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Ennen brings literature, information to community

Rita Ennen, for nearly four years, since March 2014, has been providing the Dickinson community with one of the greatest solaces in life: literature.

Rita Ennen has served the community as Dickinson Public Library director for nearly four years. An avid reader, here enjoying a memoir by Pearl Habor survivor Donald Stratton, Ennen enjoys being able to connect people with literature and necessary resources. Brandon L. Summers / The Dickinson Press
Rita Ennen has served the community as Dickinson Public Library director for nearly four years. An avid reader, here enjoying a memoir by Pearl Habor survivor Donald Stratton, Ennen enjoys being able to connect people with literature and necessary resources. Brandon L. Summers / The Dickinson Press

Rita Ennen, for nearly four years, since March 2014, has been providing the Dickinson community with one of the greatest solaces in life: literature.

As Dickinson Public Library director, Ennen's duties include working with the library board and foundation board to set policies and guide the library's budget, and serving as library personnel director.

"I do a lot of meetings," Ennen said. "Surprisingly, those things can take up a day faster than you would think."

For Ennen, being library director is a source of joy.

"Had I realized that librarian was a job, I would have known that was for me from the time I was very small," she said.

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Ennen has fond memories of her childhood library.

"I remember the little tiny library in the town I grew up in," she said. "Wednesdays after school, I got to stay in town because I had a piano lesson that afternoon so I had some time before the piano lesson and the library was right on my route, walking there."

A later revelation for Ennen was enjoying the daily challenges of running a public library.

"It's one of those things, administrative work, you don't really know until you try it," she said. "I hope I serve well here."

The position is one of service to others, Ennen said.

"Very much, I view my position here as a service one," she said. "We are here to serve the community. I'm also here to serve my staff, to do whatever I can do to help them to be successful in their different positions."

Ennen has a bachelor's degree in social studies education and a master's degree in library science from University of North Texas, via St. Cloud, Minnesota, through an online "cohort program," she explained.

Ennen worked at South Dakota State University in Brookings as a library associate in the periodicals department. There, she was inspired to pursue her master's degree and become a professional "information hunter," while also learning about customer service and business management.

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Ennen went on to serve as Dickinson State University director of library services. The transition from academic to public librarian was an interesting one, Ennen said.

"We had started doing a little bit of programming and some of those kinds of things over at DSU and what I found out is that I really love that," she said. "I started looking and I knew a public library was where I was looking because they have those kinds of community opportunities."

Serving at Dickinson Public Library allows Ennen to serve community members of all shapes and sizes.

"We serve babies to (age) 100," she said. "You see the whole spectrum of life."

Ennen enjoys being able to put books into the hands of others.

"I truly believe good literature, just like good music, good film, is meant to be shared," she said. "If I love a book, I want to be sure somebody else gets a chance to read it too. For most people, that's the joy of working in a library."

Ennen herself is an avid reader who enjoys all genres .As part of a reading challenge at DSU, Ennen was encouraged to try something other than her usual reading and discovered a love of memoirs.

"I've been reading a lot more nonfiction than I used to," she said. "I used to read a lot of sci-fi. I like short stories of all variations, particularly. But the last couple of years, they've been strong years in the publishing field for nonfiction."

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Ennen describes Dickinson's public library as "a terrific place."

"We've grown a lot as the community has grown," she said. "It's a beautiful place to work. It's wonderful people I'm working with. I like this community and the way they interact and use their library. It's a good place."

Among the challenges of a library is providing relevant, even challenging materials. Ennen is an advocate of intellectual freedom.

"It's fine for me to not like something, but it's not up to me to tell you that you can't," she said. "I very strongly believe that the surest way to protect freedom for yourself is to protect it for everybody else, too, whether they agree with you or not."

People still check out books from the library, Ennen said. In 2016, the library had a total of 128,700 items in circulation. For the public library, the number is an increase.

"You'd think in this day, when information is available in so many ways and so easily that everybody waits for and keeps expecting libraries to become less relevant, this is not true," she said. "The more that's available, the more people become aware of what's available and want to access materials. Our numbers are going up, not down."

Even the programming attendance is growing.

December's "Grinchmas" event, expecting 40 to 45 kids, had more than 60 kids attend, as well as nearly 50 adults.

"They did a great job of rolling with that, but those are the kinds of things we're working on preparing for," Ennen said.

Every day is inspired by a single dictum adoring her office, that a library is "a place for everybody."

"It's for that parent who wants to do something with their kids that is geared towards their learning, but really needs to see some other parents, too," she said. "It's for that older person that just needs a little help with finding what they need or using a computer. It's for that person who is working from home, on their laptop, who needs to get out and find a different atmosphere that's not their kitchen."

She added, "There's just so many opportunities to serve the public."

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