Becky Pittenger always wanted to be a librarian.
Last year, an opportunity emerged for her to fulfill that dream when the Yankton Community Library had an opening for a children's librarian.
"They were looking for someone with experience with children, possibly an elementary teacher," said Pittenger, who had spent the previous 25 years teaching elementary students. "I applied and I got it, and it all worked out."
Did it ever.
Earlier this month, Pittenger was named New Librarian of the Year by the South Dakota Library Association for her work since joining the staff at the Yankton Community Library in June 2010.
"It was a complete surprise," she said about the award. "The fact that the director and the staff nominated me and encouraged the parents and the children to write in support of my nomination means a lot to me. It's incredible to be so honored."
"The entire staff nominated her because we all feel that she has been a great addition to the children's area and to the library as a whole," said Kathy Jacobs, director of the Yankton Community Library. "She works really well with the kids and the parents, as well as the adult patrons. She's just a great librarian."
The New Librarian of the Year award recognizes librarians who are just getting started in the profession and have performed the function of a librarian for a period of not more than 10 years in South Dakota.
According to the South Dakota Library Association, the New Librarian of the Year is someone who has transformed a routine task or an untried idea into imaginative, creative service and has projected a dynamic image of the professional librarian into the community and offered that community something which it did not have before.
According to Jacobs, Pittenger has done just that.
"She's gotten more programs going for both the children and the teens, and we were really lacking in that," Jacobs said. "She's also done great things with the summer reading program."
Among the programs that Pittenger has introduced are Baby and Me Lap Sit and Toddler Time. Baby and Me Lap Sit is an interactive program for infants up to 12 months and their parent or caregiver, while Toddler Time is designed for children ages 1 to 3 and their parent or caregiver, and is more sophisticated with activities and stories.
She has also formed a teen advisory group and introduced programming for teens and middle school students.
While programming is a large part of her job, Pittenger performs many other duties. She is in charge of ordering all the books for the preschool-through-high school areas, as well as "weeding out" older books that are no longer suitable to be check out. She is involved with the summer reading program and story time, and also visits daycares each week to read to children.
"I keep pretty busy," she said with a laugh.
With her wide array of tasks, Pittenger said her experience as a teacher has been extremely valuable.
"I've taught a variety of levels, and I think it helped me feel comfortable with a variety of ages," she said. "And the training in children's literature and reading has been a direct help."
While Pittenger enjoyed teaching, she said she couldn't be more pleased with her career move.
"I love my job. I loved teaching too, but this is just another aspect of it, from a different angle. It's the best of both worlds," she said. "It's a dream-come-true job for me, that's for sure."