All ages welcome: From seniors to teens, Nobles County LIbrary has something for everyone

WORTHINGTON -- When it comes to the Nobles County Library, there is no limit to the age, gender or ethnicity of its patrons. From the hundreds of children who come for the afterschool programs and Summer Reading Program to the more than 160 adult...

Mekdelawit Tilahun helps out in the children's books area Thursday at the Nobles County Library. (Tim Middagh/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON - When it comes to the Nobles County Library, there is no limit to the age, gender or ethnicity of its patrons.

From the hundreds of children who come for the afterschool programs and Summer Reading Program to the more than 160 adults signed up for the Winter Reading Program -  to the 280 people, on average, who come through its doors daily -  the library is a vital part of Worthington.

The library’s mission statement says, in part, that the library, “encourages the love of reading and the joy of learning by providing educational, recreational, and instructional services in a safe, friendly, multicultural, community-centered atmosphere.” For two of its patrons in particular, this mission statement plays out almost every day of their lives.


Jerry Langendorfer, a veteran, retiree and life-long library patron, makes a daily habit of visiting the library, and he has done so for four or five years.

“It’s a place for me to go every single day,” Langendorfer said. “I only stay away if I’m sick or the weather is too bad. Otherwise, I’m here six days a week.”

His habit is proven by the newspaper which is placed on the corner of the checkout counter first thing every morning. It never stays there very long. Sure enough, Jerry walks in within a few minutes of the library unlocking its doors, grabs the paper as he passes by, and settles himself at a table in the back where he spreads out the paper and settles in to read.

“I catch up on the local news,” Langendorfer explained. “I walk over, or drive over, depending on the weather.”


But Langendorfer doesn’t limit himself to the newspaper.

“It’s a great place to go if you have something to look up in a certain field or subject,” he said. “Insects, or reptiles, or sports or history. There’s all kinds of stuff to look into, for all ages. It’s a fascinating place to come.”

Langendorfer is a self-proclaimed history and sports buff.

“I read about the Minnesota Twins and so forth, just about anything in history,” he said. “The 19th century, the Revolutionary War, even before the war like Daniel Boone. Almost any figure down through history, George Washington, Davy Crockett, Abraham Lincoln, the Pony Express.”


Langendorfer has read about them all - and more - at the library.

“Laura Ingalls Wilder, the Indian Uprising in Minnesota in 1861. 1876 was a very interesting year - there was Little Big Horn in June, and two months later Jesse James came riding through here to Northfield,” Langendorfer listed. “I’ve read lots of articles and books with that type of information.”

It’s not just as a retiree that Langendorfer has frequented the library. As a boy, growing up on a farm not far away, he and his brother would come into town with their father, and their dad would drop them off at the library while he ran errands.

“I would get books that interested me at that time,” Langendorfer recalled. “Books on Buffalo Bill, Wild Bill Hickok, Chief Little Crow, the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, the Tarzan books. They could order me books through interlibrary loan. They’d get me the Lone Ranger books, he was my boyhood hero.”

Speaking of heroes, Mekdelawit Tilahun, another frequent library patron, has run across her share of heroes and heroines at the library as well. And not all of them are fictional characters.

“I like it here, Miss Jackie is nice,” stated Tilahun with a smile for her mentor and favorite librarian, Jackie Van Horsen.

Tilahun, now a freshman in high school, began coming to the library when she was in third grade. She began helping out in sixth.

“I used to come almost every day after school,” Tilahun described. “I would use the computers for homework and stuff and just hang out. Now, I can’t come quite as often because I’m involved in so many clubs at school.”

Still, it is a rare Tuesday and Wednesday that doesn’t find Tilahun at the library, helping out by cutting - it was intricate, detailed fairies being cut last week -  or otherwise helping to prep for the children’s programming.

“I like helping out with the Halloween party the best,” Tilahun admitted. “One year it was Harry Potter.” She looked at Van Horsen and they both laughed, revealing shared memories and love of what they do.

Harry Potter is one of the fictional heroes that Tilahun has met through her time at the library.

“We had a Harry Potter trivia challenge,” explained Van Horsen, “at the Rock County library.”

“We won for best costume,” Tilahun broke in. “But we came in third place (for the trivia).”

Five students met with Van Horsen ahead of the event to prepare, and they then got pizza and drove to the Rock County library. Trivia contests and scavenger hunts -  sometimes throughout downtown Worthington -  and movie events are a large part of what Van Horsen does with her older students at the library.

“We read the book first,” said Van Horsen, “and then we discuss it and maybe do an art project on it, and then we go see it at the movie theater. Then we discuss afterwards how it compares to the book. We did that with ‘Hunger Games,’ ‘Divergent,’ ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ When we read ‘The Hobbit,’ we cooked hobbit food and had a hobbit feast.”

The “Just Gurlz” club that Tilahun is a part of through the library boasts 24 to 28 girls in grades five on up. She is also part of the “Wii Club,” with 10 to 15 girls and boys coming weekly to hang out and play together. Van Horsen is pleased that so many teens are involved in the library’s programming.

“I get to see them when they start here at a young age (library programming starts at the preschool age) and see them grow and change over the years,” Van Horsen said. “ I give them book recommendations, and they give me recommendations.”

“She lets us suggest books for the library to buy,” Tilahun added.

“She is very persuasive to get people to read books,” Van Horsen said, laughing.. “Mostly Harry Potter, but other ones, too. She has high comprehension skills due to all of the reading she has done.”

Whether it is as a teen or as a retired adult, the Nobles County Library is living out its mission every day by instilling a love of reading and joy of learning into its patrons -  one book at a time.

Jerry Langendorfer reads the newspaper inside the Nobles County Library in Worthington. (Gretchen O'Donnell/Daily Globe)

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