By Kevin Smith
In April, one of Ritter Public Library’s former faculty members returned to Vermilion with big plans as the new director. Joy Walk, the current director of Ritter Library, did not always know that she wanted to go into library science, but she found her love of research driving her that direction.
Walk attended Kent State University, where she received her Bachelor’s Degree in English. She briefly wanted to become a lawyer, so she enrolled at the University of Akron School of Law. However, she dropped out in order to return to KSU to pursue a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science.
“I love research, and all of those degrees have a lot to do with language and the study of language and the aspect of research,” Walk said. “So, I think there’s a lot of similarities in each of those fields.”
After Walk completed her education in 2018, she began working at Ritter Public Library as a youth services associate. In that role, she programmed story time and worked with the children’s collection of books.
“I liked it a lot when I was there. It became a full-time position, and then my role kind of developed a lot more into helping adults with technology,” Walk said. “And as that increased, I really enjoyed that aspect of the job.” When an opportunity came to transition into adult services. Walk chose that path.
After receiving experience with Ritter, Walk explored other libraries and gained experience in different roles. She was a children services manager at the Milan-Berlin Library District and worked in multiple positions at Seneca East Public Library in Attica. She also had the opportunity to tour Scottish libraries for a month with a vocational exchange program through Vermilion Rotary Club. During her trip, Walk said that she saw libraries in Scotland focus on their communities.
As the director, Walk works under the direction of the Ritter Public Library Board of Trustees, manages staff, maintains the budget, advocates for the library, and develops the collection. She would like to continue Ritter’s role as a center in the community.
“I want to see it as a place where people feel comfortable,” Walk said, “where they are making those connections with the information that we provide for one another.
“The community here truly supports its library. I have found that this is the community center. Even if you are not using the library in the traditional sense by coming and checking out books, Vermillion holds a special place. People might come in for art shows. People come in for programming. People come in just to play cards. So it’s a physical place where the community can meet.” However, Walk would like to see the library continue to update their methods of providing information in line with modern technology, although she thinks that they are doing a great job currently.
“The library is great at connecting people with the information they need, and that could be helping someone download an app or an e-book or check a book off of a shelf or teach a program or a class,” Walk said. “There are lots of ways in which we transfer information, so I don’t see that changing.
“I see the way in which we interact with information changing, whether it’s a change in technology or a new way in which we approach learning. We will still always be connecting people with information.”
Walk is looking to connect those who come to Ritter Library with the history of Vermilion as well. She is currently working on a committee that’s working to commemorate a flood that took place the city during July 1969, in what the Chronicle-Telegram called “A night of fear.” Across Northeast Ohio, reports were received of 100-mph+ winds. The summer would become known for the worst flooding in the state’s history, according to ohiohistory.org. The event will take place at the Vermilion Boat Club on July 7 and at Ritter Public Library on July 8.
At the end of the day, Walk said that the library does best when it is reaching and educating the community. “We want to hear from the community,” Walk said. “We want to make sure that we’re doing our best to make it an inviting and welcoming space to everyone in Vermillion.”