Before COVID-19 caused a shutdown of many public facilities, Travis Landhuis loved every minute of his new job at the Nevada Public Library.
Landhuis, 30, was hired in January as the library’s Youth Services Specialist and can’t wait to get back to seeing kids in-person.
“I can’t wait to get to sit in a circle with all of our little friends … to get to laugh and play and sing. I miss that (in-person) part of it,” he said.
Landhuis, a former college teacher, moved to Nevada from Cedar Falls in December after accepting the library position. He’d been in Cedar Falls since attending the University of Northern Iowa (UNI), where he earned a bachelor’s degree in English and Creative Writing in 2011 and a master’s degree in 2013.
Since earning his master’s, Landhuis had been teaching college writing classes at both UNI and Hawkeye Community College. He taught freshmen composition at UNI, and business and developmental writing at Hawkeye.
“My hope (for a career) was to get to write and teach, and I got to do both of those things,” Landhuis said. “I still get to do both of those things in a different way now.”
As a Youth Services Specialist, Landhuis strives to keep the curiosity and joy of reading alive for kids.
“I love reading, and as a writing teacher, you definitely do have an opportunity to focus a little on reading. But, by the time my (college) students entered my classroom, they had an idea about reading … It’s hard to change someone’s mind when they feel they don’t like reading.”
Now, Landhuis sees his opportunity to influence younger learners in a positive way. “I thought it would be amazing to play a bigger role in that process.” He’s excited to develop programs that are focused on reading development.
He enjoyed his first couple of months at the Nevada Public Library when everyone was still able to come into the library.
“I loved reading stories with the kids … and hearing what they think about everything. Even more than that, my favorite thing is watching how excited they get when they have the freedom to run around and pick out books.”
If a child can hold onto that excitement for reading and learning, Landhuis said, “that will serve them for their whole life.”
During the library’s shutdown, Landhuis has been challenged to come up with new ideas for reaching out to children. “We’ve done online storytimes and used Facebook Live.” He said it’s been important “to offer at least a friendly face, reading stories and singing songs,” even if his only in-person audience is made up of his pet cats, Potter and Weasley.
“I just can’t wait to get to sit in a circle with all of our little friends, to get to laugh and play and sing together.”
Libraries have always been a safe place for Landhuis, and while he’s used to bigger libraries (he grew up in Cedar Rapids), he is impressed by the size of Nevada’s collection and its reach to all ages. He also compliments the “peaceful, cozy” nature of the Nevada Public Library building.
Landhuis has enjoyed his move to Nevada. His cousin, Zach Landhuis, lives in Nevada with his wife, Kayla, and their daughter, Virginia, 4. “She (Virginia) is a very good participant in storytimes,” he shared.
Nevada also puts Landhuis closer to other extended family living in Des Moines. It has not, however, put him any closer to his fiancé, Kate.
“My fiance lives in Canada, so COVID has really impacted my personal life, because we’re not able to cross the border, so all of our plans are still up in the air,” he said.
One thing COVID hasn’t ruined is the enjoyment of his favorite hobby – board games. “I’ve got a couple of friends who are diehards… Every weekend, just about, we fire up the digital board.”
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