Spotlight on Benita Browning of the Pontiac Branch Library

| December 4, 2013
Benita Browning

Benita Browning

fall author fair

Local authors participated in the Fall Author Fair at the Pontiac Branch Library. Pictured (left to right) sitting are M.I.T.E. and Kayleen Reusser; standing are John Dortch, Michael Wilhelm, Carol Butler and John Foster. (Photo: Courtesy Benita Browning)

UP CLOSE WITH JEANIE

Whatz up, babies?

You know how I’m always talking about I hope that all of you are still taking the time to bring yourselves, as well as, others some joy, beauty, happiness, love and some form of peace of mind on a daily basis? Of course you do!  But, in this thing called life, I know it’s hard sometimes and that’s why my column exists–so that I can help you to feel those things, as we travel on our journey of love because these feelings are very important, every day. And, to help you feel those things this week, I bring to you Benita because Benita, brings all of those things to children, young adults, as well as, adults through books and I love that kind of stuff. I think that’s wonderful. I also think it’s wonderful, that whenever I visit this library it’s always nice to see her smiling face. She’s always very helpful, cheerful and friendly to everyone and I love seeing that kind of stuff too. So, at this time we bring to you this week’s spotlight and this is what she has to say:

“Hello, Frost Illustrated readers. My name is Benita Browning and I’ve been with the Allen County Public Library (A.C.P.L.) since 1988. I’ve worked in various positions in Circulation Services and the Genealogy departments. I fell in love with library work and I decided to become a librarian. So I earned my Bachelor of Arts (history) and my Master of Library Science degrees while working full time for the library system and now I’m the assistant manager of the Pontiac Branch Library and I’ve been at this location since 2004. My area of passion has always been about serving youth, so I develop innovative programs for school-aged children. My goal is to provide fun and interesting opportunities that participants might not experience elsewhere, such as, high tea, karaoke and Oktoberfest (complete with bratwurst and polka music). I also offer regular craft and food programming and because of this type of dedication to my patron and my community, I was awarded the NAACP Leadership Award in 2010.

“I recently began some adult programs at this branch and my adult book club, Talk it Up, meets the fourth Tuesday of every month. Members of the book club are encouraged to talk about what they’ve been reading and Talk it Up in an effort to get others to read it. No book is ever assigned in this book club, so the potential for variety is excellent. Also, every year I host two very successful programs in February for Black History Month and I do a commemoration of the first sit-in in Greensboro, N.C., on that date in 1960. The program is a day-long event, at this branch, in recognition of the four brave young men who staged the first sit-in so long ago. It was the effort of the Greensboro Four that started a chain reaction throughout southern cities and helped put an end to, whites only, policies. 

“And, for the past eight years, I hosted the Annual African American Read-In, as part of the nationwide program and I invite all ages to come and read a few minutes from the work of an African American author. The Pontiac Branch, is very proud of its large collection and the Read-in is a wonderful way to showcase many of the books written by African Americans.

“One of the highlights of my library work is the author fairs that I host twice a year in April and October from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. I invite local authors to talk about their books and their writing process. I also invite the public so they can join us for this excellent opportunity to meet local authors because they look forward to talking about their books and answering your questions and it always free. Participating authors do have books available for purchase and are happy to sign them and ten percent of the proceeds is donated to, Friends of the Allen County Public Library, an organization which helps support the steady growth of the library and it’s services to the community. 

