A conversation with Chris Wonders, Library board member and community planner
Libraries have always been “part of the community” for Chris Wonders. Growing up in Boiling Springs, he loved exploring the ornate Amelia Givin Library, Cumberland County’s first free public library.
“The internet is a lonely place,” says Chris. “You can get lost in there, but for me, it doesn’t bring the social connection that a library does.”
Chris, of midtown Harrisburg, joined The Library’s board in January 2019. His career in community development taught him to appreciate the value of libraries to the fabric of a community. Today, he is director of the Institute for Public Service and Sponsored Programs at Shippensburg University.
Chris’ first job was shelving books in the Amelia Givin Library. Now, he’s a whiz in the literature categories when watching “Jeopardy” with his in-laws.
“Just being in that environment where you’re handling all these titles, you’re becoming familiar by osmosis with literature and authors.”
What does a library bring to a community? Libraries are non-discriminating. There are no questions about who you are or how much money you have. Everybody comes in at the same place. What else in society is like that?
What are you doing with The Library board? The Public Services Committee seemed the best way to become familiar with operations. I’m interested in All Ready Access (giving students access to Library resources). The Library has so many resources, and they can help teachers guide their students on how to use them for research.
What’s your favorite thing about The library? Usually, I’m looking first at the space. How does this feel to somebody coming in? How is information presented so the user feels welcome? I commend all of our facilities for being top-notch.
What do you know about The Library that you didn’t know before? The Library has been working to improve understanding and diversity. How do you design your programs and services to keep in mind the diversity of needs and perspectives of people walking in the door? That’s interesting to me because of the work I’ve done in community development.
What are you reading? I usually have a couple of books going. “Being Mortal,” by Atul Gawande is about end-of-life care and how our medical system prioritizes science over helping people leave the world gracefully. I’m also reading “Marley,” by Jon Clinch. It’s not the one about the dog. It’s about Scrooge’s partner. I’ll read “The Overstory” next because my mother is always talking about it.
How did your parents influence your love of reading? When I was a kid, the adults I knew also talked about their books. That’s so important for parents who want to get their kids to read. Not only do kids see you reading, but they also hear you talk about reading. That makes it something that’s alive and fun to do.