By Caroleine James
Wrangell Sentinel 

Scambler enters next chapter of library career as new director


Caroleine James/Wrangell Sentinel

Sarah Scambler grew up visiting the Irene Ingle Public Library. Now, after seven years as assistant librarian, she is taking the helm as director.

The Irene Ingle Public Library has been guided by a distinguished line of library directors, from Helen Hofstad, who ran the library when it opened in 1921, to Irene Ingle, Kay Jabusch and Margaret Villarma. Now that Villarma has retired, former Assistant Librarian Sarah Scambler is stepping into the role of library director to continue the facility's over 100-year legacy.

Her official first day was June 26; Villarma's last day in the office was June 27.

Wrangell's library has been a part of Scambler's life since she was a little girl. Her mother, Ginny Helgeson, was a librarian, so she spent her childhood in libraries, reading books and exploring the shelves. "She (Helgeson) actually worked in this (the Irene Ingle) library when she was pregnant with me," Scambler said. "She worked the night I was born. The late shift."

Following in her mom's footsteps was a longtime goal of Scambler's. After attending college in Victoria, British Columbia, she returned to Wrangell with her young family and took the assistant librarian job in December of 2015.

"I felt like I had won the job lottery," she recalled. "It was so cool. I still sometimes come to work and I'm like, 'I can't believe I get to work here.' It's just such an honor."

For the past seven years, Scambler has learned the ropes of operating a library, a job that involves far more than putting books on shelves. On top of curating, cataloging and culling the library's book collections, developing its community programming and handling its finances, librarians serve as a resource, particularly for youth and elders.

"I really like when someone comes in and has a problem," Scambler said. "Being able to solve that problem for them and helping them get their stuff printed or whatever they need. ... We get people who've never had an email address and now they need an email address to even watch TV. Helping them navigate those sorts of things is really rewarding."

Because of Irene Ingle's small staff, Scambler was also able to expand her skillset and take on additional responsibilities while she was the assistant librarian, making for a smooth transition into the new director role. As director, she hopes to expand the library's hours, update its policies and procedures and develop additional programming to get people back into the library post-COVID.

To more fully engage with the community, Scambler wants to offer regular workshops and other activities. "A lot of libraries are doing some really cool stuff with video game clubs, book clubs, crafting," she said. Pre-COVID, she remembers holding beading and origami classes that featured talented artists and craftspeople in the community. "Things like that get people in here and excited."

She hopes the new assistant librarian will help her build a consistent schedule of events that families can plan around, bringing new faces into the library.

That said, she doesn't plan to do any major overhauling of the library's operations. "I don't want to come in with guns blazing and change everything because this place has been managed like clockwork for 100 years," she said. "You don't need to fix what's not broken. I'm coming into a really fantastic setup, where everything's already running really smoothly."

Becoming library director is "bittersweet," Scambler said. "I really enjoyed working with Margaret (Villarma). And it's daunting because I do have big shoes to fill. ... Kay (Jabusch) did a wonderful job. Margaret's done a wonderful job." And since both previous directors each held the job for over 30 years, "everybody's telling me I've got to be here until 2050. Okay, well, we'll see what the world looks like in 2050."


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