“The author fairs, here at the Pontiac branch are very informal and we really have a lot of fun plus, it’s warm, close net and exciting. In the past we’ve had such authors as: John P. Dortch the author of ‘In My Father’s House These Were the Rules.’ Dortch offers a compassionate voice to young people as they search for guidance and insight to those wishing to mentor the next generation; Saundra Jones is the author of three novels, ‘Owning Up,’ ‘Her Sweetest Revenge’ and ‘Pieces of Justice;’ John J. Foster, a staff member at the Urban League is the author of,’ Me & C,’ a wonderful children’s book that features experiences shared between him and his two year old daughter Cienna that offers the use of rhythmic language with a fun concept; E. Scott Smiley, is a special education teacher, high school basketball coach and poet. He turns the highs and lows of life into poetry that inspires its reader. He’s also the author of, ‘Parole for the Soul,’ poetry that liberates the mind and frees the soul with wisdom and faith lead to a better place; Daniel Williams, is the author of the novel ‘Brothers Stand Strong;’ Jermaine Muff, is the subject in the book by DeVon D. Cooper Sr.,’ The Final Rebound,’ which is the story of a high school basketball star who overcomes adversity and two strokes at the age of 17; Carol Butler is the author of, ‘’Genois Wilson, Firefighter, She Dared to be First.’ This is Carol Butler’s first book and she believes that you can still change the world “one child at a time,” so Carol felt that Genois Wilson Brabson’s story needed to be told; Kayleen Reusser is the author of several books including biographies on Selena Gomez, Taylor Swift, Leona Lewis and books on Greek gods.

“Now back to my adult club, Talk it Up, because reading is so important to me since books expose me to so many places that I’ll never go, to read about people that I’ll never meet and concepts that maybe, I would not be exposed to normally and it’s so much fun to talk about the books we’ve read. I call it, Talk it Up, because I don’t assign a book. I just want them to come in and talk up the books, that they’ve been reading, so that everyone else will want to read it and it works. Right now, me and some group members talked up a book the last time, so of course, when we meet the end of this month we’re all gonna be talking about this same book. It’s just fun to discuss the books openly because sometimes, when you read a book, you don’t get something out of it that someone else did and they’ll tell you, what they got out of it and then you say ‘Oh, okay, I didn’t really get that but now I do.’ So, it’s a good way to see why someone liked or didn’t like a book and I love to tell people, when I don’t like a book and they just laugh and say, ‘Oh my gosh,’ then they’ll tell me why they really liked it. So, it’s just a lot of fun discussing the whole thing.

“I love doing what I do and it makes me feel really good and happy to feel so appreciated on my job. However, it’s hard to look at it as a job because it’s more like my calling. When I have people tell me, it’s so good to see me or how they missed me when I was gone, those kind of things are actually pretty cool. But, I actually do the same because I’m happy to see them and I miss them when I don’t.”

So on that note, with me being me, I’m taking it to two of the authors to find out what they think of the, Author Fairs, about Benita as the host and as a person. In hope, that she will feel even more appreciated and this is what they had to say.

“Hello, Frost Illustrated readers. My name is J.J. Foster and the Pontiac branch library and Ms. Browning has always been supportive of local artist so when they call upon me, I’m there. Ms. Browning has a true compassion and sincerity about the local authors and their books. Her events are always well planned and high quality. If we could get the support of the families in this area, to support the events, it would truly be something extra special.” 

“Hello, Frost Illustrated readers. My name is Michael Wilhelm, I attended this year’s author fair and I was a guest author among a panel of six local authors. We were each given an opportunity to share our experiences that lead us to write our books. I was most taken by the amount of inspiration my fellow writers evoked in myself, as well as, my family who also attended.  There was a lot of love, admiration and honor displayed. The event was orchestrated by Benita Browning and she was excited as each of the authors arrived. I have not met any of these authors before but it was an honor to be counted among the cities creative writers. 

“Benita moderated the proceedings in a casual manner which allowed each author to be spotlighted for as long as he or she cared to speak. Questions and answers followed each presentation and Benita kept the chatter going. She definitely was very familiar with each member of the writing panel and her enthusiasm and excitement, was contagious. The arts community of Fort Wayne is definitely filled with many wonderful artist, writers and performers. I got to see a small sliver of the community that night and I made some new networking connections and the residents of Fort Wayne were given the opportunity to meet some of the people who are enhancing our town with their gifts and talents.” 

Now in closing I say, there you go Benita! The spotlight’s on you and all that you do in the name of love and keep up the good work, like I know you will and I’m so proud of you, just for being you. So until next week, you’ve been Up Close with Jeanie. Bye, bye babies.

P.S. If you would like the Spotlight shined upon you or someone that you know, all in the name of love, just send me an e-mail to upclosewithjeanie@yahoo.com. I’d love to hear from ya.

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