Staff Spotlight: Nicole Harding

An integral part of the library, Youth Services Coordinator, Nicole Harding, has been the head of children’s services at South Fayette Township Library for the last six and a half years.

Ms. Nicole H. collaborates with community partners and fellow programming staff to create exciting, educational programs for children, and purchases items for the children’s collection.

We sat down with Ms. Nicole to learn more about her experiences with the library.

How long have you been working in libraries? At South Fayette?

I have been working in public libraries for thirteen years. I started working as a Preschool Outreach Storytime presenter in Iowa. I moved to Pennsylvania ten years ago, and I have been working at the South Fayette Township Library for almost six and a half years. I received my Master of Library Information Science Degree with a specialization in Early Literacy and Children’s Library Services six years ago.

How has children’s programming changed over the years? Stayed the same?

When I started, program emphasis was primarily placed on working with children and parents to help children be ready to read. For older children, library programs were designed to encourage a love of learning.

Currently, programming is not only designed for those purposes, but also to develop higher order thinking skills through fun STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) programs. At South Fayette Township Library, we also integrate Art into our STEM programs and call these programs STEAM.

What is your favorite part of the job?

I love so many parts of my job; it is difficult to select one as a favorite. I love meeting and talking with new families. I love seeing families that have been coming to the library since their children were toddlers.

I enjoy collaborating with Ms. Judy, our STEAM Program Coordinator and Ms. Nicole S., our Early Literacy Outreach Specialist, to bring new program ideas to life. I appreciate it when parents, and especially children, give me ideas for new programs.

One of my favorite things is when children introduce me to new series or books. I purchase at least the first book of a series and if it is in demand, I will order the sequels. I also would like to recognize that our director, Ben Hornfeck, is incredibly supportive of children’s programming.

Are there any memories that stand out?

1. Developing Sundari- Sundari is our version of an American Girl Doll representing a child from India. Sundari’s clothing and accessories were designed by families who moved to South Fayette from India. Her story was written based on the memories of a mother who spent her childhood in India. Now that the American Girl Doll kits are being updated for checkout, I am working to get Sundari ready as well. Pre-pandemic, I began a conversation with families from the Middle East with an eye towards developing a doll that would represent that part of the world. The country has yet to be determined.

2. Having children who have written and published books give book talks at the library. We have made their books a part of our collection.

3. Hearing from parents whose children attended library programs regularly before entering school, credit our library programs with helping their children develop the skills needed to be successful in school.

What would you want someone who is new to the township to know about Youth Services?

Please sign up for the weekly library emails. This is a great way to find out about new and upcoming programs.

We have programs for all ages and I am willing to work with you and your child to find a way to make new programs happen. The Adventures Readers Book Club and Percy Jackson Book Club were both developed after a child asked for the programs and worked with me on designing them. For those interested in chess classes, we offer beginner chess classes for children through our Story Time Chess program. We do not have an instructor on staff to teach advanced beginners and/or competition level children.

Do you have a favorite book or author?

There are so many that I can’t really pick! My favorite stories feature one or more of the following; action, adventure, mystery, characters finding internal strength to overcome obstacles, mythology, and science. I like reading both physical books and e-books on my Kindle. I often have multiple books to read and choose based on my mood.