It’s hard to miss the smile on Katelyn (“Katie”) Boucher’s face as she enters the children’s section of the McKinley Park Library. Boucher, a children’s librarian since December 2015 at the McKinley Park branch of the Chicago Public Library, is one of the most recognized faces in the McKinley Park neighborhood.
For Boucher, McKinley Park isn’t just a community, it’s her home away from home, she said.
“I’m lucky to work here and I feel very connected to the community. I love everything about the neighborhood,” she said. “Everyone is amazing, from the kids to the people to the staff.”
From country to city
Boucher began her career as a teacher and worked part-time as a librarian, she said. She loved her library work and eventually earned a master’s degree in library science. She then began her career as a librarian in rural Iowa.
She fell in love with the McKinley Park neighborhood when she moved here in 2015, she said, and has been keeping tabs on whether to return to the neighborhood while living nearby. Since joining the McKinley Park Library, Boucher has been instrumental in supporting children’s programs there, especially through the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Large crowds for story time
Two “story hour” sessions presented via online videoconference drew large crowds of children on Monday evenings and Friday mornings. At least 30 children would tune in during Monday sessions, and Friday story hours would draw a staggering audience of at least 75 people.
Attendance has remained consistent, Boucher said, and online sessions have allowed children from across Chicago to connect and participate.
Back to In Person
With the library now opening to in-person events, Boucher continued programming for young children with Little Learners Story Time on Thursdays at 10:30 a.m. This joins many other McKinley Park library programs and events for young people, from Fantasy Book Club for teens at this week’s next Improv Comedy for Kids class.
“This type of programming provides a good learning environment for children,” Boucher said. “They have fun and learn a lot, and it also involves the whole family.”
At story time
During a recent online story hour session, Boucher started with a song, followed by a reading of the book “The Cat Who Ate the Moon.” Boucher said the online sessions differed from the in-person ones because she had to hold the book close to the screen to explain the The online sessions also included interactive games like “the little mouse”, in which the children had to search for a mice under houses of different colors.
“A Zoom session gives every child the opportunity to express themselves,” Boucher said. “Kids also get to enjoy the spotlight and share their favorite things with me in the show and tell time we have at the end of story time.”
All growth opportunities
Boucher currently spends his time collecting bilingual children’s books in McKinley Park: a predominantly Latin neighborhood. She also enjoys decorating, telling stories and commissioning books, she said, and works with local daycare centers and neighborhood offices to support children’s programs and events.
Boucher said she’s especially excited about this summer’s library programs, which are either in-person or for the first time since the COVID-19 outbreak. These programs encourage children to read and fill learning gaps during the summer holidays, she said.
“The kids at McKinley Park are so curious and sweet,” Boucher said. “They need every opportunity they can get to grow.”