or a job search is a hands-on thing. I feel like I’m making a difference,” says Davis, who earned a master’s degree from the University of Iowa’s School of Library and Information Science in December 2011.

Davis loves the one-on-one interaction with visitors to the library, and she isn’t a hard person to find among all the books. You’ll see her most days at the front desk.

One day, a recently unemployed man needed his librarian’s assistance to rejoin the workforce. Davis helped her patron, who was unfamiliar with computers, conduct an online employment search as well as scan local newspapers for available jobs. In the end, the man landed a new job and a new home.

“I felt like I made a huge difference for the man,” Davis recalls. “When I help other people, it is the best feeling. I’m actually making a difference in their life.”

Davis has a special affection for helping people of all ages. She takes great pride in having established a reading program at two assisted living centers and the nursing home in the Spirit Lake area.

“People living in those places so appreciate it. A lot of them don’t have access to read what they want,” says Davis, who visits each location twice a month.

Davis has worked at the Spirit Lake Public Library since December 2011. Prior to that, she taught elementary school in the Nashua-Plainfield School District for 22 years.

Davis’s master’s thesis reflected her passion for small libraries. Her research focused on the availability of graphic novels, a great teaching tool for reluctant readers, in rural areas.

“As a teacher and a parent, I’ve never had access to books like you have at the University of Iowa or in urban areas,” says Davis. “My thesis looked at resources, in this case 20 graphic novels, which are commonly available in urban areas but severely lacking at rural libraries.”

In 2015, she served as chair of the Iowa Small Library Association, an organization that communicates the concerns and views of small public libraries to the Iowa Library Association, the State Library, the Library Service Areas, community leaders, elected officials and the general public. Davis also serves on the Advisory Panel for the State Library of Iowa.